This is the project my dad is working on.
This shit is nuts
Finally this one is revealed.
Let me preface this post, by saying that if this story ever comes out, it would blow the music world up and shake it to its core..This would put the Milli Vanilli scandal and Ashlee Simpson SNL situation so far down the ladder it would be crazy..
Towards the end of last year I had a woman come into my office and she began to explain what she had done and had been doing for several years and it was one of the very few times that I just could not believe what I was hearing..I know the music industry inside and out, and I had never heard of something so extensive and pervasive as this..
This woman (S) came into my office because the payments she had been receiving had stopped and she wanted to either get the money that was owed to her, or expose what she had been doing to the light of day..
S is a sessions/studio/backup singer and is very good..Prior to her involvement in what I am going to describe, she made a very good living singing on commercials and being a backup singer for groups and other solo acts, etc..Like I said she is very good, but she does not really have that “look” which would make her a star, so record companies did not put her out front, but just used her talents..
In late 2000, a man came to her one day and said he needed someone to record some demos because he had written a lot of songs, but wanted a demo to shop the songs to singers and record labels..This is not unusual at all and she had done this type of work before and it paid pretty well so she agreed. What was unusual about her recording of the demos was how much work was put into the actual recordings..It was extensive..Generally there is not much time put into the recordings because you never really know if the song will even sell, and the money spent on recording could be put to better uses..These demos she was recording were actually being treated as if they were going to be released on a CD or to radio..They even did some mixing which was REALLY unusual..
After a few weeks she had recorded about over a dozen songs and she went on her way and was really oblivious to anything else pertaining to it, UNTIL several months later she was in her car and heard her voice coming from the radio, only it was another singer being given credit..(We will call this other singer MV for Milli Vanilli) She could not believe what she was hearing and did not know whether to be excited to hear herself on the radio, confused about the credit given to another singer or just pissed off for the same reasons..
What she did do, was to call the man who had originally come to her and had her record the songs..The man agreed to meet her and gave her a substantial sum of money and promised to keep giving her money every month as long as she kept her mouth shut. MV was taking off..(MV has/had several Top 40 songs and CD’s. They could have gone to #1 or languished in the 30’s..I really cannot go into much more detail or else it would be too easy to discover) MV was everywhere..on television, radio, awards shows, commercials..EVERYWHERE..meanwhile, S continued to get money every month and kept her little secret to herself..The guy who picked S was VERY lucky..Most singers would have caused a fuss, but S has always been in the background and was resigned to the fact she always would be, and was very happy just taking the $$, and did not want that to stop..
About 9 months go by and S is called by the guy because MV is going on tour and they want S to record some extra mixes and such for the tour..She agrees and does not really do much, but money is money..
Fast forward another year or so and S stops receiving money and after a few months of missed payments, calls the guy who explains that they need S to do another CD and then the payments can continue, but there is no more money unless she does more recordings..
S agrees and records another CD worth of songs which is released several months later and does even better than the first CD. This same process is repeated (I am not going to tell you the number of CD’s because again you may be able to deduce and so I will just say the process repeated itself several times)
Well everything goes well for the most part for all these years and then no more payments, and no more calls and she cannot even locate our mystery man..S has not received a payment in six months when she came into my office and related this story..She did not even know the guy’s name, but when she described him, I knew who he was and was even more floored than I had been previously..This was just something I had really not heard before..
I had heard of really altering voices in the recording studios and bringing in hired hands for one song or a large portion of a song, but never CD after CD and even doing extra work so a live performance would not sound staged..I told her I needed some time to check into her story and then we could proceed..It took two calls before I got the guy on the phone and he was pissed, scared, angry, threatening, remorseful..everything..It turns out the reason he had stopped making payments was he had been playing some shell games with the money between the record company, MV’s earnings and MV’s investments and just did not have any additional money..In addition, MV was not sure she wanted to continue on with what had been happening and so our mystery guy might be completely out of the picture..
I actually think the record company to this day has no idea what went on as the Guy was very good at what he does/did and knew how to make sure the record company was always happy..He stayed under budget, toured, made MV available, and made the record company money..
So a meeting was arranged in my office and S and MV finally met face to face..they had never done so, even though it was S who made MV a star..MV was rude to say the least when she saw what S looked like and it really upset me although S being her normal classy self could have cared less..
What we agreed to do that day was to provide S with one lump sum rather than a monthly income which was easier for Guy to pull off and S also agreed to never disclose her role in this drama and MV was on her own for future recordings and tours..
This involved literally millions of CD’s and hundreds of concerts all over the world..The one thing I did get out of this beside my fee of course is a Gold Record autographed by S and by MV..I know it is the only one in the world..
should we rent a cabin?
Find some snow
It’s sunny and warm in the city, so if you want to spend the weekend in a winter wonderland, the mountains, just a short drive away, are calling. The first snow of the season fell before Thanksgiving in Big Bear, leaving a powdery landscape of snow flecked pines and snowcapped rooftops. If you need a charming homebase for skiing or sledding or if you just want to spend a cozy 48 hours nestled by a warm fireplace, below are eight cabins in Big Bear, Idyllwild, Lake Arrowhead, and Wrightwood all available for rent on Airbnb, VRBO, or Homeaway.
↑ This 1870s cabin with two bedrooms in Big Bear rents for $119 a night. The owners claim it’s the oldest wooden building in Southern California. Even if it’s not, it retains the look of a vintage homestead. There’s a typewriter, 1930s oven, clawfoot tub, and “a hand-built stone hearth.”
↑ This one-bedroom cabin in Wrightwood boasts a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances, but with its wood beams and wood paneling and fur throws retains a cozy vibe. It’s a half-mile walk to the shops, bars, and restaurants in Wrightwood Village. The nightly rate is $126.
↑ This bright and spacious four-bedroom in Lake Arrowhead is looking chic with its aztec prints and white paint. The galley kitchen flows into a roomy living room, which features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to a thicket of pines. On the weekends, it rents for $626 per night.
↑ Renting for $145 nightly on weekends is this little sage-green cabin in Lake Arrowhead with a brick fireplace and a small loft. Built in 1920, it was originally used as housing for Forest Service employees. It looks like it might have original hardwood floors, while the rest of the well-kept space is updated but still a bit rustic.
↑ “This isn't your Aunt Sally's stuffy cabin,” the listing copy says. Agreed. It’s more like your hipster brother Chet-with-a-mustache’s retro-inspired cabin. It’s filled with midcentury modern-inspired furniture, and it looks pretty sweet. The weekend rate for the two-bedroom home with a stone fireplace is $140 nightly.
↑ Floor-to-ceiling windows flood this stylish and spacious remodeled cabin in Idyllwild with light and provide “an intimate connection to the outdoors” for $375 per night on weekends. It features three bedrooms and a hot tub on its wraparound deck.
↑ If you’re looking for a log cabin with kitsch, this is the place for you; the one-bedroom is filled with plaid and moose decor and fur rugs. It’s located in Big Bear, and the listing copy says it’s right across from the National Forest. The nightly rate is $143.
↑ Here’s a three-bedroom post and beam located, once again, in Big Bear. The cabin’s sleek living room—with its towering plaster fire place and red sectional—is unexpected, and its two bathrooms have been fashionably updated. It rents from $400 nightly.
A long read but interesting.
The way Pourandokht Banayan tells it, she and her husband built the very first "Persian Palace" in Beverly Hills.
The boxy yellow house bears the telltale mark of the now-outlawed style: four of those two-story columns out front. It was erected on this plot of land at the top of Coldwater Canyon in the late 1980s, before the rush of other Iranians building or renovating similar homes in the notoriously wealthy enclave. She and her husband Parviz chose every detail of the home.
In 1989, after 10 tough years in America, the Iranian-American family moved into the house at the end of the cul-de-sac (where one of the other houses has lion-head sculptures on its massive gates). She raised four children in this Persian Palace with a mezuzah on the doorframe and rose bushes out front. Elements of the style eventually spread from that hilltop down to the flats of Beverly Hills, south of Sunset, until it was essentially banned in 2004.
"All the other Iranians bought homes here" in the 1980s, "and we didn’t have the money to buy—not enough for a big down payment," Banayan told me one recent afternoon in Farsi. As we sat together, sipping tea and nibbling Persian sweets on an overstuffed leather couch in her living room, she told me about building the home, with its large windows overlooking a sparkling pool in the backyard, more of those columns supporting a portico, and the view of other magnificent homes in the hills.
"With our budget, every house we looked at was broken down, and old, and smelled bad. And my husband was a builder. He had 2,000 workers under him in Iran," where he was an engineer overseeing the construction of Air Force bases and hangars, she said. It took two years, $200,000 borrowed from family to buy the land, and a loan from the bank to build their house, nestled in a gated community just off of Mulholland Drive.
Banayan is named for a Persian empress who briefly ruled in 630 AD, in a dynasty that ultimately fell to the first Arab Islamic invasion of Iran. She chose the columns in honor of the palaces of ancient kings and queens of the Persian Empire. When she talks about those long-gone leaders, she doesn’t praise the golden crowns, jewels, or pageantry—though Persian rulers certainly had all of that.
As a profound lover of her culture and history, she explained: Thousands of years ago, it was a Persian king who decreed that no worker should be a slave and banned work without pay. It was a Persian king who decreed a pregnant woman should stop working at seven months, but continue to receive pay.
She punctuated each historical note with: "And that was 3,000 years ago!"
These are the things that straighten the spine of anyone of Iranian heritage, including me: The high-minded regard for human rights expressed by our ancestors, and often lost in modern politics.
"These columns are very beloved for us Iranians," Banayan told me. "It’s like we have this mission to tell the world: ‘Baba joon [my dear], don’t look at us like that, like we ride camels and horses—we were something else. We were the world’s greatest empire.’"
I first heard the term Persian Palace years ago, while wandering the aisles of a south Orange County antique shop with my mom. As she browsed delicate porcelain pieces, methodically turning them over to see if they were marked Limoges (they weren’t), an old man nearby was airing "there goes the neighborhood"-type complaints to a saleswoman. Wearing a dirty baseball cap and a scowl, he spat the words and let loose with a description of how ugly and gaudy those houses were. I caught his eye. He returned my gaze without softening. I hustled us out of there, turning the phrase "Persian Palace" and his open hostility over in my mind. Though I wasn’t raised in one of those so-called palaces, I knew what he was referring to, and as an Iranian-American (a Persian, in the local parlance) raised in Southern California, I had experienced racism before, thinly veiled and otherwise.
Back then, I didn’t like Persian Palaces much. From what I knew, rich Persians built those swanky homes in Beverly Hills, spending a pretty penny—those columns were said to go for four figures a pop in their heyday. Maybe those Persians longed for centuries-old kingdoms, but the Iran my parents were nostalgic for wasn’t the one of the ancient era, but of the recent past, colored by memories of road trips to the Caspian Sea and the comforts of being raised in large families and always having them close, before the Islamic Revolution and an eight-year war with Iraq scattered the living generations of Iranians all over the world.
Now, I wonder if Persian Palaces should have meant a little more to me then, and to Los Angeles, before they went out of vogue. Younger Iranian-Americans don’t care to build Persian Palaces anymore; perhaps, like me, they are just not into the style, or maybe they were browbeaten out of the sentiment, or the style was outlawed in their communities.
"These columns are very beloved for us Iranians."
The way these homes were seen and spoken of at the height of their popularity hints at something more than a disruption of architectural decorum. All over LA County, city officials banded together to decry the big, boxy homes with those oversized columns out front—nowhere louder than in Beverly Hills. The style was eventually outright outlawed through oddly specific rules that were delivered with a heavy dose of side-eye; in 2004, the civil language of the Beverly Hills code took on what the Los Angeles Times dubbed a "tsk-tsk tone" when city officials wrote,
Emerging trends have led some owners and developers in residential areas to disregard prevailing styles and neighborhood character … [posing] a serious danger that such overbuilding will degrade and depreciate the character, image, beauty and reputation of the City’s residential neighborhoods with adverse consequences for the quality of life of all residents.
Degrade and depreciate.
Adverse consequences for quality of life.
Like pestilence or plague, the Persian Palace was deemed a threat.
The style was treated as an invader and scourge on upscale neighborhoods all over Southern California, even though the local aesthetic has the consistency of quicksand. Beverly Hills is hardly the place for architectural modesty, and yet locals really had something against Persian Palaces.
Banayan said she can understand why locals responded the way they did, to some extent. Persians had been drawn to Beverly Hills and soon began to make their presence felt.
"I can respect that [established Americans] wanted to keep their own culture, too. We came to the most admired and expensive town in the world and occupied it," she said.
"But there is a richness in our culture that we longed for."
That culture may seem particularly mysterious to outsiders. While countless Iranian-Americans have made inroads in business and academia in the U.S., rising to lead in many fields, the news here about Iran has been dominated by endless enmities and failed diplomacy for more than 35 years. The modern memory is tainted by a loop of mullahs shouting "Death to America" and the saber-rattling of American leaders who have dubbed the country an Axis of Evil.
Small moments of diplomatic breakthrough, like the multi-nation nuclear deal struck in 2015, are easily outweighed in the zeitgeist by charmless fictional representations—even when Iranians are not cast as terrorists, we haven’t fared well. We might show up as a punchline on 30 Rock; or a Beverly Hills high school clique that you can only join if you own a BMW, according to Clueless; or the one thing that the manic punk dream coquette played by Patricia Arquette lists as a turnoff in True Romance. Until, perhaps, Saturday Night Live alum and Iranian-American Nasim Pedrad’s Middle Eastern family comedy debuts next year on Fox, the most prominent representation Iranians have on the small screen is, lamentably, the reality show Shahs of Sunset, which offers caricatures and little culture that is any different from the Real Housewives or anyone else on Bravo’s vapid slate. I’ve never met an Iranian-American like the ones on Shahs, but they fit right in on the network’s programming schedule of shameless attention fiends.
So when the Persian population in Beverly Hills surged after the revolution—estimates vary, but up to 25 percent of the population seems to be the prevailing number—there was bound to be some culture clash. And it has persisted after the 2004 rule. In 2007, when Farsi showed up on the city ballot, some locals were appalled, comparing it to a kabob house menu. (Never mind that Iranian-Americans in Beverly Hills were eager to take up voting after centuries of living under thrones and, later, a theocracy.) In 2014, Sinai Akiba Academy, a Beverly Hills K-8 Jewish school, took out an advertisement in the Jewish Journal admonishing parents who might describe the school as "too Persian." That phrase is an insult I have heard myself, most recently from a woman tasting saffron-pistachio ice cream, no less, who wrinkled her nose in distaste as she said it.
Back then, I didn’t like Persian Palaces much. From what I knew, rich Persians built those swanky homes in Beverly Hills, spending a pretty penny—those columns were said to go for four figures a pop.
While more recent anti-mansionization campaigns simply decry homes that creep outward from the original footprints to forgo big yards for more house, the ire Persian Palaces drew in the past was layered with racially coded sentiment. Before the 2004 rules came down, Persian developers gave interviews saying that Persians loved buying the houses, but the articles they were quoted in were derided by other Persians who were embarrassed—of the attention, of the sentiment, of yet again being on the fringe of the American society in which they had worked so hard to succeed. Every letter published in response to that Times story in 2004, some penned by Persians and others by longtime locals, expressed an unhinged disgust for Persian Palaces, calling them "an insult to Persian people and their ancient history" and "monstrosities," and dubbing the style "nouveau mausoleum." One Beverly Hills resident offered "a remedy: bulldozers."
Before architect Hamid Omrani became notorious for building the Persian Palaces of Beverly Hills, he was a whiz kid in Tehran who prided himself on being a pioneer. In 1963, still a teenager, he started his own school newspaper, finding an early Xerox machine to make copies of the first issue. The cover image was of John F. Kennedy, because "he seemed like a good, important man," Omrani told me in Farsi.
In his seventies now and still working, Omrani said he has always had the mind of a journalist, which is why he didn’t shy away from critics of any of his projects—and he proudly recalls exchanges he’s had with reporters to defend his Persian Palaces.
Like the time NBC’s Josh Mankiewicz visited for a segment on the Nightly News and asked why Omrani was ruining Beverly Hills history, to which Omrani retorted, "In this city, 25 years [old] building is historical. In my country, 25 century building, we call that historical."
Or the time The Economist interviewed him about more restrictions in 2007, when he chafed openly, "If I wanted to have mullahs telling me what to do, I wouldn't have left Iran."
Omrani left Iran in the early days of the Islamic Revolution, in 1980, at age 37. He had studied architecture at the notoriously competitive University of Tehran, nicknamed Iran’s Harvard, which to this day educates countless intellectuals who later flee west, degrees and research in tow, for professional opportunity and freedom.
When he landed in Beverly Hills, he wasn’t impressed with the builders he saw.
"In terms of quality of work, materials, or architecture, these people in Beverly Hills were zeroes by comparison to our architecture in Iran," Omrani told me on a recent evening, sitting in a café in the shadow of the gold-accented cupola of Beverly Hills City Hall.
By the time Omrani had begun working in Beverly Hills in 1982, he’d already spent more than a decade building homes in the Tehran neighborhood of Jordan. In the decades before the revolution, a development boom changed the face of the area in northern Tehran; as Omrani said, "It was always a rich neighborhood, but only the richest, old money families lived there. But in those 10 or 20 years before the revolution, people went there because it developed."
Sound familiar? In that sense, Omrani has densified more than one of the world’s richest neighborhoods, building homes to accommodate large, new-money families in a metropolis’s most admired zip code.
Though I was born in the U.S. and visited Iran rarely, Jordan is one of the few neighborhoods of Tehran that I know pretty well, having visited my grandmother’s home there. I would peer down at the homes and sparkling pools from the fire escape of her top-floor apartment, where I would sit for hours feeding pigeons and doves stale sangak bread. I remember putting on the hijab to wander the boutiques, bookstores, and cafes, nibbling the most delicious olives I bought at the grocery store on her hill, the sack tucked into the pocket of my oversized overcoat, which was so uncool that it marked me as a U.S. citizen by the fashionable neighborhood’s standards. I would walk along the leafy side streets that are lined with grand old manors built in the traditional Iranian way—prizing privacy. Tall walls mark the property lines, blocking from view most of the homes, save for some of the eaves or the tippy-tops of pomegranate trees where the most unattainable fruits grow. Like Beverly Hills, it’s a neighborhood safe enough to let your twentysomething granddaughter wander around in by herself—save for maybe a few lusty catcalls from pent-up young men cruising the boulevards in nice cars. It’s also terrifically congested; Tehran rivals LA for traffic.
Younger Iranian-Americans don’t care to build Persian Palaces anymore; perhaps, like me, they are just not into the style, or maybe they were browbeaten out of the sentiment, or the style was outlawed in their communities.
A note of longing inflected Omrani’s voice when he recalled the homes he helped build in Jordan and the talented craftsmen he worked with.
"The homes that we built there—such homes don’t exist in places like Beverly Hills. The homes that they build here with wood? We used Iranian plaster and masonry, and we’d build huge domes by hand for the homes, like a mosque," Omrani said, gesturing to the sky. "The work was done by craftsmen who just don’t exist anywhere else, they can’t build like that here."
Yet Omrani tried to make a splash when he began working in the U.S. One of his first major projects in the 1980s was a seven-story hillside mansion in Beverly Hills’s Trousdale Estates neighborhood. Since there were height limitations, Omrani built a glass and steel house into the hill below street-level, creating more than 20,000 square feet with majestic views of Los Angeles.
"Anything I did, it was never for the money, it was never about that," Omrani said. "I wanted to build something that would be unique in the United States."
That building will remain unique. After its construction, the city made rules limiting such hillside construction, though Omrani said it’s an approach that pops up in expensive areas all over.
When he began building Persian Palaces, it was simply in response to the demand. Before the 2004 law went into effect in Beverly Hills, Omrani estimates that he built more than 200 of them.
"They criticized me for not following classic styles—I don’t even know what they call classic styles," Omrani said. "I worked with people—what people wanted and needed, I built. I looked at their lifestyles. I paid attention. I listened. And I would create something to match their lifestyles."
Omrani believes his work as an architect is a dance of art and math, and is also about following rules and working with the city, but this element of serving family structure and a family’s needs are core to why the Persian Palace came to exist.
He noted that despite the vast size of many of the old homes in Beverly Hills, they often house few residents, and those residents tend to be much older than the Iranian-American families.
"We’d go to these homes in Beverly Hills with the best land, the best views, the richest residents—a billionaire!—and they’d only have two people living there. What can I even do to meet those people’s needs?" Omrani recalled, of being called in to give renovation estimates.
"Our culture of families is what guides our architecture," Omrani said. "You pay an architect to use a space."
Controversy hid in every aspect of what Persians love in a home, according to Omrani. Conflicts arose around height, light, spacious entertainment rooms, window sizes, and grand staircases.
When it came to height, American standards seemed somewhat primitive to him: "All the homes in this city are eight feet tall. They don’t understand height or the feeling it can create and how that can be used," Omrani said.
When it came to light, "Iranians are really attracted to brightness, we really like having light in our homes—but Americans lived in these dark, squat homes, with the curtains drawn," Omrani said.
Before the open floorplan became popular, American homes were broken up into so many little rooms, like a collection of isolation booths: "It’s part of the traditional lifestyle of Iran to have open spaces, so if you have a house and you want to all sit and have a meal with a few generations, and you want kids to play and for there to be conversation, you need an open room."
And considering that one traditional style in Iran is a home with a large internal courtyard, indoor/outdoor living was prized, which should only put Persians in step with Southern Californian tastes.
As for those luxe stairways, Omrani noted it is often simply a matter of geometry; placing a stairwell centrally can reduce the amount of square footage one wastes on hallways. And a lovely staircase can be pleasing, but the grandeur would raise eyebrows, Omrani said, adding "Americans would look at that and say, who do you think you are, Louis XIII?"
To Omrani, letting every man be the king of his castle—a saying he credits to Iran—is the work of an architect.
"Whether you live in a palace or a one-bedroom, why shouldn’t you have that feeling and the pleasure that Louis XIII had, why shouldn’t you have that every morning when you get up in your home?" Omrani asked.
Architects may fuss over the proper shape and make of the columns installed in Los Angeles, arguing that the local palaces usurped Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian columns, which were styles of the Greeks, not Persians.
The ancient Persians topped their columns with more ornate sculptures than the Greeks, like the double bulls at Persepolis, or the wooden carvings at Chehel Sotoun, the glorious old palace in Isfahan. (The palace’s name means "40 Columns" though only 20 stand on the broad front portico—the other 20 can be counted in the long reflecting pool in front of the palace.) It would have been tough to truly recreate the craftsmanship of palaces marked as world treasures by global organizations like UNESCO, architecture that took lifetimes to build in ancient days. Even the kings who commissioned those palaces did not live to see them completed.
But on appearance and sentiment, it’s not entirely incorrect to link those columns and the big boxy shape of these American palaces to ancient palaces of the Persian Empire. Dating back to at least 5,000 BC, Persian architecture has had one characteristic: "simple and noble forms, richly embellished," according to Arthur Upham Pope’s 1965 book Persian Architecture.
Educated at Brown University, Pope was the first American expert on Persian architecture, and his passion for Iran’s early feats inspired the Pahlavi royal family to start preservation efforts in the 1920s. Pope notes that those columns are an architectural element that persisted for longer than 3,000 years and represented "a rather amazing consistency for decorative preferences, the high portal set within a recess, columns with bracket capitals, and recurrent types of plan and elevation."
These forms cropped up across an empire that grew vast—Persian kings ruled a region from the Nile to the western reaches of China, leading a deeply diverse, multiethnic kingdom. But the old kings, especially Cyrus, were known for a style of empire expansion that had a reputation for tolerance. Cyrus is believed to have made the first declaration of human rights with his Cyrus Cylinder, an artifact that decrees equality. (A monument to the cylinder is due to be unveiled on Santa Monica Boulevard next year, a stone's throw from the Beverly Hilton.)
Cyrus the Great was also credited with ending the exile of Jews in Babylon. His name was invoked to protect Jews once more during World War II by a consulate worker in Paris, dubbed the Iranian Schindler, who issued hundreds of Iranian passports to non-Iranian Jews to save their lives. He found a loophole: Though Nazis co-opted the term to describe themselves, Iranians are the original Aryans.
And yes, the palaces commissioned by Cyrus were built with columns.
Centuries later and on the other side of the globe, it was mainly Persian Jews like the Banayan family who built the homes that were seen as offensive in Beverly Hills.
It wasn’t just the columns that ticked off longtime residents of Beverly Hills. Among the cardinal sins of the Persian Palace was the expansion of the house’s footprint, adding rooms and square footage and disposing of an American suburban vanity that remains prevalent in this oddball city: the front yard. You won’t find wide swaths of grass in front of homes in Tehran or Isfahan—or any of the other grand old cities, from New York to Paris to Rome. And so, here in Los Angeles, as the palaces were built, the lawns were lost, to more home and more parking.
For many Iranian-Americans (and anyone vaguely astute about real estate; a four-bedroom in a fancy zip code will fetch more than a three-bedroom), a better use of the front yard was a more spacious living room for entertaining, and spare bedrooms, to live multi-generationally, as so many Persians do.
And the seeming lack of reverence for scale is something that shows up in early Persian architecture, too.
"Scale was consistently understood and skillfully exploited even though the Persians, unlike the Greeks, seem to have made no general study of harmonious proportions. The result is that there are no trivial buildings; even garden pavilions have nobility and dignity, and the humblest caravanserais generally have charm," Pope wrote.
Dating back to at least 5,000 BC, Persian architecture has had one characteristic: "simple and noble forms, richly embellished."
To say that these places had charm is a delicious understatement of Pope’s—some of them were utterly breathtaking. In ancient times, it took many nights for merchants to traverse the Silk Road from Europe to Asia, and all along the way there were these caravanserais, or inns where caravans hauling goods could stop. Iran, with its bazaars and reputation for hospitality, marked the middle of the path. One old caravanserai that still stands in Isfahan has been converted to a hotel, once named for a king, Shah Abbas, though it has been renamed the Abbasi Hotel under the Islamic regime, which has methodically changed names of streets and institutions to delete references to Iran’s monarchies and Western words. What remains unchanged is a grand courtyard entirely surrounded by a square building, so that rooms look out onto lush gardens and fountains below. It’s where I’ve had the good fortune to stay every time I’ve visited Isfahan, and the spirit of noble hospitality, with its worldly amenities, is what I think of when I think of how a guest should be treated.
In a sense, Iranians built their own little caravanserais in Los Angeles, surely the most distant outpost of the Silk Road. The journey from Iran is very expensive, and America is difficult to navigate—when family and friends came from overseas, their suitcases invariably full of Iranian sweets, saffron, and gifts, we always had spare rooms for them to stay in after the long trip west.
We would always make a pilgrimage to Los Angeles from the cookie-cutter tract house where I was raised in the suburbs, a box of stucco and Spanish tile, identical to the houses two of my best friends lived in on the same hill. In the 1980s and 1990s, we would pile into my mom’s Volvo to fly up the 405 until we got to the Wilshire exit, where we’d roll the windows down and cruise the streets of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, not to see the Persian Palaces, but to gawk at big houses where movie stars might live. We’d walk Rodeo Drive to pause in front of the Bijan store, with its yellow and white striped awnings—where the sign read "by appointment only"—and I imagined the Iranian-American perfume impresario was just inside, peering back at us through plate glass. We’d stop at Westwood Village Memorial Park to visit the graves of two greats beloved by every Iranian: Marilyn Monroe and the operatic pop singer Hayedeh. We might duck into Sherkat e Ketab, a Persian bookstore, for my mom to pick up the latest issues of Javanan or Raygan, LA-based Farsi-language newspapers.
Other weekends, we might go to UCLA for leftist Iranian student meetings or concerts or protests in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire, to end the Iran-Iraq War, or to free a political prisoner, or to call for justice on some other political issue, protests that surely fell on deaf ears from Los Angeles to Tehran. Afterwards, my family would stop at Shamshiri, where I remember slipping into the big booths that looked like they belonged in a red sauce Italian place, tables covered in linen, topped with little jars of sumac, raw onion and individually wrapped butter, kabobs and steaming platters of rice wafting past our table. The bread was fresh and hot, and to our delight, the servers spoke Farsi, allowing for the typical exchanges of pleasantries that Persians engage in. "Khasteh nabashi," my father would have greeted the service. "May you not be tired." Back then you ordered your saffron-dappled rice with a raw egg yolk sitting atop it, or without—a tradition that must have disappeared in response to a health code. Despite the restaurant’s fast-casual makeover in recent years, and the addition of the Chili’s-esque "Grill" to the name, the servers still speak Farsi in public.
Back then, Orange County didn’t have the Iranian population or presence that LA did, though now there are countless Persians living in the OC. Back then, it was a novelty that Los Angeles had signs in Farsi, there were strangers in the street speaking the language we only spoke at home. LA Persians were flashy and smart and rich, from what I could tell.
We repeated these trips with some frequency because, like many Persian families, our home was the caravanserai for a constellation of friends and relatives. Some guests would stay for years, trying to figure out if they could make it in the U.S.
That’s true for Banayan, too, who said that to this day, when she visits Iran, she visits her old neighbors, and when they come to the United States, they come to her home.
"Our very closest friends, even now, are the friends from our lives in Iran, our friends from childhood, our old neighbors, our classmates," she said.
The very first night that Banayan came to America, a decade before her Persian Palace was built, she stood in her brother-in-law’s beautiful home, at a window overlooking Los Angeles. It was 1979 and the Shah was barely holding onto his throne in Iran—there was violence in the streets. She had convinced her husband to spend the kids’ school break with family in America. Maybe everything would blow over by the time they’d return.
But the moment she laid eyes on the vista of Los Angeles, Banayan remembers turning to her sister-in-law and saying, "I will die in this city."
"I think the sorrow of Iran will kill me."
For all her affection for the ancient civilizations, it wasn’t hard to see the corruption and problems plaguing Iran in 1979, as the last king was set to be toppled. After he fell, it became clear to the Banayans that they would need to start over in the West, as many Iranians decided to do. Los Angeles is home to the world’s highest concentration of Iranians and Iranian-Americans outside Iran.
But life in the city nicknamed Tehrangeles wouldn’t be easy, either.
They moved into a two-bedroom condominium in Encino, enrolling their three kids—ages nine, six, and three—in school at a time that marked the nadir of Iran-U.S. relations: the hostage crisis. For every one of the 444 days that passed with Americans held captive at the embassy in Tehran, Iranian immigrants and Iranian-Americans, including Banayan’s family, faced rebuke and resentment in the United States, which sometimes boiled over into violence.
"We’d send the kids to school and they would get beat up—a lot," Banayan remembered. "I was forced to put them into karate lessons so they could defend themselves."
Teachers tried to intervene, but the problems extended beyond schools. Neighbors lobbed cruelties and insults. And they had left so much behind.
During the hostage crisis, Banayan’s husband returned to Iran to sell their home, in hopes of returning with a nest egg. That was a dodgy time for many Iranian-Americans, who began going by less ethnic names and calling themselves Persians, harkening back to those ancient empires instead of identifying with modern Iran, where the Ayatollah had begun calling the U.S. "the great Satan." While her husband was overseas, President Jimmy Carter invalidated the visas of Iranian citizens seeking entry into the United States and implemented sanctions.
While Banayan’s husband was in transit from Tehran to London, an American rescue mission to free the hostages ended in disaster: A U.S. military helicopter crashed on Iranian soil, killing eight American servicemen.
Her husband managed to talk officials in London into honoring his visa, but when he landed in Los Angeles, tensions were exceptionally high. He was sent to Los Angeles County Jail, where his rough treatment led to a warning from a man sharing his cell.
"Swear to god, just like this, he says to my husband, ‘Tonight, these officers want to kill you. Whatever they do, whatever they say, you just say ‘yes, sir.’"
Dressed in a silk suit and impossibly polite, he survived cheap shots and intimidations—rough searches and ripping his chest hair—but when he was released three days later, Banayan said an apologetic judge ordered the green cards they had applied for be issued immediately.
Over the years, with their nest egg from Iran, they built up a tiny business that helped them build their Persian Palace, selling personalized gold charm necklaces. It wasn’t easy, but the business took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Still, for all the ties she has built with America, and all the bonds she feels with her heritage, she longs for the friendly neighbors she had in Iran.
Gesturing to the house alongside hers on the cul-de-sac, she said, "This neighbor I’ve lived next to for almost 30 years. I don’t know this neighbor’s face. Truly, I don’t. Today if someone came to me and said ‘I am your neighbor,’ I’d have to ask ‘Which one? Where do you live?’"
In the Iranian tradition of deed o bazdid, which translates to "to see, and to see again," the social rigor dictates that when you are invited into someone’s home, you owe them an invitation—and it can carry on through decades. As Iranian immigrant populations grew in Southern California, circles of friendship and chosen families grew; my parents’ best friends were addressed as aunts and uncles, I comfortably called children I share no blood with "my cousins." (What else do you call a child you’ve known since their umbilical cord was clamped in the Persian tradition?)
So, we didn’t just need spare bedrooms—we needed big living rooms so everyone could keep an eye on each other’s kids. Before open floorplans took hold in the U.S., Persians couldn’t fathom how to entertain in houses broken up into little rooms. It’s less so now, as a new generation spreads out and seeks employment and adventures of their own, but in decades past in Southern California, we would almost inevitably have a party to attend most weekends. A herd of families would stay up late and feast on elaborate dinners that took days to prepare and were rarely served before midnight. We’d wear our nicest clothes to dance, laugh, and drink with each other.
Persian parties (a hashtag worth exploring on Instagram or Twitter) have grown fairly epic, but in those days, sometimes parties were subdued affairs of storytelling—especially when elders would visit. There would be affectionate remembrances of how life was in Iran, or tales of their early missteps in America.
Most of all, I remember listening to Iranian immigrants try to explain Americans to each other. How you could go to an American’s house and never be offered so much as a glass of water—horrifying. They couldn’t understand the changes that were happening in their homeland, darkened by years of war with Saddam Hussein and news of crackdowns and fatwas, but America seemed off-kilter in its own way: they would relate their shock at how Americans could be brutish and violent, recounting gruesome murders in the news or this country’s affection for football—mystifying. (Alternatively, many of us took up NBA basketball with great affection; I credit Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a mesmerizing star of the Showtime era who had a name like he might be related to me.)
Inside those big homes, we exchanged endless bits of advice on how to navigate the workplaces and schools and public places of America, beyond our homes, where Iranians were often looked at with suspicion or open dislike.
And other times they would relate stories of honest, reliable Americans they’d worked with, good businesses they’d discovered, affectionately remarking how fair and firm Americans could be in dealings. Kind Americans were given the high praise of bashakhsiat, a person of character, and whether they were agnostic or Zoroastrian or Muslim, they would offer up a prayer for God to give those Americans long lives.
There was also marveling at all the ways to succeed—or avoid failure—in America. Long conversations about the new pizza place owned by an Iranian, some real estate debacle that sunk a once great military general, or someone who was a nobody in the old country who bought a gas station to become rich overnight.
Sometimes, after dinner, we’d sing to each other—old love songs, folk music, or leftist anthems, helping each other remember the words. Or someone would begin to recite a poem and others would chime in with the familiar refrain. At some point, there would be dancing. At some point, some kid would make another kid cry.
To the sound of rolling backgammon dice or the cracking of seeds, we spent long nights together until the kids fell asleep, curled up like kittens. On the longest nights, the grownups would clasp each other’s shoulders to do old village line dances, singing old Kurdish songs until they were tired and it was time to thank the hosts again and again at the door, and eventually go home tired, overfed, and happy.
Those big houses may have seemed like cold mausoleums to the neighbors. Inside, we exchanged endless bits of advice on how to navigate the workplaces and schools and public places of America beyond our homes, where Iranians were often looked at with suspicion or open dislike. Our homes were where we massed together in search of an understanding of America, and to preserve what was noble about the culture we had drifted west from.
For Persians, it was worth losing a front yard if it meant gaining the space to host more guests, to let your best friend’s cousins join the party, because inside, we lived so very close to one another.
Editor: Adrian Glick Kudler
Our cats do the same thing.
america's test kitchen gossip!
Last year when America's Test Kitchen's superstar Christopher Kimball decided to step away due to a contract dispute, fans were upset. With his bow tie in hand, Kimball moved on to start his own venture, Milk Street, which is a website, print magazine, TV and radio show, and cooking school (to name just a few things). This didn't go over too well with America's Test Kitchen.
The Boston Globe reports that America's Test Kitchen is now suing Kimball, saying that Kimball "literally and conceptually ripped off America's Test Kitchen."<p><a href='http://www.thekitchn.com/americas-test-kitchen-sues-christopher-kimball-238289'><strong>READ MORE »</strong></a></p>
1. Is everyone about to die?
2. Do pink pants go with a persimmon dress?
3. Is this bear holding them hostage and forcing them to get married?
4. Is the bear her dad?
5. Did Putin have something to do with this?
6. If someone kisses the bear, will he turn into a human officiant?
7. Was this an elaborate ceremony, or just the bear necessities?
We may as well lay it all out. If you know any of these bearly answered questions (or just want the bear puns to stop), let us know in the comments. Let's all bear the burden of seeing these (admittedly cute, but potentially life-threatening) shots…
Well that's one question answered. Still a bear.
Good job, Smokey. Time to head back to your cave. Only you can prevent forest fires from camping weddings.
This is the best
I like how all the guys are all in on any threesome.
I wish our cats would let us dress them
this is the news anchor who was the ex-mayor's mistress!
this is a nice house but it would still be a far drive for me :(
Sweet built-ins, too
There's a boom in interest right now in beautiful Craftsman homes around USC, in such neighborhoods as Jefferson Park. But if you're looking to live in a centrally located house south of the 10 Freeway, Jefferson Park isn't the only place to find sweet older homes.
Take for example this newly touched-up Craftsman with four bedrooms and a spacious yard. The 1,454-square-foot house has new laminate wood floors throughout, and new windows throughout most of the house. The exception are those on the front, facing the street, enhancing the house’s strong period look from that angle.
Beyond the house’s wide porch, there’s a dining area with a few built-ins that the sellers believe to be original, says listing agent Christian Ortiz. The kitchen has new granite counters and an easy flow into the dining area.
The bedrooms have new flooring and ceiling fans. In one of the house’s two full bathrooms, there is a clawfoot bathtub.
The bonus with the house is the large lot, which in addition to plenty of grass, comfortably fits a detached two-car garage.
It's located in what the listing copy calls Park Hills Heights (though, by the Los Angeles Times’ neighborhoods map, it would be in Hyde Park, which is bordered to the north and west by Leimert Park and View Park-Windsor Hills).
It’s listed for $479,000.
should we buy this house?
Did you guess the right price?
We got 35 responses to our first installment of Pricespotter—Curbed's home price guessing game—and one commenter (we're looking at you, Austin Chen) totally nailed it! The asking price for this newly redone Craftsman from 1912 with hardwood floors, handsome beams, and original mahogany wainscoting is $549,000.
Some guessed as high as $850,000, another as low $160,000 for this three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Maybe the location in South LA’s Vermont Square neighborhood neighborhood threw off readers. There were quite a few who proposed figures in the $600-$700,000 range, and as one commenter pointed out, that’d be a lot for the area, "but the reno is pretty sparkling." Indeed! And, it’s located near the newly extended Expo Line, the light rail that runs from Downtown LA to Downtown Santa Monica.
Here’s one more look at the home, which, according to property records, last sold just this June for $361,503:
Bill is running this you guys
This spring, we shared exciting news that new Super Heroes, such as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, would be a part of the theming of the Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort. We’re now thrilled to announce another heroic addition to this year’s race that is certain to delight runners – more magical miles inside the Disneyland Resort!
At Disney California Adventure park, many runners in the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon race can now watch the sunrise over Cars Land, a breathtaking view that transports you to the heart of Radiator Springs.
Runners can also put their Super Hero skills to the test with a fun loop around Paradise Bay with the “World of Color” fountains dancing in the background, a dash through Grizzly Peak and a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood Land.
And at Disneyland park, the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon course will go through Sleeping Beauty Castle for the first time. Runners will also chart a path for Tomorrowland before navigating towards “it’s a small world,” which will be aglow with sparkling holiday lights, concluding with a trot through Mickey’s Toontown.
But before runners hit the streets of Anaheim to experience an all-new city course that includes runs through Angel Stadium, runners will get a quick peek backstage to get a glimpse of where the Disney magic happens. Super Heroes will also be out in force to cheer runners on along the 13.1-mile course.
And if that wasn’t enough, runners can also register for the Pasta Party & A Movie experience. It includes a special viewing of Marvel Studio’s “Doctor Strange” at the AMC Theatres at Downtown Disney District before the delicious pasta buffet dinner, which will be held at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time. Music, entertainment, special gifts and commemorative photo opportunities make this a can’t-miss opportunity for Marvel fans!
With a new course and new themes for this year’s Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, there is so much to get excited about! If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time to join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Registration is still open. Visit runDisney.com for more information about how to secure your spot in this mighty runDisney race weekend and other runDisney events.
If you are running in the Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend and have an inspirational or extraordinary story, we’d love to hear it! Please submit your story for consideration at WDPR.DisneySportsStories@Disney.com.
worth a click through
Whether or not you watched the debate last night or you're just seeing the results in your social media feeds, you could probably use a break. Thank goodness there's a new book out featuring more than 80 photographs of adorable kittens, ready to pounce.<p><a href='http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/what-the-world-needs-now-are-kittens-mid-pounce-237608'><strong>READ MORE »</strong></a></p>
My guess is it is a scam because these people seem like idiots.
You can probably guess the answer
Tarek and Christina El Moussa, the loveably entitled Orange County residents and stars of HGTV’s Flip or Flop, are at the center of controversy over pricey real estate classes supposedly overseen by the couple.
An Associated Press report (via the Orange County Register) reveals that though the flipping classes, which cost nearly $2,000 for three days of instruction, are pitched to enrollees using the names and likenesses of the El Moussas, the couple rarely if ever actually appears to provide their considerable expertise in buying foreclosed homes, adding cheap tile to the bathrooms, and listing for $100,000 more than comparable homes in the area.
Participants in the classes are promised they will be connected with investors in order to begin flipping projects of their own—with refunds offered if they haven’t successfully flipped by a given deadline. But one woman tells AP she was asked for an additional $8,000 when she wanted to start flipping.
Zurixx LLC, the Utah-based company behind the classes, has partnered with other reality TV stars in the past. The company tells AP everything is on the level and that there was a perfectly good reason enrollees in some of their other classes not affiliated with the El Moussas were asked to open lines of credit up to $30,000 to pay for a trip to Las Vegas.
The El Moussas were apparently too busy to comment. For more on the suspicious classes, check out the full story at the OC Register.
I still think it's amazing a chicken wondered into their yard and has lived there ever since.
this is insane
THAT WAS A PRACTICAL EFFECT.
A MOTHERFUCKING PRACTICAL EFFECT.
JESUS TAP DANCING HORATIO CHRIST.
“I’m gonna be famous for Star Wars for nothing else but this bread! It was a little gag which was incredibly successful, everybody thought it was CGI. We moulded up an inflatable bread so that it was deflated underneath the liquid and then we slowly inflated it and sucked out the liquid with vacuum pumps at the same time to produce this bread coming up and forming. You wouldn’t believe how long it took to actually perfect that one, that little tiny gag in the film. It started off with the mechanics of getting the bread to rise and the liquid to disappear, but then there was the ongoing problem of what color should the bread be? What consistency should it be? Should it have cracks in it? Should it not have cracks in it? It took about three months.”— CFX & SMUFX Creative Supervisor Neal Scanlan
WHAT I actually think that bread looks tasty because the way it ‘inflates’ from water and powder
sounds like a great place to work
Buzz Wine Beer Shop in Downtown LA is under fire on social media
A terrible tragedy unfolded last week at Downtown LA’s popular Buzz Wine Beer Shop. According to its Yelp page, which is being bombarded with negative one-star reviews, an employee of the bottle shop (which also has a beer bar and tasting section) committed suicide during business hours inside the space, only for ownership to allegedly open the place back up as soon as the coroner had left.
One of the store's partners confirmed to Eater this afternoon that the suicide did in fact take place on September 14 and that the store stayed in business for the remainder of the day. While a full statement is
pending below from the shop's ownership, they did initially state that it was a mistake to stay open, thinking that doing so would put their minds off the tragedy.
Though reports are still hazy about what may have actually happened to the deceased employee, one can peek through the wave of one-star reviews on Yelp to find customers rehashing the same basic information. According to the myriad folks who have left bad comments, co-owner Scott Kamalski was actually on site during the suicide. The proper municipal authorities were called, including the coroner, who quickly arrived on site to deal with the tough situation.
On Yelp, some reviewers alleged that Kamalski demanded that employees return to work immediately, rather than close the shop to allow grieving and shaken employees to go home for the day. Since the incident, Buzz has been fed nothing but negative comments across the entire social media landscape, including Instagram.
Buzz is currently closed despite a stated opening time of 12 p.m., but will open at 5 p.m. as usual.
Note: An earlier version of this article stated that the incident occurred on September 21. It's been amended to September 14. A full statement from owner Scott Kamalski is below:
Maru Blinded in Cardboard Accident
should we try this with robotron?
The drawer is a intellectual toy for Hana.
Once complete, it will hold a big theater and a full-scale model of the 1975 Jaws shark
Construction is chugging along on the new Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Museum next to LACMA on the Miracle Mile.
Right now, the foundation is being poured for a giant orbed-shaped theater that will be attached to the rear of the old May Company building. Built in 1939, the Streamline Modern building with its gold tower is being restored to house the museum's exhibits, which will include a full-scale model of the 1975 Jaws shark, plus:
"approximately 62,000 pieces of production art—such as a Planet of the Apes mask, a model horse head made for The Godfather and the lion’s mane and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz—as well as some 12 million photographs, 55,000 posters, 80,000 screenplays, over 185,000 film and video elements and tens of thousands of books, periodicals, items of correspondence, scrapbooks and clippings files."
After years of community push back over concerns about traffic and parking, ground finally broke in March with the demolition of the department store's rear-wing. That makes room for the huge orb, which was designed by architect Renzo Piano to hold 1,000 seats and an observation deck. It's poised to dramatically alter the view at 6th Street and Fairfax Avenue.
A spokesman for the Academy is tight lipped about the construction's timeline and when we might begin to see that spherical theater take shape, but an opening date for the museum has been set for 2018.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the Purple Line extension and its new station at Wilshire and Fairfax set to open in 2023.
all the dallas raines tea
this was everyone's jam for years
Few would have predicted that a low-budget Australian comedy whose star was best-known from tourism commercials would become one of the biggest hits of 1986, alongside Top Gun and Star Trek IV. In fact, several major studios passed on the opportunity to distribute Peter Faiman’s “Crocodile” Dundee, an $8.8 million vehicle for laid-back TV actor and pitchman Paul Hogan. It was Paramount Pictures that eventually took the risk on this oddball film, and the gambit paid off to the tune of $328 million, spawning two sequels and making a catchphrase out of “That’s not a knife.” Three decades later, it may be difficult to understand why America and the world embraced Dundee so fondly. A recent BuzzFeed video shows young, present-day Australians cringing at the embarrassing cultural stereotypes in the film. But critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave some insight into the movie’s popularity when ...
Monday morning cute.
It's actually real tiger meat. bold choice.
Add one more to your list of Skewers to try at Bengal Barbecue in Disneyland!
You may already be well familiar with some of the specialties of the house at this legendary little Adventureland kiosk, like the Banyan Beef Skewer and the Safari — better known as the Bacon-wrapped Asparagus — Skewer. But DFB Disneyland Correspondent Heather Sievers just happened upon — and, of course, sampled! — a Special Skewer.
This Grilled Pork Sausage Skewer with grilled pineapple and red onion accompaniments can be ordered with or without teriyaki sauce. It’s also worth noting that it’s cooked to order, so it does take a little longer to receive than the regular Skewers on the menu.
But Heather assured us that it’s totally worth the wait. She was also informed that it will only be around “while supplies last,” so be sure to pay a visit to the Bengal tiger ASAP to grab yours!
Oh, and don’t forget to grab a Tiger Tail while you’re there!
Would you try the Special Skewer or stick (ha!) with your favorite at Bengal Barbecue? Please let us know with a comment!