And so begins L.A. Weekly’s last day in Hollywood, Friday, April 25, 2008. Sunny, 72 degrees ... 12-minute commute. As of Monday, April 28, L.A. Weekly will be run from offices nestled into the on-ramp of the 405 on the outskirts of Culver City, with convenient access to the only store left in America that still sells Murphy beds. Here are a few things that I, for one, will miss about being in Hollywood.
Photos by Mark Mauer
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Well, Superheroes, for One Thing ...
... and Christopher Dennis, in particular. When I first started working in Hollywood, 15 years ago (at Bong Load Records), I remember seeing shock and horror form on the faces of Australian and Japanese tourists as they got off the bus in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. They traveled thousands of miles for this? Filth, abandoned buildings, dilapidated theaters and some downright aggressive homeless people — and that was before the sun set.
Now, for better or worse, Hollywood is a lot closer to what they imagined they were going to see, and there’s no better ambassador than Superman. Immortalized in these pages by Peter Fletcher and star of last year’s excellent documentary Confessions of a Superhero, Christopher Dennis is the de facto spokesman for the costumed actors who hang out on Hollywood Boulevard. He’s a kind, sweet guy, who will always make time to talk to you. While I took his picture, at least a half-dozen kids gathered around him, stunned, waiting to shake Superman’s hand. Also coming up close as a favorite is the guy who plays Jack Sparrow, and really does look disturbingly like Johnny Depp. Craig Gaines wrote about him in these pages last year.
Skooby’s Hot Dogs
If I ran a hot-dog stand in Hollywood, I’d rip off Skooby’s at every turn. A simple menu of garlic dogs, chili and really good fries (with garlic sauce); surly but not unpleasant staff, and — most important — a soundtrack that rarely deviates from blasting full albums by the Clash. Sure, you can take your parents to Pink’s when they come to town, but for lunch at 10 percent of the cost of Musso & Frank across the street, it’s Skooby’s.
Speaking of which ... Musso & Frank
I like stories about Faulkner drinking himself to death at this place as much as anyone, but it’s not my scene. Too pricey. Still, it makes the list of things to miss ... especially on Thursdays, which is chicken-potpie day.
Nothing clears my head faster than ducking into one of Hollywood’s magic stores, Halloween-supply shops or movie-poster and book stores. Need a gorilla mask or a giant rubber rat? You can actually shop around and find the best one here. The other day at the poster store, one of the guys running the place was talking about having gone with Sid Haig to see The Ruins. You’re hanging out and seeing movies with Sid freaking Haig? To me, that’s Hollywood.
L.A. Weekly’s preferred watering hole, from Edit to IT. Lately, though, it seems I’m mostly going there to bid farewell to co-workers who send out touching letters to the staff explaining there are no hard feelings. Despite its revamped interior from a couple of years ago, the spirit of the place is still strong, and Steven Mikulan’s “Hollywood, Straight Up” article still hangs on the wall. It’s a good read.
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Walking out of the office at 9:30 at night (or, if you’re the managing editor, at 1:30 in the morning) into a mostly empty parking lot can wear on a guy after a few years, but sometimes seeing the Church of the Blessed Sacrament across the street from our office would make up for it. Crows fly between the steeple and the palm trees and the roof of our building, back and forth throughout the day. You can hear them, scratching around above us. (It’s not rats, it’s crows. Really.)
Crossroads of the World
Rumor is that the Crossroads globe was broken for years until former L.A. Weekly editor Kateri Butler became tired of seeing it sit motionless outside her office window and got someone to fix it. It now spins and lights up, and looks wonderful. Taschen Books is there, and some casting office, so you can see hopefuls reading lines in their parked cars most days. There’s also a recording studio in there, where, once upon a time, I worked with Solomon Burke and the Blind Boys of Alabama shooting a video for “None of Us Are Free.” And of course Big Audio Dynamite shot scenes from their video for “The Globe” here too.
For $1.25 I could get to work and get a little exercise and not have to drive my car (short as the commute was from Silver Lake). Don’t try that in Culver City until the MTA line appears many, many years from now. Copy editor Sheila Beaumont, former Weekly news editor Alan Mittelstaedt and our former art director John Curry were frequent train-ride partners. Now, there is a lot of talk around the office about various surface streets and how early the 405 backs up.
Stefania and Dell at Two Guys From Italy Pizza. Marc Cooper told me yesterday he started eating there in 1967. You can still see sad souls nursing beers there before noon, but the pizza’s good, and they have two excellently maintained pinball machines. They also provide the pies for the Weekly’s union meetings. You’re not going to beat Stefania’s high score on the “Theatre of Magic” pinball, though.
Drive near Scientology’s Los Feliz headquarters at 8:30 in the morning and you’ll see the real ones, glassy-eyed, all wearing the same blue Navy-like uniforms. But come 6 o’clock on Hollywood Boulevard, they bring out their secret weapons: the cute girls in fashionable clothes who wear makeup and get their hair done regularly. They sit at card tables and try to convince dumb guys to get a personality test by holding cans with wires in their hands and asking them if they’re “stressed.” There’s also the creepy “Industry of Death Museum” across the street from the Weekly, where you can finally learn the truth about the evils of psychiatry. Don’t make Matt Lauer’s mistake and be “glib” when you visit.
There’s more, of course. In-stores at Amoeba, the sex stores, the Musicians Institute, the kids at Hollywood High, In-N-Out Burger, tons of graffiti, daily fender benders on Sunset and Las Palmas, the guy who polishes the stars on the ground (John Peterson) and so on, but that’s enough for now — I’ve got a long drive ahead of me.