Hollywood and Western

Staying at a hotel on Hollywood Blvd. the past two nights. Ten years ago I never would have dreamed of that. But now everything here is cleaned out, bright and shiny for young decent people with decent intentions. It is sanitized. So a hotel on Hollywood Blvd. caters to young tourists now instead of prostitutes and weirdos.

I’ve been driving along Memory Blvd. for the past 3 days. Hollywood Blvd., accompanied by a soundtrack of my years in Hollywood – 1988-92 approximately: X, Jeffrey Lee Peirce, more X, and New Order (this is the soundtrack of what I was listening to then). I’ve been trying to recreate my own personal L.A. and I must say it’s hard, in a city that continually erases and redraws itself. However, unlike Tokyo, the L.A. architecture is mostly left alone

Friday night we went to the Dresden, a beautiful old restaurant from the 1960s, from the rat pack and Vegas era. The Dresden is not much to look at from the outside, competing with bright trendy Thai restaurants and sushi and cuban, etc. But inside the Dresden you find a sea of creamy white naugahyde booths and huge custom made white chairs, skinny wood beams spiraling up to the ceiling like strange modern DNA chains and modern glittering chandeliers. It is not 90’s wannabe James Bond 60’s modern. It is the real thing, and it must be seen to be believed.

On Saturday we got back on Memory Blvd. (aka Hollywood Blvd) and went to Denny’s at Hollywood and Van Ness. Back in the Guns N Roses era we called this “rock n roll Denny’s”. Anything east of Highland Blvd was prefixed with “rock n roll” hence “rock n roll Ralph’s”, etc. Does anyone remember this? The waitress didn’t. The old sunken cocktail lounge has been made into a bright room full of booths. That was the only Denny’s I knew of where you could get a martini with that Grand Slam, but no longer.

heather at rock n roll dennys

Then on to Melrose. Nothing much left there from the days it was filled with rockabilly, glam and punk kids. Cowboys and Poodles, Flip of Hollywood, Vinyl Fetish, Aron’s Records, even Lip Service is gone. But one place still stands – AAArdvarks Odd Ark. It was good to be in this jam-packed vintage clothing store, and they still had some 1950’s dresses even if most cost upwards of $40. I guess AAArdvark’s is moving soon. Melrose will officially become just a collection of small unrelated designer clothing stores, instead of the nexus of a shared subculture.

Next we went to Amoeba Records at Cahuenga and Sunset Blvd. Supposedly Amoeba is responsible for the closing of most L.A. record stores, such as Aron’s (where I used to work) or the Virgin Megastore, and even Tower on Sunset. Man what a place is Amoeba! It is a like a huge arena of new and used CD’s and vinyl in every genre, rock, lounge, rap, soul, ska, reggae, classical, and on and on. There is a huge separate room for jazz, the techno section spans about 5 racks. There is a separate rap wing. There is a small bin just for old Northern Soul 45’s. There are cases with funny rock collectibles and all over posters line the walls. Frank Gehry? Rock Museum? Seattle? I would prefer a walk through Amoeba instead of any officially sanctioned rock museum.

Then we went for a few boring hours to the Autry Center in Griffith Park. I like “Back in the Saddle” and other songs of the singing cowboy fine, but the stately new building and wordy exhibitions were a bit boring. Sorry.

We drove a bit around Silverlake. Fun to listen to Jeffrey Lee Peirce sing Hey Juana as we drove down Glendale Blvd. In fact the soundtrack seemed perfectly coordinated to our driving as “The Fertility Goddess” was playing as we drove into a pagoda-like strip mall of Thai Restaurants in Thai Town for dinner. RCA (red corner asia) has yummy thai food!

We finished the day by seeing “Sweeney Todd” at the Vista in Silverlake. The Vista is a beautiful old unchanged movie palace with red velvet curtains and Egyptian Goddesses adorning the wall sconces. Sweeney Todd was all right. Starring Johnny Depp it is the story of a razor wielding London hairdresser who collaborates with a neighboring pie maker to obtain meat for the pies and revenge for the loss of his wife and child. It is loosely based on a true story from medieval Paris. The plot was ok but I was a bit bored with the surreal darkness of Tim Burton’s sets. Too apocalyptic, too Goth, too Matrix, as everything is these days.

So we had some fun. I think I’ve seen enough of Hollywood now and I’m ready to go on. My youth is gone and no one remembers it but me and this blog.