La Crescenta Motel as a Movie Location
Last week I talked about the origins of the May-Lane Motel, now the La Crescenta Motel. Sadly its fate for the last decade has been tenuous. In 2002 it was purchased for development, and since then a variety of plans, from assisted living apartments to office/retail, have been put forward by a succession of owner/developers, but each one has fizzled.
I spoke to “OJ” Rodriguez, who is currently managing the motel for the owner. OJ is enthusiastic about the old motel and its small town atmosphere. He sees a bright business potential for the motel by creative rental of the facilities for various film shoots, event sites and storage space. For instance, as I write this, the “No Vacancy” sign is lit and the empty lot out front is being lucratively rented. The back half is a construction staging site for some school upgrades going on at Mountain Avenue Elementary and Rosemont Middle School, and the front half is the Saturday Antiques Market.
The current owner apparently agrees with OJ and as long as the motel can pay for itself, he’s allowing OJ to put money back into the facility. OJ, who is a Vietnam vet, has embarked on an ambitious restoration process for the 63-year-old building. New mattresses, carpets, paint, plumbing, landscaping, re-paneling in old-school knotty pine, and even restoring the old neon sign are all on OJ’s busy “to-do” list. Visiting film crews also put in upgrades as needed for their film shoots.
The constant stream of movie and TV shoots pays the bills and lends the modest property a certain glamour and fame locally. The 50s style, “any-small-town” atmosphere of the motel and its proximity to the Hollywood studios have made it a popular site for location scouts. Over the last few years, such feature films as “Radio Flyer,” “One Night at McCool’s,” “Win A Date With Tad Hamilton,” “The Portal” and “House of Sand and Fog” have used both exterior and interior views of the La Crescenta Motel. Television uses the motel even more, with the famous “X-files” doing several runs there. Also “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Heroes.” More recently, such popular television shows as “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” “The Forgotten,” “Supernatural,” “Chuck” and “True Blood” have used the La Crescenta Motel as a set. It has even been used in the wildly popular “Glee” as the motel where the character of Sam Evans lived before moving to Kentucky.
OJ tells me it was used in a myriad of shorts, indies and student films, as well as still photography, such as CD covers and fashion shoots. He says the motel has served as a backdrop for models in vintage attire posing around beautifully restored cars from the ’50s and ’60s. Not only does the motel get paid well for the filming that goes on, but OJ says that on larger shoots, even the neighbors around the motel get a chunk of change.
As I said earlier, the current owner of the motel is content to let the motel go on as just that – a motel. The rooms are regularly filled with out-of-town visitors and relatives of locals who don’t have room in their own homes for their guests. During the Station Fire, and the flood threats and evacuations after, the little motel was booked solid with not just displaced residents but also visiting emergency workers and officials. Wedding parties also block-book the little motel to house best men and bridesmaids coming from far away during their big events. With only 11 units available in the La Crescenta Motel, it’s not too hard to light up that “No Vacancy” sign.
But the fact remains that the owner is not in the motel business – he’s a developer. No matter how successful OJ is at renting out the property, it’s probably just a matter of time and economics until the community will have to say goodbye to the old motel. But in the meantime, feel free to stop in and say hello to OJ. He’s proud of his piece of CV history.