It's hard to passionately disagree with a piece and nod in agreement with it almost at the same time. But that's our honest reaction to Hollywood writer/director John Nolte's Dear John letter to Los Angeles.
After eight years in L.A. and an admittedly unsuccessful bid at a career in indie film, Nolte says he's moving back to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
In his exit letter, posted at Andrew Breitbart's “Big Hollywood” blog, where Nolte was the editor, he says this about our fair city:
There is very little, however, my wife and I will miss about the city itself. We learned pretty quickly that all the cliches are true about the crime, traffic, smog, tremors, and artificiality of it all. Simply put, this city is a dump with a 10% sales tax where light bulbs are contraband the seasons change from hot to scalding and throwing your garbage in the wrong bin ranks as something close to a capital crime. No offense, but I see Los Angeles as nothing more than a big, fascist, one-story ghetto and those of you who love it are welcome to it.
Not to belittle other neighborhoods in our gloriously textured city, but have you seen downtown lately? Or the Westside? Have you been to the beach? Or Mt. Baldy? One story ghetto? Really?
We've got more billionaires than Frank McCourt has problems. Really.
Outside of New York, which is really in a league of its own and should not be considered a model for anywhere else, this is the one of the most-populated, vertical, densest, vastest cities in America. Have you flown into LAX and noticed the glow that starts nearly in Nevada, John? It's called L.A.
And dude, good luck getting down home Korean, Thai and Mexican food in the Blue Ridge mountains. And then going for a surf session afterward. And then, if it's winter, going snowboarding after that. You can't even do that in New York — or practically anywhere else in the world.
Hate this guy. Good riddance. And why are we importing people from North Carolina when the folks here can't find jobs as it is anyway?
But wait, Nolte goes on to dispel hype about racial tension in L.A. and calls out the Academy Award-winning movie Crash as a heaping pile of b.s. insofar as it is a reflection of our city:
The people who live and work and make this city run are almost without exception uncommonly decent and kind … [Meanwhile] Crash would have you believe that the marvelous American melting pot known as Los Angeles is filled with racists and racial strife and racial tension and race, race race, race race.
Love this guy!
Crash was a complete fraud. Hated it. (A cop picking up a hitchhiker on Mulholland? A cop living anywhere near Mulholland?).
Of course, writer/director Paul Haggis isn't from L.A., and it shows. It's ironic that an L.A.-centric Academy would even reward such a fantastic vision of our town.
Which brings us to this point: Hollywood is an industry of outsiders, mostly. People like Nolte come here for the dream and sometimes even feel entitled to it but then leave when they find out they're going to have to settle for simply being like the rest of us — just Angelenos — instead of VIPs. Sorry you couldn't go to the front of the line, John.
For what it's worth, there are people who have been trying to crack Hollywood their entire lives. And they love this city. Suckers, huh?
As far as racial tension goes, we'd have to agree with Nolte, again, partly.
It's often overplayed. Even the much-written-about brown-on-black crime phenomenon is often more about gang-versus-gang hostility than race.
But … it is an issue occasionally.
Where were you in '92? We were here, John. Race and class nearly destroyed the city's core. We saw it with our own eyes. It was almost 20 years ago, and much has healed, but it's not all in the past, either.
Fast forward. The word of the day is … immigration. Listen to AM radio. People are frothing over it. Maybe you'll have to go to L.A.'s fringes to find them — O.C., Riverside County — but they're there, blaming brown people for all that is evil when, as you seem to suggest, they might even be part of L.A.'s charm.
Well, we'll just have to agree to agree and disagree, Paul. In the meantime, you're welcome to return. Just don't expect Southern Hospitality.