Conan O'Brien, L.A. culture maven
OK, so maybe this doesn't rank as an epochal turning point. But think of it as a subtle shift -- one small step for humankind.
The glamorous opening sequence of the new "Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," which premiered Monday night, sets the show in Los Angeles by featuring a filmed series of architectural landmarks that includes three cultural venues. After Grauman's Chinese and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel come shots of the gilded portico at the Pantages Theatre down the street; the sleek, Streamline Moderne fountain at the entrance to the nearby Hollywood Bowl, complete with muse sculptures by George Stanley; and the undulating facade of the J. Paul Getty Museum in the Sepulveda Pass.
Yes, the Hollywood sign of course turns up too (Conan "stole" the sign's D on the first night); but theater, classical music and art casually take their places among familiar symbolic representations of the city. (You can see the intro here; click on "Video," then watch the beginning of any "Full Episode.")
Frank Gehry's iconic Disney Hall downtown does not make an appearance. Perhaps its swooping steel "sails" have been overexposed by all those car commercials.
Former host Jay Leno's most recent "Tonight Show" opening sequence set the scene in the comic's stand-up past, zeroing in on a cocktail glass in a club. But L.A. has been a cultural powerhouse going on a quarter-century now, and TV appears to be catching up. Apparently it's a generational thing. I'll drink to that.
-- Christopher Knight
Photo: The Getty Center. Credit: Tom Bonner