Downtown LA's brilliant, Anthony Quinn mural gets a makeover

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Posted: Jan 24, 2017 5:57 PM
Downtown LA's brilliant, Anthony Quinn mural gets a makeover

LOS ANGELES (AP) — He was a good-natured Greek, an angry Bedouin and numerous other unforgettable characters in a legendary film career, and now Anthony Quinn is once again the splendorous "Pope of Broadway, his colorful image welcoming visitors to downtown Los Angeles.

Eloy Torrez's brilliant, 70-foot-tall acrylic mural, showing the actor sharply dressed and with arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture, was rededicated Tuesday, after the artist spent much of last fall restoring it to its former glory.

"It was a fun adventure to relive it, it was kind of like time-traveling," he said of spending countless hours perched on a window-washing platform high above a downtown parking lot as he repaired the work he'd created in 1985 when he was just 30.

"I'm not quite 30 anymore," the modest, soft-spoken Torrez said with a smile as he stood under the huge mural Tuesday. "But it did take me back to specific moments when I first did it."

The painting of Quinn standing on a colorful tile walkway in front of a building resembling a church has greeted passers-by crossing Broadway and entering the city's Third Street tunnel through Bunker Hill for decades. But over the years it had begun to crumble, falling victim to the elements and graffiti vandals.

A restoration campaign was launched in 2010 by Quinn's late son, Francesco, actor Edward James Olmos, City Councilman Jose Huizar and numerous others.

"I can't tell you how incredible it is to drive by and see this," said an emotional Olmos, one of about 100 people who turned out for the rededication.

"People who come to California, to Los Angeles, they stop here," he said. "They stop at this mural."

One of the art world's most prominent Chicano painters, Torrez's works have been displayed not only on buildings in Los Angeles and France but on a smaller scale in galleries and museums in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

He recalled Tuesday he'd recently completed a mural on a Hollywood building that featured 1950s film legends James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and others when the owner of downtown's old Victor Clothing Company asked for one of an equally prominent Latino actor for his downtown building. Most of his clientele, he told Torrez, was Latino.

"So I proposed Anthony Quinn of course," Torrez said with a smile. "It was, as they say, a no-brainer."

The Mexican-born actor who died in 2001 was twice nominated for leading actor Oscars and twice won as supporting actor for "Lust For Life" and "Viva Zapata."

Noted for incredible diversity, he also famously portrayed an angry Bedouin tribal leader in "Lawrence of Arabia," a good-natured Greek in "Zorba the Greek," the impoverished fisherman Santiago in "The Old Man and the Sea" and numerous other ethnicities in countless films.

"He had that ability to portray just about any person from the planet," Torrez said. "That to me was significant when I did it and I think it's maybe even more significant now. The city of Los Angeles is diversity, and to me he is a mirror of what Los Angeles is."