Alexander Ruler of the World Apartments: The colorful back story of a Hollywood legend
Curiosity for Rent: Alexander Ruler of the World Apartments, Hollywood
Classically Greek and exuberantly tweaked, the 60-unit Alexander Ruler of the World Apartments were purportedly built by Paramount Studios to house actors in 1927. Actor George Pan-Andreas bought the property in 1992 and in 2007 hired artist Danny Doxton to tart it up, beginning with ruby red paint patterned with orange swirls.
“Alexander the Great opened Persia to the world, and so I honor him with this building,” Pan-Andreas says, seated in his lobby near a photo of James Dean and a painting of Jesus paired with Art Nouveau nymphs.
Having nailed their theme, Pan-Andreas and Doxton went to work, adding cartouches styled after figural Greek vases that flank Doric columns topped with an entrance pediment. Greek-style lettering and frets, Olympic rings, depictions of Valentino, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, along with reliefs of Alexander III of Macedon also vie for attention -- along with the building’s hot pink walls -- in case you should miss this Parthenon-on-acid while approaching 830 N. Van Ness Ave.
The building has become a favorite stop for Starline Trolley Tours and others. Doxton, who lives in San Pedro, says he added masses of orange swirls on outer walls “to kill the color,” adding that “George told me one day to make the building look good, to follow his crazy ideas. We kept adding things all the time.” Most of the architectural flourishes are cut from foam, covered with wire mesh and then spread with polymer cement.
Pan-Andreas, above, is a raconteur whose graveled, Greek accent streams with tales of early Hollywood. (Ginger Rogers, he says, was his godmother.) Tenants say he's not just larger than life. He’s good-hearted.
“George loves actors,” says Rob, a one-year tenant and TV production manager who declined to give his last name. “Most everyone here is young, moving from different states to land gigs in the industry. I’ve heard stories of actors not being able to make their rent for a month, and George understands.”
Born in Athens, Greece, Pan-Andreas (his family name is Palaeologus) came to the U.S. at age 20, hired by director Manousos Manousakis. He starred as CIA agent Zeus in the movies "Crime Killer" and "Golden Target" in the 1980s and '90s and appeared on "Love, American Style," "Kojak" and General Hospital. Pan-Andreas played tough guys, Casanovas and more often, the Immigrant Boy Next Door.
Pan-Andreas, who now lives in North Hollywood, also owns the Pan-Andreas Theater on Melrose Avenue. It caters to struggling actors, offering low-budget productions and weekly acting classes. He says he recently bought the former Balboa Theatre on Vermont Avenue and is restoring it to boost interest in Los Angeles theater.
Pan-Andreas’ secretary, Candice, appears bearing striking modeling photos of the 6-foot-3 actor in his early 20s. His chiseled looks and olive eyes remain on a now ruddy face that often breaks with deep laughter.
“Let me give you just one more small example.” That’s Pan-Andreas’ favorite phrase, a sort of bridge device to grease additional anecdotes about Hollywood, Aristotelian philosophy, Greek etymology, how close he came to once playing James Bond and the bullfighting school he attended in Apizaco, Mexico, in 2004 to prepare for his new matador-themed movie. He will again star as CIA agent Zeus.
Pan-Andreas combs a bear-paw hand through a mane of black hair.
“To be honest with you, I got a lot of attention when I was young,” he says, explaining that it all started at age 15 when he became a trapeze artist in a circus that came to Athens.
Most consider the Alexander Ruler of the World Apartments the height of camp kitsch, a sportive building that would be hard pressed to take itself seriously. Pan-Andreas, whose Reaganesque charm could knock the socks off Socrates, shrugs off detractors.
“Waking up as a boy in Athens each day, looking to the Parthenon and all those great structures, surrounded by bigness, well ..."
Pan-Andreas pauses. What he said next eerily mimicked the words of Simon Rodia, creator of the Watts Towers. The line is no doubt common to immigrant dreamers who arrive in Los Angeles, whether from Arkansas or Athens.
“I wanted to do something big.”
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-- R. Daniel Foster