Just because it was there when I was borrowing other books I took a book called “Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir” out of the library. It’s a collection of black and white photos of Los Angeles taken in the 30s 40s and 50s when Los Angeles was “a web of dope rings, petty criminals, sensational murders, ladies of the evening, bullet-riddled bodies and a notoriously corrupt police force.” While I suspect noir is just another word for black and white photography I have a question about one particular picture which has the caption “Nutburgers for sale on a stretch of what was to become The Strip”. I worry that the corpses on display in the book are of vegans who dared to make a stand for wholesomeness. What were these nutburgers made of? Did the L.A. crime world once thrive on gin joints, speakeasies, gambling and macrobiotics? Or were the nutburgers made of meat?
I’m not sure about the nutburger, but I would think that “noir” is a reference to film noir films. They were rather dark, rather pessimistic, about urban centers (well, you probably know about them already; The Maltese Falcon and the like). The title of the book seems to be a reference to them, saying that this is what the crime of that time in the city was really like.
A search on Google (90+ hits) leads me to the conclusion that it’s the Vegan equivalent of the meat burger; it also has come to mean, in a figurative sense, a ‘nut case’.
Well, noir does pertain to the dark side of society. There’s film noir and writers like Raymond Chandler are called noir writers. It’s all about private detectives hanging around in the dark isn’t it? But how often is it about veggie burgers? It’s not supposed to be about vegetarianism any more than it’s about private dicks with see-through underpants.
I have to confess that I’ve just noticed another sign in the picture. As well as the one that says “nutburgers and barbecue” there’s another one above the restaurant that says “Gates’ Nut Kettle”. Under that another sign says “Nutty sandwiches”. I’m sorry if I haven’t understood that “Nut Kettle” is just some kind of trade name and possibly doesn’t have anything to do with vegetarianism at all. Maybe it’s similar to McDonald’s calling their hamburgers McFeasts or Big Macs.
Does noir of necessity have to be about the past I wonder? You would think that modern day Los Angeles would lend itself just as well to the noir treatment. A black and white photograph of Spoofe Bo Diddly outside a dentist would probably work quite well.
I have to say that “Sins of the City” has an account of one of the sickest crimes in history in it. The perpetrator seems like Jeffrey Dahmer and Hanibal Lecter rolled into one.
I think the nutburger referred to in the book was probably something related to the name of the store and not a vegetarian substitute as it would be today. As much as L.A. was a home for “unusual” medical and dietary practices, as vegetarianism would have been considered 50 years ago, a restaurant in one of the busiest parts of town probably couldn’t have lasted selling faux-hamburgers.
They may have added some nuts to the regular beef patty after it was cooked.
And yes, there has been some pretty gross crime in the history of L.A.
A black and white photograph of Spoofe Bo Diddley outside a dentist’s offices would make more sense.
Bob T: Yes, thank you. I feel like such a waste of time but the photographs are hard to see in detail - I needed a magnifying glass to see the signs properly.
The crime I mentioned was one where a kidnapper of a 12 year old girl panicked and dismembered her body but then, in an attempt to get ransom money, propped her torso up on the passenger’s seat of his car and drove past her father’s house to make her appear alive. When he received the money he dumped what was left of the body straight on to the sidewalk. He was captured quite quickly though.
The book sounds cool. I’ll keep an eye out for it here. Thanks, G. Nome.
And this differs from modern day L.A. how?
It was all in black and wbite then.
Have you seen Chinatown (1974) G.Nome? Pretty noirish in my book. Filmed in colour with most of the action in daylight. Curiously the imdb does not list is as film-noir, though Blue Velvet is on its film-noir list. LA Confidential would also come close to qualifying.
I quote: Post-'50s noirs such as Farewell, My Lovely and Body Heat are nostalgia first and noirs second.