Written by Jen Brown


Elevators, tour guides and iconic diarrhoea

How a tour of the LA Times building brought our Hollywood correspondent Jen Brown to her knees.

The safest view? Jen's journey through the famous LA Times building was less than smooth. Photo by The Angels 2010, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0/GFDL.

The safest view? Jen’s journey through the famous LA Times building was less than smooth. Photo by The Angels 2010, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0/GFDL).

This was meant to be an article about a tour of the iconic LA Times building, but as I was trapped in an elevator in said iconic building for 10 long minutes, it has gone askew. Bear with me.

My day began moderately as I stepped, reporter-like – notebook in hand – into the breathtakingly beautiful Globe lobby, designed by… sorry, I don’t know who. This is what happens, post-trauma, I go blank.

It’s OK, it just means me being stuck in a lift is now the focus of this piece, at which, I am relieved. High drama and interesting photographs can now replace LA Times facts, of which I got very few.

Due to a highly strung disposition and an announcement that photos couldn’t be taken in the main building, I was propelled to race in circles (the lobby is round) and snap everything before me, including the globe, after which the lobby is named.

I learned, randomly, that the globe rotates every five minutes and that the 10-foot high murals were painted by Hugo Ballin, and, sorry, that’s your lot. My photos came out blurry due to anticipatory hands and my intentions of writing an article were dashed later at the press of a button. Or two.

LiftSignOne picture came out crystal clear, though, and twice as portentous; it pertains to the failed lift and my panic attack, therein. I don’t know why, but after exploring the lobby and the extremely quiet offices of the journalists (forget All the President’s Men), I took a picture of a sign by an elevator stating it was for ‘freight only – not passengers’.

This wasn’t the elevator that stopped mid-floors with me and eight others in it but the significance of taking a picture of a warning outside one lift and seconds later being stuck in another strikes me as, well, significant.

The sign set me on edge and I was nervous when our party was divided into two. One half (the lucky ducks) went ahead with our chaperone and my group (‘The Liftees’) were left to board the ill-fated elevator alone. Our tour guide’s parting banter (“See you in the cafeteria!”; “Watch you don’t get ink on your clothing” (I was covered), to this day gives me the shivers.

I will never forget that tiny space on floor ‘one-and-a-half’, where, because of some maniac button-presser, the lift stopped between floors.

I remember whispering to my friend, Marje, that I was claustrophobic. She held my hand. When I whimpered, a whole lot louder that I was VERY claustrophobic, she allowed me to slide down the wall and onto the floor, while a kindly Asian Liftee fanned me vigorously with her free copy of the LA Times.

I kept a lid on it by refusing to acknowledge where I was. I stared at the floor and pretended I was in the cafeteria. I convinced myself I was looking for a quarter I’d dropped while waiting to pay for my lunch and water. I died a mini death when I realised I’d left my water in Marje’s car.

An eternity later and a thin voice wafted across what little air there was left. It enquired how many of us were in there. The self-nominated spokesperson (unbelievably, the Button Presser) announced there were eight, including a woman on the floor with ‘issues’ (me on all fours).

After endless hammer-tapping and whinging (me again) we finally emerged from our cage to cheers, applause and apologies. A man with a clipboard took our names. When I learned it was just for the ‘Accident Book’, I cried.

The second part of the tour was a visit to the printing works but I was too shaken to take anything in, except to notice how the huge pillars of paper, that would eventually become the LA Times, looked like giant toilet rolls. This lone observation turned out to be a premonition, because next day, when visiting a railway museum, I couldn’t get off the bog (heinous delayed shock).

Time’s a healer though and several weeks on, I have recovered enough to admit that a tour of the LA Times building is probably worth taking, though they definitely need new lifts. All’s well that ends well. Well, apart from the fact that when we did eventually manage to grab a bite from the world-famous LA Times cafeteria we had to PAY for it. I might never recover from that.


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Written by Jen Brown

A Hollywood based Geordie pensioner living on her wits. Affectionately known as Nano to her granddaughters. Instantly likeable. (Daughter's words!) @MmePcato