Six or seven years ago when I first started to research and write my Garden of Allah series, I had no idea where it might take me, or who I might meet along the way. Facebook wasn’t on my radar yet, and Twitter probably wasn’t even on the radar of the guy who dreamed it up.
Since then, of course, I’ve met all sorts of people who share my interest in and passion for Hollywood movies, Los Angeles history and architecture, and the personalities who have shaped it over the years. I have a lively and active bunch of Facebookers who make me laugh, share my discoveries, and fill in my gaps.
A little while ago, however, one particular Facebooker caught my attention. Whenever I posted something about the Garden of Allah hotel and its original occupant, Alla Nazimova, this person would make a remarkably knowledgeable or insightful observation. It quickly became obvious to me that whoever he was, he sure knew his stuff. His moniker – Playground to the Stars – piqued my curiosity too so I clicked onto his Facebook page and found it was dedicated to the Sunset Strip with loads of references to Nazimova and the Garden of Allah.
So I emailed him and asked him who the hell he was, and how come he knew so much about Nazimova and the Garden of Allah???? He replied, telling me that his name is Jon Ponder and “Playground to the Stars” is the title of a book he’s writing about the history of the Sunset Strip, of which the Garden of Allah plays a central role. When I suggested that we ought to meet, he readily agreed. Handily, we live within 10 miles of each other.
That lunch was a two-hour gabfest about all things Nazimova, the Garden of Allah and the Sunset Strip. Jon’s been researching this stuff longer than I have! He recognized the important role that the Garden of Allah played in the development of the Strip and is using it as a framework in which to set his crime-and-scandal account of one of L.A.’s most famous boulevards. It became pretty obvious to me that we’ve been walking different sides of the same street for the past few years—me on the fiction side of Sunset Boulevard and he on the non-fiction.
Over more lunches, dinners, brunches and wine, a wonderful friendship has ensued. During the course of all that free-flowing chardonnay, we shared a lament that Nazimova, the gal who started it all, who was once a great and shining star of both stage and screen now languishes largely forgotten. In 1917, when Mary Pickford was earning $10,000 a week, Nazimova was earning $13,000, making her the highest paid actress in the world. In the early 1920s, when most career-minded women in America could only choose between the typing pool and standing behind the make-up counter at Bullocks, Nazimova was producing her own movies.
For all that, and so much more, we decided that Alla Nazimova deserves to be remembered and celebrated for everything she was and everything she contributed to motion pictures, theater, Los Angeles, feminism and history. So to that end, we have now launched the
ALLA NAZIMOVA SOCIETY
The Alla Nazimova Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artistry of the extraordinary Alla Nazimova. Our website is filled with all the information and photos we can lay our hands on which cover her life in all its incarnations. Our aim is to become the go-to source for everything there is to know about her life.
We invite you to come visit us, browse around the information we’re posting, join our mailing list, share your thoughts with us. We would love to hear your contributions and receive your participation. And so, we suspect, would Nazimova herself.