Randy’s Donuts is a landmark building in Inglewood, California, near Los Angeles International Airport, in a style that dates to a period in the early 20th Century that saw a proliferation of programmatic architecture throughout Southern California. This style had its heyday from the mid 1920s to the mid 1930s. By the 1950s however, the trend of designing structures in the shape of the product sold there had changed to focus on signs rather than architecture itself. In the case of Randy’s, the product in question is represented by a giant donut on the roof of an otherwise ordinary drive-in that is a dedicated doughnut bakery. The building was designed by Henry J. Goodwin.
There are actually two different sized donuts. Most locations used a 32 1/5 ft in diameter version that straddles the building and is aimed at the intersection. In “Roadside Giants” by Brian and Sarah Butko, the Weintraubs climbed on top of the donut with a tape measure and confirmed this for the authors. The Bellflower and Reseda locations, however, feature a small version of the donut on a pole out in front the building. This may be 23 feet in diameter, as is widely reported.
The 24-hour drive-in is located at 805 West Manchester Boulevard where it intersects with La Cienega Boulevard, and is near the Manchester Boulevard off-ramp of the San Diego Freeway (I-405).
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Randy’s was built in 1953 (and first appears in the 1954 edition phone book) as the second location of the now-defunct Big Donut Drive-In chain by Russell C. Wendell, a donut machine salesman. There were 10 locations, built over the course of the 1950s. At least four other Big Donuts survive: they are Kindle’s Donuts in Los Angeles (this is the original location, built in 1950), the Donut King II in Gardena (3), Dale’s Donuts in Compton (5), and Bellflower Bagels in Bellflower (8). Each features the distinctive giant donut constructed of rolled steel bars covered with gunnite, the material used in swimming pools. Five Big Donuts have been demolished. They were located in Culver City (4), North Hollywood (6), Inglewood (on Imperial Hwy, 7), Van Nuys (9) and Reseda (10).
In the 1970s Wendell sold off the individual stores to concentrate on his Pup ‘N’ Taco chain (which he sold to Taco Bell in 1984). Robert Eskow purchased the Manchester and Normandie locations in 1976 and named them “Randy’s Donuts and Sandwiches” after his son. In 1977 a baker named Gary Kindle purchased the store on Normandie, which is still operating under the name Kindle’s Donuts. In 1978, brothers Ron and Larry Weintraub (cousins to the Eskows) purchased the Randy’s on Manchester and kept the name; they own it to this day.
Similar to the Big Donut chain is The Donut Hole of La Puente, California, the last of a chain of five stores featuring two 26-foot-diameter (7.9 m) drive-through fiberglass donuts on either side of a small bakery building. A number of Angel Food Donut stores in Long Beach also feature oversized donuts; these appear to have been manufactured out of metal ductwork.
The building was featured in the films Earth Girls Are Easy, Mars Attacks!, The Golden Child, Into the Night, Coming to America, Stripped to Kill, Problem Child 2, Breathless, Californication, California Girls, 2012, Iron Man 2, Volcano, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Escape from Petropolis, and Love Letters. It has also been featured in the music videos for Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” and The Prodigy’s “Wind It Up”. As well as in the music video for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Similar buildings with giant donuts, under different names, are featured in the video games Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as well as in “Marge vs. the Monorail”, an episode of The Simpsons.
The iconic structure was shown on the History Channel series Life After People, showing what would happen to the building without human repair.
The building’s famous donut can be spotted in the scene changes of the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious.
In the episode “Pier Pressure” of Arrested Development, in a sequence showing Buster’s medical trial for THC, medical marijuana, a picture is shown of Buster standing next to Randy’s Donut on the roof attempting to eat his way through it.
In the film Iron Man 2, the protagonist Tony Stark is seen eating donuts while reclining inside the donut sign.
In the film 2012, the donut sign can be seen rolling through the streets during an earthquake.