Humble Origins

The original Microsoft headquarters, Albuquerque, NM. Annual gross revenues, $16,000.

The first ten employees, plus a pizza delivery boy who stepped into the lower left of the frame by mistake. Any one of them could purchase a small nation today, for cash. Original Intel HQ, Menlo Park. I happened across these pictures on a listicle and it struck me just how…Van Nuys-ian they were: low-rise, utilitarian and anonymous.

Could this mean genius is flowering in my neighborhood, underfoot yet unrevealed? If not genius, then a fresh, paradigm-crushing business model? Is someone quietly assembling the next Death Star just beyond my back yard? Let’s take a walk into the world behind Target and find out.

Empty, but I think they used to make furniture out of recycled wood.

“Deliveries in reap.” This building say go away and says it with unintentional poetry.

Looks empty, but was recently the production offices for Workaholics.

Full to capacity, but in the business of renting space for someone else’s dreams. That’s a very old paradigm.  LA 1.0.

Sketch Paper Design, a post-production facility.  Promising. Plus a pirate flag, which isn’t. Too self-referential.

Somehow I don’t think Document Engineering, Inc. is headed for the NASDAQ. Glover looks like B-roll footage for a crime story on the local news.

I found this logo plastered on a door to a windowless bunker and was instantly intrigued.  What the hell is The Lucky Hand, Inc? What is the significance of the hamsa, the eye in the palm?

Nothing on the exterior hinted at what lay within. The row of well tended roses only enhanced a riddle straight of Thomas Pynchon, like the Trystero society in The Crying of Lot 49.

Look closer, said the palm.  I ward off spirits.  I am known since antiquity as a protector against the Evil Eye.

Well…a little Googling tells us it’s an air freshener company.

Killing evil odors, that’s Van Nuys for you.  Better as a mystery than a product. But then mysteries usually are.  Humble score: 100.

To Be A Knight, 1976

When we think of Star Wars we don’t think of a parking lot near the Van Nuys airport. Such was the state of special effects in 1976. 

Industrial Light and Magic was invented on the fly for the purposes of making the film. It’s remarkable to look back on the mother of all action sequences improvised with rope pulleys and animation cameras mounted on the back of pickup trucks.  In the analog shire that was Van Nuys…

There was so little air circulation inside the warehouse a single kleig light would raise the temperature to 130 degrees, necessitating outdoor filming.

This is how the popcorn was popped, how Luke Skywalker, patron of fatherless boys everywhere, torpedoed the Empire like a womp rat.

Meanwhile, over in Burbank, also in 1976, Lockheed was developing Have Blue,  the prototype for the F-117 Stealth Bomber. This also was an improv of sorts, in response to the rise of Russian surface-to-air missile technology  utilized in Vietnam and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Nighthawk would prove a decisive tipping point in the fall of the Soviet Union.

GM was cranking out Camaros, the terrestrial equivalent of a tie fighter. To drop into the bucket seat was to cross into a kind of knighthood,  to aspire to greatness in your own life, however modest it may actually have been.

The Valley was badass, without apology.