Echo Park by Louis Jacinto
One of my favorite images of Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles is by the great painter Frank Romero. “Arrest of the Palateros” shows the mayhem that the Los Angeles Police Department thrives on by taking the easy way out.
Arrest of The Palateros by Frank Romero
Instead of focusing on real crime, the L.A.P.D. spends thousands of tax dollars to capture an ice cream vendor who doesn’t have a sellers permit.
In the painting, if you look across the street to the right from the boathouse, you’ll see the green garage doors of an apartment complex. From 1978 – 1984, I lived and worked in a small studio in the complex. There were four levels of apartments and mine was at the top of the steps. It was an absolute paradise.
I purchased a small print of “Arrest of the Palateros” from Romero a few years ago and I told him my story. He said this image was also his homage to his friend, the incredible artist Carlos Almaraz, who, according to Frank, also lived in the same apartment complex. I did some research and found an interview that Almaraz gave to the Smithsonian Institute in 1986. In the interview Almaraz stated that he lived in Echo Park from the late 1970s through the early 1980s – the same time I lived there! Clearly he did not live in the top section of the complex that I lived in as I knew my other 3 neighbors at the top level, so I’m sure I must have seen him and maybe just said hello as we passed each other, huffing and puffing up and down those steep steps. Even today more than 30 years later, when I dream about Echo Park, it is always the lake and my apartment across the street. And in my dream I am still renting the place, but only using it as a studio. How I wish that were true now.
Echo Park by Carlos Almaraz
I just love that I was in the same complex as the great Carlos Almaraz. The world is wonderfully small (or is Los Angeles just wonderfully small in a big world?)
I arrived in Los Angeles on October 1, 1975. I was 19 years old and ready to begin my third year of college at Cal State Los Angeles. I rented a studio apartment in East Hollywood, just a couple of blocks from the Silver Lake district (or as I like to call it “Echo Park West”).
For those of you who do not know Los Angeles, it goes like this – Downtown, then heading west you hit the communities of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Santa Monica, the Pacific Ocean. This is not to dismiss the communities to the north, south or east of downtown, but that was the immediate route I learned upon my arrival. But back to Echo Park.
On the balcony of my Echo Park apartment, 1978
One of the difficulties in leaving my hometown was leaving my family, of course, but also my closest friends. One of my friends, Victor Bisio, and I would spend hours each weekend listening to records all afternoon. It was just heaven. At that time his partner was trying to break into the record business so he rented this small studio apartment in Echo Park (yes, that same apartment) and used it as a base so he could travel to Los Angeles when he was out scouting acts and trying to meet people in the music industry. Nothing became of his efforts, but the weekend of October 25 and 26, 1975, Elton John was playing at Dodger Stadium and Victor and I had tickets!
Elton John at Dodger Stadium 1975 by Louis Jacinto
We jumped in my car and hopped on the freeway to the stadium. I was too new in town to realize that the entrance to the stadium was only 3 blocks away from the apartment. Victor and I had a blast and the place was mobbed. We got there early and were able to sit close to the stage. Looking back I wonder if the great Alice Bag was in the audience. She was a FANTICAL fan of Elton John and she hadn’t started her punk rock band The Bags yet!
So Victor would use the apartment and come and visit me in Los Angeles. Within a year, he had moved to Los Angeles himself, into the apartment, and we continued our wonderful adventures in Echo Park and beyond!
Victor Bisio by Louis Jacinto
Victor would always say yes to my request for a photo shoot, regardless how lame brained the concept might have seemed.
By 1978 Victor was ready to move on to a bigger place. I was still in college and he said I should move into the studio. At that time the rent was $75 a month. So I did. Being 20 something’s we didn’t care about needing to inform the landlord, etc. But as soon as the landlord accepted my first payment of rent, I was legally, the tenant.
It was a wonderful time in my life, a great apartment – just perfect for a college student – and Echo Park was still the cutting edge of life in Los Angeles for us young folks as it continues to be today. Nothing too new (but don’t tell today’s kids that). AND, Carlos Almaraz lived in the complex! It was my time of becoming an adult.
Echo Park by Louis Jacinto, 1978
Recently the lake and park have been completely refurbished. And I still know someone who lives in that apartment complex – the partner of my friend and incredible photographer Martin Cox. Martin has just released a great book of his photographs showing the park in its transition during the refurbishing.
And my nephew James Juarez also lives on the next block over from my old place. James is an amazing artist and stylist!
I guess one of my favorite images is me dreaming of Echo Park. Sometimes it is a beautiful dream. And sometimes, as my old college chum Roberto Moreno has illustrated, it can be a nightmare, but just dreams all the same.