Weegee, who garnered renown in New York City based on his simultaneously blunt and sly black-and-white depictions of crime scenes, grisly fare and wry street tableaux, arrived in L.A. in 1947 in high spirits. “Now I could really photograph the subjects I liked,” he said at the time. “I was free.”
Richard Meyer, curator of the show and an associate professor of art history and fine arts at the University of Southern California, interprets that remark to mean Weegee “was tired of gruesome deaths, tears and ambulance sirens. I think his real interest was in taking pictures of stars and burlesque performers—that is, sexy women—as well as new sorts of crowds and a different kind of street life.”
Yet Weegee would come to vilify Los Angeles, and he expressed his disdain in very specific terms: “The restaurants in Hollywood were simply awful. I judge a restaurant by their blintzes. I had eaten better blintzes—free—at the Salvation Army dinner on Christmas.
Of course, since the natives [of L.A.] are zombies, there were no restrooms in the Hollywood restaurants—they drink formaldehyde instead of coffee and have no sex organs. In Hollywood, you can always recognize the out-of-towners...they carry their chamber pots with them.”