downtown

Posted by Ellen

Picking up the pieces last summer in the plaza at downtown Seattle's Westlake Mall.

Posted by Ellen

In downtown Los Angeles.

Posted by Ellen

Philadelphia is standing in for New York City this summer during the filming of Paranoia, a thriller starring Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth and directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde).

For example: here in Center City Philadelphia, on 16th Street near Locust, is a New York City taxicab, in a line of cars all bearing New York plates. Look closely, and perhaps you can make out the cars' back-up lights all lit up; this line of traffic was in fact moving in reverse, preparing for the filmmakers to take one more take.

A few weeks ago, this same outfit took over the Rittenhouse Square restaurant Twenty Manning for a day of shooting. Our own Joe Stein, who worked there, was told to take the day off but then called in early the next day to help clean up the mess that Hollywood had left behind.

Some of the people in this photo are extras who were supposed to be walking in or around this intersection as the scene was shot and reshot. Others of the people seen here are Philadelphians who just happened by, and who were supposed to be shooed out of camera range. I couldn't tell the two types of people apart, but the bossy folks wearing orange vests seemed very certain who was who. Somebody yelled at me and my mother to get out of the picture, and insulting as that seemed, we left without putting up an argument.

Posted by Ellen

When I lived in North Carolina in the 1970s, downtown Durham was dead, dying, decrepit, and pretty much a mess. They were still making Lucky Strikes in town, but the old tobacco mills were already mostly abandoned, and by 1987 every last one of them was shuttered.

When I visited Durham last week, I don't think I saw a single empty mill. They are all restaurants now, or condos, or shops and galleries and studios and offices. In back of the Lucky Strike chimney is a baseball stadium for the minor-league Durham Bulls. A couple blocks away is a new theater complex, where Wicked was playing.

There are umpteen hundred old mill towns in America that died and stayed dead. And then there are a few that did this sort of thing. As for the cigarettes, I'm told that Lucky Strike is one of the major clients of the 1960s-era ad agency in Mad Men on TV, and that Luckies are still being sold today, filtered and unfiltered both. I don't know where the cigarettes are made, though–maybe Malaysia?