#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #16: Stephanie Frank

I’m a bit behind with ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014, but I will keep going. I’ve always been a slow worker. What are you going to do besides keep plugging away at it?

This week I discuss the work of Stephanie Frank, who is one of my students, which means the work is brilliant and perfect in every way and anybody who says otherwise gets a knuckle sandwich. Stephanie has left our beloved USC, and she is now an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The paper of hers I am going to highlight is:

Frank, S. (2012). Claiming hollywood: Boosters, the film industry, and Metropolitan Los Angeles. Journal of Urban History, 38(1), 71-88. doi:10.1177/009614421142064

The year is 1937; the place is a then-small, but rapidly urbanizing, region in southern California. There is money being made in film industry, and by selling the idea of “Hollywood.” Culver City boosters get the smart idea to rename themselves from the prosaic–and, frankly, Midwestern-sounding, Culver City to Hollywood. (Not accidental: Culver City took its name from an early pioneer from Nebraska.) Even today, Hollywood is a district or a neighborhood. Despite multiple pushes for secession, Hollywood is part of the larger city of Los Angeles. Culver City, however, is not. My use of the present tense is a spoiler: boosters failed, and to this day, Culver City remains plain old Culver City, though it is a very nice place to live with lots of wonderful things to do.

I let you read the manuscript for the full story of how and why the boosters attempt failed; let’s just say it’s a story of big-fish elite of one type, and bigger-fish elites of another type, and one (of many ways) the movie industry made its spatial impact on the geography of Los Angeles.

Stephanie wrote her very fine dissertation on movie studios as land developers under the direction of David Sloane, Greg Hise, and Bill Deverell, and she should have a book coming out shortly. Keep your eyes peeled for it, and for future work. My auntie-like bias notwithstanding, she really is a fine young scholar.

The Torrance Tornado has died

I am often hard on my beloved employer, USC, because I feel like we make mistakes in how we relate to students and neighbors. Since I also live in West Adams, even though I am not right by the university, I also feel the influence of the university as one of those neighbors. Nowhere is perfect; we at USC should be better than we are in multiple dimensions.

But I also love USC. They took a chance on me when I was a not-particulaly-accomplished young scholar, and they have continued to support me in my attempts to strike out into new and different dimensions with my career as a journeyman scholar. USC is wildly ambitious, but unlike most places that say they are going to move up those all-important rankings, one gets the sense that it might actually be possible here. It’s that striving that I love. It’s interesting.

Mostly though, I am wildly fond of my students and colleagues, and the terrific people who are associated with the university. It is not a university of spoiled rich kids, any more than any other university is, and perhaps nothing speaks to that better than the story of Louis Zamperini, who died this week in Los Angeles at the age of 97. His wear service was chronicled in the book Unbroken. The son of Italian immigrants in Torrance, CA, he found his way through athletics to USC, where he graduated in 1940 after setting a record for the mile that stood for 15 years.

Here is the write up from the University with the quote from Coach Allice:

“Today is a sad day at USC, knowing that the wonderful life of Louis Zamperini has ended after 97 remarkable years. I can think of no more famous Trojan than Louie, with his combination of athletic exploits and war heroics,” said former USC track and field Coach Ron Allice. “The fact that he still is the only Trojan to win the NCAA outdoor mile championship, which he did twice some 75 years ago, speaks volumes of his athletic ability. I know I will miss him, as will so many others. He was a great man.”