L. A. Woman... L.A. Woman…” by the Doors of course. Goin’ down there from Sacramento to where they created the L. A. album — 8512 Santa Monica Blvd — during my yearly trip to L.A. for Oscar weekend in late March.
“Cops in cars/ the topless bars/ never saw a woman so alone...” I won’t be, friends from NY, PA, FL and MT comin’ out to see the City of Angels through my eyes. “With a little girl/ in a Hollywood bungalow...” not quite but close to all that, like the Polo Lounge, Beverly Hills Hotel.
“I see your hair is burning/ hills are filled with fire...” the only hills between Sacto and Hollywood are the Tehachapi Mountains. After miles and miles of valley vegetables, and a yearly nod to the memory of James Dean at Rt 46 off 99 South, where he turned off for his fate, you climb and descend and arrive off Sunset Blvd. at the Pacific Ocean. “If they say I never loved you/ you know they are a liar...”
We’re all meeting, staying at the Beverly Laurel Motor Inn in the midst of the spread-city, nothing fancy or classy, comfortably ordinary.
No Ordinary days ahead. “Mr. Mojo risin’/ Mr. Mojo risin’...” Early Saturday morning for breakfast at the Paradise Cove Café, Malibu, right on the beach
“Drivin’ down your freeways...” along the PCH with the Pacific vast, mountains, mountain lions. “The cars hiss by my window/ like to waves down on the beach…” Porsches and Mercedes cruising on by our rental simple.
Simply one of the great settings for a restaurant, always on alert for celeb sightings, this being the weekend for such. Breakfast is making the sea serene. We all agree.
The silver screen. I guess you could say it was, all black and white back then, heading up to Will Rogers State Park courtesy of the state.
Can you picture Douglas Fairbanks playing polo? I know you can. Right here you definitely can, Will Rogers polo field, nice and Cali winter green (yes, things turn green here, in the winter) white-washed signature fencing, Errol Flynn fencing and the other assorted living action figures from that Hollywood, Will Rogers as famous, if not more so, than the rest.
The west, the ‘Cherokee Kid,’ the way he lived, the cowboy dreams you had as a kid, his life on display like a Buffalo Bill poster, all saddles and leather and Navajo and lariats and rodeo and radio, my companions all brand new with him, an L.A. that’s a complete new compliment. “Riders on the storm/ riders on the storm...” since we’re around the commentating cowboy.
Ride on, drive em cowboy, freeways and surface streets to give the guests a taste of what this here truly is, heading up to the Baldwin Hills, the tiny-little Tetons of the basin, Scenic State Park, 360-degree view of the whole shebang, from San Fernando inland to the Pacific ocean, all of us turning our own circle, seeing the whole place, buildings and the millions reduced, nearly gone under the foliage the snow-dusted mountains and the ocean — eat your heart out Athens.
“Bloody red sun/ of fantastic L.A...”. “I love you the best/ better than all the rest...” So sayeth the Doors from the other L.A. locale, the ‘Morrison Hotel’ album.
“She was a rockin’ little lady in the city of light...” as the neon life/lights of L.A. come on, we are on to the Cannabis Café for a latter nibble and a legal taste in a legal setting… “Girl we could get much higher...” patio seating, all of us from that/those 60s, casually taking it all in — we done lived to be a ‘taken’/’token’ it all in.
Let’s eat! Kanter’s big deli, enough of us from Long Island, New York where delis are temples. Going to temple would fit right in here in the Fairfax district where I once saw Dustin Hoffman on the street telling someone he was on his way to temple. The holy sacraments in Kanter’s are pastrami and rye, corn beef and chopped liver, an L.A. history here from the Doors then to Larry David today.
“City of night/ city of night...” -- “Let me sleep all night/ in your soul kitchen...”
Sunday morning and breakfast from the best Jack in the Box on the planet. My friends have their doubts — but when we are sitting out on the all wood Malibu Pier, like a scene from ‘Chinatown,’ just across the street from the Jack, with our B grade take out stuff, all is recognition.
“And the rain falls gently on the town/ and over the heads of all of us…” from their ‘Soft Parade’ album which our visit has become, “enough traffic and sights and delights to know our way around...” “Reptiles abounding/ fossils/ caves/ cool air heights...” Up we go to the Griffith Observatory for the historic setting and the Rebel who never got to hear the Doors, up here like spaceships and mountain lions, the groomed grounds, the observatory’s mushroom dome and the head of the Rebel James Dean in bronze with the Hollywood sign on its hill as backdrop. My friends’ jaws don’t exactly drop but some awe has struck.
“Break on through to the other side...” Dean’s Rebel tried to as I think Dean himself tried to and here’s the Rebel knife fight scene with James Dean. We pay our respects, regrets — he could have been with us love children in the 60s — can you picture James Dean in ‘Easy Rider’ — up here at the knife scene we all can.
“She lives on love street/ lingers long on love street...” We’re on La Brea of the tar pits, headed to Pink’s, hot dog famous. Coney Island is in our blood, Pink’s like a sliced section for Los Angeles, Jay Leno critiqued, in the pink if I may be so cute. There’s always a line without a discouraging word.
Change our clothes, early dinner with the Doors, Jim at least, at Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica Blvd, a plaque on the bar where Jim sat. “Well, I’m the Crawlin’ king snake...” Barney’s all franchising normal, beer and burgers before the savoy of the Polo Lounge.
Oscar night. “Hello I love you/ won’t you tell me your name...” the red carpet and the mawing fans, not exactly paying attention on the Beanery TV screens. “Television skies/ television skies...”
“Oh show me the way to the next whiskey bar...” the red carpet always out at the Beverly Hills Hotel main entrance, parked across the street next to Will Rogers city park where they busted poor George Michael for masturbating in the men’s john (who and why was someone video watching? and who cares?) pointing it out to the group, a little tabloid fodder for the fans.
The hotel always openly inviting, busy with tuxedos and limos, the group of us casually sport jacket neat and clean. “I live up town/ I live downtown/ I live all around/ I’m the changling/ see me change...”
Chance encounters with stars perhaps as the televised ceremony is coming to its everlasting end, martinis in hand, the Polo Lounge always both Hepburns with a dash of Cary Grant, the group of us out in the cushioned lobby taking it all in, in a setting made for Gatsby and Gloria Swanson. Impressed, my friends relaxed.
“She’s a twentieth century fox/ no cares no fears no ruined years no clocks...” Who did we see? Nope, not going to tell you. You’ll have to come and see for yourself. “My eyes have seen her/ my eyes have seen her...”
Late cocktails at the Chateau Marmont public bar, not ordinary and not extraordinary, the hotel itself a bit off limits to the likes of us but all in all you get to rub against the star accounts of those who’ve stayed and those who’ve died — i.e., John Belushi. “No eternal reward/ will forgive us now/ for wasting the dawn...”
Our reward is breakfast on the Venice board/cement walk, used books with a café attached, the morning breeze, the Pacific beach, the morning promenade. Ahh. Just a stroll down the strand, somewhere in here the Doors created ‘Light my Fire.’ The Santa Monica Pier like another chunk of Coney Island for a bite, the coastline spread out north and south. We’re all warmed up.
Oil, Getty. Up to the gifted Getty Center, high on its hill above it all, an Acropolis of/for the arts and us, free. Toy-like tram up to the white and travertine campus, the museum collection not the most prominent part of the property, more the preservation and continuation of art. And the gardens, Babylon blush — and the cactus garden in Los Angeles before us, native and Spanish. “Take me Spanish caravans/ yes I know you can...” All of us/fiesta.
Lunching at Duke’s Malibu — see a Malibu theme here. Can’t leave town — without an ocean veranda parting view — and the original Gidget does welcoming work here — who I met once — not the actress Gidget, the real surfer girl that Gidget was based on. “Let’s swim to the moon/ let’s climb through the tide…”
Just hangin’ out at Malibu Lagoon, restored to its marshland life, sea birds and surfers, Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, our youthful music. Frank and Musso’s because it rhymes a bit with Wilson but it’s Musso and Franks on Hollywood Blvd, very Rat Pack Frank, very been in business in this spot for many years, classy still in an English gents club way against all the Walk of Fame junk up and down the boulevard. Meat, meat and more meat — you can see it in ‘Once Upon a Time — In Hollywood.’
A quick trip up to Melrose Avenue to the Formosa for a last cocktail — you can see it in ‘L.A. Confidential.’
“Change the mood from glad to ‘gladness…” replacing Jim’s “sadness.” Movie time L.A. Spielberg’s West Side Story and us from NY saw its original in the Big Apple so there’s a totally full circle.
“Not to touch the earth/ not to see the sun/ nothin’ left to do/ but run run run...” Off we all run to our homeward destinations. “Don’t you love her madly…?”