Monday, August 7, 2017 at 7:32 a.m.
Big Sal’s been holding it down at the Jewelry Theater Building for more than a decade.
Security guard Sal Licone, or “Big Sal” as he’s called at the Jewelry Theater Center, where he’s protected the gems of the downtown jewelry district for 12 years, misses the movies. “I took my picture with John Wayne right there,” he says, pointing to the front entrance.
After moving to Los Angeles from New Jersey as a boy in 1969, Sal and his family settled in Boyle Heights. Every Sunday they rode the number two bus to downtown L.A. to see a movie on the big screen. “It was a treat,” Sal says. “All the families would get dressed up, eat dinner at Clifton’s Cafeteria, and then go to the movies.”
At Seventh and Hill streets, the Jewelry Theater Center (or JTB, for Jewelry Theater Building) has taken the place of what was first the original Pantages theater and was later sold to Warner Bros.
Here, Sal and his team cruise the first floor while jewelers work, gems sparkling under blindingly bright light. At his post, Sal looks like a movie star himself, with his black sunglasses on (part of the job), sipping Coke from a glass bottle.
Behind him you can see the original Beaux Arts-style proscenium and balconies trimmed in gold and dappled with crystal chandeliers. But as Sal will tell you, there is no photography allowed. “It’s because of a cat burglar,” he says. It sounds like a scene from a film noir, but this is just the day-to-day life of a jewelry district guard: catching thieves, hopping roofs and even handling ghosts.
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