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MY L.A. Neighborhood

Los Angeles: High Times In Laurel Canyon And On The Sunset Strip
BRIAN HIATTPosted Jun 28, 2007 2:08 PM

>>This is an excerpt from the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on stands until July 27th.

When John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas sang the August 1967 hit "Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)," he might have had Pamela Des Barres in mind. For Des Barres, then an eighteen-year-old budding groupie, the wooded Los Angeles neighborhood of Laurel Canyon was "the door to paradise." "I lived in the valley, and you'd hitchhike through the canyon to get to Hollywood," says Des Barres, who went on to write the definitive backstage memoir I'm With the Band. "All the California rock stars lived up there, and you could hear music from every window. Parties everywhere. You just never knew what was going to happen."

Members of all the key L.A. rock bands - the Byrds, the Mamasand the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, Love, the Doors - found a rural refuge in the canyon, which was five minutes from the Sunset Strip, the heart of Hollywood nightlife. Musicians gathered in one another's houses, living an upscale version of the hippie dream: "Sometimes I would wake up to find Denny Doherty and David Crosby swimming in my pool, with a half-empty gallon of wine floating in the pool that they would take occasional hits from," says Monkees member Peter Tork, whose mansion in Studio City, on the north side of Laurel Canyon, was a major gathering place. Adds Byrds leader Roger McGuinn, who had moved into the canyon in the early Sixties, when it was an enclave of folkies and beatniks, "We were all into privacy. You wanted to be able to do things without people looking over your shoulder."

"Mama" Cass Elliott's cozy canyon house functioned as a sort of rock salon; she played host to locals and visitors such as Eric Clapton and Graham Nash, then in the Hollies. "There was something happening in '67 and '68 in Los Angeles," Nash has said. "A lot of walking over to people's houses with a new song. We'd be smoking heavily and talking, and a lot of incredible music was being made." Elliott introduced Nash to former Byrd David Crosby and former Buffalo Springfield leader Stephen Stills; the trio joined forces in 1968 as Crosby, Stills and Nash, defining the Laurel Canyon sound.
 

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My L.A Neighborhood....S

Los Angeles: Smoggy city of dreams
Page 1 of 3 View as a single page 5:00PM Sunday June 24, 2007
By Jared Savage


LA's iconic Santa Monica Pier. Photo / Martin Sykes

Los Angeles is a vibrant metropolis where very little seems real, says Jared Savage.

A chrome clad motorcycle rolls up outside the arrival terminal in the Los Angeles International Airport, engine rumbling, gleaming in the Californian sun.

Emblazoned with LAPD insignia on a slick black-and-white paint job, the Harley Davidson is ridden by a uniformed officer with a large handgun strapped to his waist; a sheriff in an airport where security is tighter than his tan pants.

Under the tinted helmet, I half expect the perma-tanned face of Erik Estrada - you remember him from CHIPS - to flash his pearly whites and welcome us to America. But alas, Ponch is selling desert real estate in Las Vegas.

The officer scans the crowd, barks something unintelligible into his radio, and roars off on his Harley. It's a scene straight out of the movies, a caricature of American society brought to life. Welcome to Los Angeles.

Everything here is real yet fake; vaguely familiar, yet all new.

It's more than a nagging sense of deja-vu, as on any given day in LA, there are up to 200 film crews shooting movies, television shows or advertisements. Chances are you have already seen most of the entertainment capital of the world from your living room.



But there's still plenty to discover here, if you can see through the smoky blue haze that blurs where sea and sky meet; a haze locals call a "marine layer'.

Because of its size and sprawl, critics call LA "19 suburbs in search of a city' - it stretches over 1210sq km, dwarfing Auckland's 502sq km.

The city is a difficult one to get around without a car, unless you plan to stay in central areas such as Santa Monica, Pasadena or downtown LA.

The Mediterranean-influenced Santa Monica sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, a city within a city, blessed with almost 6km of sandy coastline. And with more than 340 sunshine days each year, the city is the epitome of California's sunkissed lifestyle.

With the Baywatch theme going round and round in my mind, I half expected the "Hoff' to jog in slow-motion along the sand, though the coast is better for sunbathing than swimming.



A cyclist at sunset on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, LA. Photo / Martin Sykes

Colourful and crazy, the Santa Monica pier is abuzz with action, particularly the attractions of Pacific Park, LA's only free amusement park, and street performers showing off their talents, or hawking goods.

Bronzed children and buff adults rollerblade on the beachside boardwalk, others swing like monkeys on the gym bars, while a near-naked couple hula-hoop to New Age music on a manicured lawn.

For only $6, movie buffs can have their picture taken with their favourite star, although closer inspection revealed the "stars' were faded cardboard cutouts.

Visitors can hire a bike and visit Venice beach, or "Muscle Beach' where bodybuilders pump iron in their undies in full view.

For those who would rather give their credit card a workout, brand stores such as GAP, Abercrombie and Fitch or French Connection are within close proximity of each other on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, an open-air plaza brought to life by street performers, including a life-like Abraham Lincoln impersonator, buskers and vendors.

If you want to venture further out your best option is to hire a car and hit the freeway - public transport is pretty unreliable, although there are express buses that can pick you up from your hotel.

But to escape the stress of bumper-to-bumper traffic in peak hour, join a travel group, such as LA Tours.

Our tour took us around the winding palisade bluffs past Malibu beach, then back to the Getty Villa.

The original site of the world famous Getty Museum, the Roman-Greco villa, has been completely renovated and now houses the Getty's extensive antiquities collection. From there we drove through the "middle streets' of Beverly Hills, which made Auckland's Paritai Drive look like a trailer park - then to the Los Angeles Country Museum to see Randolph William Hearst's (inspiration for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane) private collection of antiquities.



A quick browse through The Grove (think a larger, more colourful version of Auckland's upmarket Chancery mall) was followed by lunch at the Farmers' Market, where gigantic slices of pizza can be enjoyed with mugs of beer. The market is a great spot to enjoy the sights and sounds of LA's ethnically diverse food and culture.

From there, the tour took us to Hollywood, where the concrete city is brought to life by colourful characters like the Devil: an incredibly athletic black man wearing nothing but red undies, a painted sneering face and leathery bat wings. Other performers there - include a sword-wielding Zorro, a troupe of Star Wars heroes and villains, Superman, Batman and Robo man (Robo Cop).

Aspiring rappers try to sell their latest demo CD for a 'donation', while a dreadlocked man in a top hat asks for your name, and he'll rhyme freestyle for you.

Hollywood itself is a myth, as star-struck film buffs are more likely to see celebs shopping exclusively in Rodeo Drive than on Hollywood Boulevard, but it is hard not to be swept up in the vibe.

A guided tour of the Kodak Theatre, now the permanent home of the Academy Awards, is an intimate look at the 3000-seat venue which, when we visited, was being set up for the final of American Idol.

It's a unique behind-the-scenes look at the crown jewel of the entertainment industry, and visitors will be amused that on Oscar night, even cinema's most recognisable stars are ID-checked at the door and must have their ticket. Even better, the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie must buy their own drinks during the awards ceremony.

Just around the corner in the heart of Hollywood is Graumann's Chinese Theatre, the home of the hand and feet prints of Hollywood's rich and famous.

Unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where celebrities are nominated by their friends and then pay $15,000 to have a bronze star on the famed footpath, entertainers have to be invited to leave their mark in the courtyard.
"`I'll be back' is former action man, now California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger's sign-off to his sausage-like handprints, the catchphrase from the blockbuster Terminator film franchise.

On the way to dinner the previous night, our driver expressed his admiration for the "Governator', a man who divides opinion in the state.

"That guy is a winner man. He's living the American dream. I could learn from him. He came from humble beginnings, moved to America, became a pro athlete and won Mr Olympia nine times. He got into movies, then into politics and wins by a landslide. He's a winner.'

Like its muscle-bound governor, LA is pumped up and larger than life, where a traveller can easily be swept away by the vibe of Tinseltown. Just don't forget that it's only a movie.

- Detours, HoS
 
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