When a 21-year-old Swede named Lena Söderberg became Playboy magazine’s Miss November in 1972 under the name Lenna Sjööblom, there was little to set her apart from other Playmates of the era. She was a classic beauty, demure yet approachable, but otherwise unremarkable in the pantheon of Playboy centerfolds. It wasn’t until a few years later that Lena, with the help of a few researchers at the University of Southern California, would earn herself an unexpected place in history.
According to Film L.A., the organization that helps the film industry book municipal locations, over 80 movies, television shows, music videos, and commercials are shot on or underneath the Sixth Street Viaduct each year. That’s partially because of the bridge’s swooping metal arches, perched on an art-deco concrete platform; and partially because of the river underneath and that access tunnel: if you want to film something set in Los Angeles that makes reference to the city’s automotive culture, or if you’re just looking for a place to shoot a car chase that’s cheaper and more available than a clogged freeway, the channelized, concretized bed of the Los Angeles River is your best choice.
Except that the bridge officially no longer functions that way, as of last week. It’s going away completely. And the river? It’s on its way to becoming a river again.
Though fraught with inelegant-sounding sentences (“We can see the schizophrenic nature of empire in this early wave of globalisation”), Trentmann’s history of five centuries of material culture is impressive in its breadth and scholarship. Anyone with compulsive buying disorder should buy a copy, or two, or three. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!
In these heady days of crowdfunding, the question often isn't who is asking for money, but who isn't?