When preservationists set out to save a Beaux Arts, Victorian or Art Deco landmark, they can usually rely on whole faculties of architecture professors ready to testify to the building's timeless worth. But the 50-odd members of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, more affectionately known as Modcom, often fight for roadside attractions traditionally scorned by the architectural establishment. On those occasions when they weren't ignored altogether, the Modcommers' endangered commercial landmarks--the cantilevered car washes, space-age hamburger stands, parabolic bowling palaces and "futuristic" coffee shops of the postwar era-- were dismissed as "Googie" architecture, named after a long-demolished Los Angeles restaurant whose mascot was a cartoon waitress with fried eggs for eyes.
"You don't see those mavericks who used to start these businesses anymore," says former Modcom chairman Peter Moruzzi. "Think about it. All these national chains--McDonald's, Big Boy, Denny's--were started by visionaries willing to push the boundaries of design.... That's what architecture should be all about."