Loving Los Angeles

I know I do a lot of talking about leaving L.A. which I would love to do, not because I hate L.A. but because I cannot sit still. I am bored. I need a change of scenery and world travel (a former-hobby and life's ambition) is a temporary impossibility. Trust me, if I could afford it, I'd be raising Archer on the Orient Express, out of a suitcase, and English would not be his first language. In dreams, perhaps but this is reality. The reality is here and now: Los Angeles, the most misunderstood city in allllllll the land.

This month will be my seventh anniversary here. Seven years. Eight apartments. All but one in Hollywood. West Hollywood. East Hollywood. Hollywood. The magic place where the actors look like bums and bums are selling their homemade films on the sidewalk. The magic metropolis where everyone is famous and no one asks for an autograph. The wasted wonderland where husbands get carjacked and the people stop to look for cameras.

Welcome to MY city and if you hate it here, go home.

Los Angeles is the easiest city in the world to make fun of and every time I leave, everyone does. It doesn't matter if I'm in San Diego or New York or Whereversville.

"You live in L.A. I HATE L.A."

"I know."

"How do you STAND it."

"I know."

"It's just so fake and everyone has boob jobs and the TRAFFIC."

"I KNOW!!!!"

Los Angeles is the "joke-about city" the place everyone can hate together. People seriously bond over their Los Angeles loathing and I'm going to go out on a limb dot com to call everyone on their shit-talking and workshop L.A.'s busted image.

Because I have yet to read anyone blogging about how cool and down-to-earth Los Angeles is, I'm going to go ahead and do that. Not because I'm annoyed at the fact L.A. bashing is about as obvious as Bush-bashing (the president, not the pubes) but because the people who come to L.A. as tourists go to all the wrong places. In all fairness, that is nature of "the tourist". What I like to call Eiffel Tower Syndrome, a terrible disease.

There are two kinds of people in this world, the kind that visit the Eiffel tower when in Paris and the kind who stay as clear away from it as possible. I like to think of myself as of the latter and hope that if you, dear reader ever come to Los Angeles to visit, you will put forth some effort to look a little deeper. Los Angeles may have thick, botoxed skin but there is something going on below the surface. A lot of something, even.

And so I am including the following list of places NOT TO GO if by chance you ever decide to visit us. The following places are full of people NOT from L.A. and therefore give us a bad rap. The following places are full of TOURISTS. Attempt them and be disappointed.

And so, Do Not Go Here:

1. Melrose

Melrose (between Fairfax & La Brea) is the most popular destination for tourists and teen girls driving up from San Diego. I know because many a summer me and my girlfriends hopped in my cabriolet convertible and headed to Melrose for cheap shopping and platform shoes. People who live in L.A. do not shop there. Shit is cheap and about as ghetto as these finger nails and if you're looking for celebrity sightings, the closest you're gonna get is Ice T's wife... She hangs out in front of the Subway.

2. Hollywood Blvd, Walk of Fame/Hollywood and Vine/ Graummans Theatre

I suppose it's cool to step on Mel Gibson or take a photo next to Shirley Temple but other than that, the walk of fame is home to every runaway in North America and they all camp out with their dogs and beg for money. It isn't glamorous, people. Hollywood Blvd is the armpit of Los Angeles so do a drive-by if you must and call it a day. I'm sure Hollywood and Vine was a beautiful, classic location in the thirties but these days it's busting with broken souvenirs and broken noses.

3. Map of the Stars

If you read this post you will know, the map of the stars is about 30 years outdated. Why the fuck bother?

4. Venice Beach

You can buy your bong elsewhere, trust me.

5. The Hollywood Sign

You cannot actually go to it. Not like they did in that episode of 90210. You can see it from anywhere south of Sunset. Spending a day trying to get the perfect photo in front (Beachwood would be the place, although Hollywood and Highland has a very tacky walkway where you can pose in front of a giant griffin and see HO WOOD in the background. Nice) is a waste of time when you could be really exploring the really great nooks and crannies of L.A.

6. Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills is so over. No one goes to Spago anymore and Rodeo Drive is a joke. No one shops there except the people that think people shop there. Know what I mean? The paparazzi doesn't even drive by anymore, too busy hiding out behind Mary-Kate Olsen's robes on Robertson. I guess if you feel the need to pop into Gucci or have lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, please by all means do so, but contrary to popular belief, that is NOT experiencing L.A. L.A in the movies, maybe. Indeed there is a difference.

7. Sunset Strip

It smells like beer and exhaust. The Rainbow Room is full of sorority sisters and just because River Phoenix died in front of the Viper Room does not validate it's existence. The bands that play there usually suck. Same goes for The Roxy and The Whiskey. In the 80's they really rocked. Now? The only good show I've seen in the past 7 years was the 3rd annual Air-guitar championship.

8. 3rd Street Promenade

It may be by the beach but the beach isn't much to look at here and the stores are bo-ring and the only think worth seeing is the one-man-band and his skills as an engineer. He has somehow rigged a mouse-trapesque concoction of guitar, drum, and various utensils and is famous for his twist on "Secret Agent Man." Yes, that's right, the rocking Chinese man and his band of one sing "Secret Asian Man" like nobody's bid'nis.

Okay, scratch that. You should totally go to 3rd Street Promenade.

9. The Grove

It's a mall with a trolley and a Mac store and everyone who works there is an asshole. I mean... NO WONDER YOU HATE US!

10. Hollywood & Highland/ Kodak Theatre

Once a year the Kodak theatre is a glamorous Oscar-hosting piece of architectural ass. On every other night, it's part of a really tacky mall. A mall that is currently home of the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. That is all.

you should go here:

1. Runyan Canyon

Sure it's a dog park and a hiking trail but it's so much more. Once Errol Flynn's debaucherous estate, it now belongs to the city and is open from dawn till dusk (you can break in after hours, if you desire and hike the trail with a flashlight and a bottle of wine. Creeeeepy.) Runyan boasts hidden parks and mysterious gullys as well as a run-down tennis court a la Great Expectations and just about every celebrity in town. If you hike Runyon canyon, you will see movie stars and will also overhear stories about them you wish you didn't.

(Enter Vista or Fuller, above Hollywood Blvd)

2. Larchmont Village

By far the quaintest, coolest, bestestest block of shopping and happiness and I'm not just saying that because I live three blocks away. Please visit the antique guy on the corner. He has a whimsical story for every piece he is selling and has photos of my dogs in the window. Larchmont also boasts the best children's clothing store in the world, Flicka and the greatest pizza place (Village Pizzaria) in the city.

Larchmont Blvd. Between 3rd & Beverly

3. The Cinerama Dome

By far the coolest movie theatre in the world. Not only is The Dome of historical and cultural significance but there is no cooler place to see a movie.

Sometimes the director will show up and say hi, or the editor, or the key-grip or whoever. Movies look and sound amazing and everyone claps at the end of the movie and stays through the final credits because likely, the people watching the film helped make it.

You can even grab a cocktail in the lobby of the box office while you wait.

6360 Sunset Blvd (next to Amoeba, so you can get your rare EP fix)

4. The Walt Disney Hall, MOCA, Downtown

Buy tickets in advance as they sell out pretty quickly. The L.A. Phil is well, the L.A. Phil (I'm married to a classical musician so I don't want him to make fun of me for trying to reference something I know very little about, but...) and the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall is unlike anything you have ever experienced, unless you have been to Bilbao. Regardless, it is a beautiful place full of beautiful sounds. Stop by MOCA on your way over (located across the street.)

135 N. Grand, Downtown

5. LACMA/LA Brea Tarpits

I have lived most of my L.A. life down the street and have spent many a day cruising the halls of LACMA and the Tar pits (Page Museum.) The park is perfect for a picnic and rolling down the grassy knoll on your head. The permanent collection is as good as the temporary collections and the Page Museum has been a fave since I was a kid.

5905 Wilshire Blvd

6. Micelis Restaurant

The first Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, Micelis is the most charming little place in the city. Food is cheap and the waiters have been there since the Ice Age. Pianists serenade while you eat and servers sing along. A bass player joins him/her on Fridays and the second Tuesday of every month, the most amazing 167 year-old woman comes to play. Miceli's is old Hollywood. The real deal. I would happily live there if I could and Archer and I could run a coat-check.

1646 Las Palmas (Just below Hollywood Blvd)

7. The Getty

The permanent collection is mediocre but the experience is awe-inspiring. The architecture. The garden. The view. If you are a photography fan, the photography exhibits are always gorgeous. I have spent many an afternoon rolling around in the grass, above the world.

8.The Burgundy Room

One word: Torrance. He's the doorman and he has been there since always. Do not be intimidated by his stature. He has lived, man, and has the stories to prove it. He also reads Dostoevsky in his director's chair out front and knows every patron by name. I will always have a soft-spot for Torrance. He has counseled me on many occasions and let us smoke in the bar even when I wasn't allowed to. Ask Torrance (very nicely) to sing you song and you will be blown away. I promise.

I haven't been in a few years and hear it gets really packed so go on a Monday or a tuesday. At midnight the girls set the bar on fire.

1621 1/2 North Cahuenga (Between Sunset & Hollywood Blvd)

9.Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The old movie stars may be dead but in the summer, they materialize before you. Every week movies are shown in the cemetery so you can see the stars, among the stars. Morbid and fabulous. Only in L.A. you say? Hell yes.

10. The Hollywood Bowl

Where else can you see Belle and Sebastian play with the LA Phil? Bring a bottle of wine and a bag of food, Eat, drink, share your cheese with the couple in front of you. Good times. Good times.

City of Angels, I got your back. Your skinny little pint-sized back AND your front.
We may be a freak show but what city isn't?

L.A. may be the whore in a land of prudes, but she embraces her whoredom and does so with grace in True Religion jeans.

Los Angeles has amazing places and boasts great characters. Plastic, some. Trashy, of course but underneath her surface there's a lot of good stuff. There are beautiful places and wonderful things to do. There are places for kids to play and some of the best dive bars in the world. There are doormen who sing and old ladies who rock-out and cemetery picnics in the summer.

I invite you to look a little deeper. Yes, I said deeper because we aren't all plastic. We're paper too.



Stefania Pomponi Butler aka CityMama | 12:18 AM

I lived in LA for four years and loved the MOCA, especially, and LACMA. I interned at the old Getty and I agree with everything you wrote. For art: really weird, fucked up, funky art, (and some modern art classics) I love LA.

The other place to go in LA is to eat in Koreatown...and the downtown hole-in-the-wall ramen shops that are open all night.


Ooooooh! Totally! K-town is awesome!!! (We live right around the corner.) Their markets are amazing. I also love dim-sum downtown (China-town). I used to go every weekend. It was heaven.

That's so awesome that you interned at the Getty!

Anonymous | 1:09 AM

i am so happy you posted this!!! i moved to LA a year ago and was astonished at how *different* a city it was from my expectations.

i would like to second many of the things you mentioned, especially the tar pits (tho the lacma's collection, in my opinion, is, uh, lacking), and runyan canyon (where the snowcone guy has his headshot taped to the side of his cart) and also ramen in little tokyo at 3am, though monterey park is better for dim sum than chinatown. a bit of a hike tho. the burgundy is good tho i'm an east-sider myself and have a loyalty to the little joy (happy hour there is stellar; they let you smoke inside and buy beers to go) and the gold room (free peanuts and popcorn and the waitresses wear matching trashy red spandex!). oh and ABSOLUTELY the hollywood forever movies.

though i think the hollywood sign shouldn't be entirely written off; if you drive up to lake hollywood (up past the bowl) and manage to find your way up the hill through godknows how many twisty little roads, the view is absolutely stunning, and moreso because downtown isn't part of it.

i could go on, but for an anonymous commenter i don't want to get all uppity. i do like your writing a lot.

Anonymous | 3:58 AM

Can I come visit? You make me want to come to LA!

Anonymous | 6:05 AM

I've been there once for a conference - and other than the smog and the crazy traffic, it seemed fine to me. You can't just a city by its tourist spots... This is a cool post.

Anonymous | 6:41 AM

Great post GGC! I've been there once....a long time ago - Just for the day. When Hubby and I travel we always try and seek out a "native" (usually a store cashier, waitress, etc) to tell us where the BEST non-touristy places are to eat/visit. We have never been disappointed. Thanks for the overview.

Anonymous | 6:50 AM

Even though I'm a die-hard New Yorker and could never live in L.A., I absolutely love the place. My wife lived in Los Feliz for years while we dated long-distance and you're right. If you avoid all the touristy places, you'll have a great time. And yeah, is there anything cooler than the La Brea tar pits?

Next time we come out there, we'll take you out to Chosun Galbi or BCD Tofu House.

Fraulein | 7:13 AM

This is excellent. Every time the hubby and I take a trip to visit his parents in Burbank, we go to the Getty, and last time we had awesome Korean food, but I had no idea about most of the other stuff on your list. I'm printing this out and saving it for our next L.A. visit!


RH- Yes, please come visit! Please! Please!

I also love that everyone is adding in their fave spots as well. Bring it on!

Andrea | 9:24 AM

This was awesome! I've never wanted to visit L.A. but now I do!



you must resume your hatred of LA - post haste. how else will i lure you to me? ugh. someone turn up the thermostat down there. maybe that will drive you out. jeez, ggc. you're all talk. you're never going to leave that godforsaken place. hey, doesn't mel gibson live there?

j.sterling | 10:12 AM

i am a born and raised southern california girl and anyone who talks shit about la and says how "fake" we all are or how "this" or how "that".. know what i tell them? we ARE those things- but you know who is all of that? the people who move there and want to be stars. it's not the people FROM la who are like that. it's the fucking transplants. the chicks who move from ohio and all of a sudden change everything about themselves to look and act a certain way. THEY are the ones who give my town a bad rap. but i don't care. it still rocks. and i fucking love it.

a lot of the places you listed to not go, i love to go to. but for specific reasons. :)

Unknown | 10:35 AM

First, I don't know why everyone has such a problem with fake boobs!! Maybe it's because people hear "fake boobs" and picture Iced T's wife?

k.thedoula | 10:55 AM

I'm ONLY going to LA to see A) The Disney Hall *I'm married to the musician/teacher who loves architechture too... can we say geek.
B) to get me an Archer GGC sighting.

Can you promise one? puhleeze!


Oh, hell yes, MM! Just drop me an email and we'll rock this bitch.

pixie sticks | 11:30 AM

I went to school in LA and now that I'm back in SF, I miss LA. Seriously. Altho I remember being extremely disappointed the first time I saw the La Brea tar pits. Not sure what I was expecting...real live dinosaurs maybe!

Chicky | 1:16 PM

Awesome post mama...I have to add that the best shopping on melrose is at the Fairfax High parking lot on weekends. Third Street Promenade is also one of my favorites, although it's lost some of it's quirkyness. I love LA just for the fact that there is so much to see and do, you couldn't see it in 5 lifetimes. And the people are part of the character of the city. It's a melting pot of everything this country-even this world-has and yet it's like no place else on earth.

Anonymous | 1:21 PM

I've traveled to LA for business, and I really enjoyed my visits. I saw some of the touristy crap, but I also saw some of the hidden gems that only the locals will steer you towards.

People are different all over the country. Just because I may not want to live someplace doesn't mean it's not a wonderful place to live - for someone else. And same goes for the places I love - not everyone does, and that's okay. New York is crowded enough as it is.

nonlineargirl | 2:27 PM

I grew up in LA and love that you get great oaxacan, schezuan, korean, persian (and and and...) food within an easy drive. I love that the beach and mountains are close and accessible, the museums are plentiful and GOOD, that 70 degrees is considered cool weather, that farmers markets go all year. I grew up taking the bus out PCH to the old Getty. I love Bergamot Station and Will Rogers Park. I dream of cheng pi beef at Hu's in west LA.

Mom101 | 3:11 PM

You forgot to tell people not to go to Spago.

I love this post and also it makes me a little nervous for reasons I won't get into right now but I think you know.

Anyhow I'd love to write the east coast version of this, although it would be short. It would read: 1. Times Square does not equal New York City. If your trip consists of the Olive Garden, Planet Hollywood and the Naked Cowboy, you have not yet earned the right to say you've seen New York.

That's pretty much it.

Anonymous | 3:45 PM

I used to be a full-on HelLA hater, then I married an honest-to-God Valley Girl. "Hate" turned to "hmm, ok, kinda cool" when I took my first trip to Venice beach, then became "love that dare not speak its name" the night we were sitting at Jerry's Famous Deli enjoying our bagel chips and ranch - George Takei walked in and sat next to us, wearing a full-length fur coat (note: it was about 75 degrees outside), surrounded by what appeared to be the 6 surviving members of Tarantino's ill-fated Crazy 88's.

kiwidebra | 7:07 PM

Ahh, Miceli's. Brings back memories of one of the first meetings with the hubby when we were both in the same comedy group and the 100-year-old waitress with the smoker's rasp kept urging us repeatedly to "Try the clams!" Runyan and Larchmont rock of course. And don't forget Thai Town with its awesome cheap Thai food and bakeries (sticky rice with custard...mmm!). I also love the downtown library. An amazing place to lose a few hours. And that's just looking for parking. I'm only half kidding. Seriously, take the metro.

Keri | 8:19 PM

Whaaaaaaat?! I LOVED Venice Beach...even got a tattoo there! Another thing to do is go to West Hollywood when they have their Pride Parade. Sooo much fun to see all the different kinds of people come out of the woodwork!

Gina | 10:49 PM

I finally had time to read this post... bookmarking it for later. What a creative thing to let us all know where the good stuff is! Thanks, you smart mama!


Gusmama- Mexico City is my second favorite restaurant. By far my fave mexican food. Their cheese enchilladas in green sauce? Pulease. When I was pregs I ate two entire platos.

kittenpie | 9:01 AM

Oh, you bring some of that sense of history alive here, and all the little local treasures to be found. I love this. Of course, if I ever come there, I might be too busy harrassing YOU to see the city... ;^)

Anonymous | 9:22 AM

Culver City, Tito's Tacos... I could drink there salsa, really.

Anonymous | 3:26 PM

ok, i'm convinced! LA is the shiznits! that was a great guide to the city... but you left of a crucial element of any vacation i plan: where. do. the. hotties. hang. out? the man candy. the buff wannabe actors working on their tans. the personal trainers personally training. and so on.

Anonymous | 4:21 PM

Totally amazing. I am printing a copy of this post and saving it my "places I plan to visit before I die" file!


mummy v- Runyan Canyon by day. They're all there. From Orlando Bloom and Jake Gyllenhal to Bob Barker and Gene Hackman. They're ALL there.

At night it used to be Three of Clubs (I'm more into dirty-hot) but I don't know where the hell the hotties hang out any more.

Suburban Turmoil | 7:19 PM

Oh, girl. Did you read my Melrose piece? Shit. It was really the lack of public restrooms that did it for me.

THANK YOU for the shopping recommendation. I have been looking for a funky/not-too-expensive place to shop in LA. We went to Melrose this year for the girls (the vintage t-shirt shops and Urban Outfitters were all they really wanted), but last year, we did the Kitson/Horn thing and. Ew.

I'm actually going to print this whole post out- My husband loves to plan our trips out and this will give him some great new ideas. We've been talking about the tarpits for years now and have yet to go. Also, we normally go to Catalina Island for a few days and we all love its kitschy charm.

I'm also going to look for a cool play for next summer. I saw a write up on the play starring Noah Wyle and Xander from "Buffy" and that would've been really fun to go see some of our favorite actors in a small, inexpensive theatrical production.

So I'm really sorry if I offended you. Hell. Blame it on the in-laws. Seriously.

Creative-Type Dad | 9:36 PM

I LOVE Micelis Restaurant. AND Tokyo Delves in North Hollywood.

You know, In the last 20 years I've lived in a lot of places from the OC to North L.A. county and from the places you've listed, those are probably the most "trendy" places to live--they would be on my close to Eiffel Tower list!

Definitely want to stay away anywhere near Hollyweird.

Anonymous | 11:07 AM

I have a friend who lives in "Boys Town." Thank god he took me around last time I was there so we hit a bunch of the stuff on your list. But Runyon? Movie Stars? How would I know? I was too busy walking and wheezing! Everyone looked the same anyway, in sunglasses, spandex and yelling at their dogs. :-)

Kim Tracy Prince | 2:39 PM

Hey don't forget Tour of the Stars' Homes for the DO NOT VISIT list. Enough of the stars, gah!

I have been here almost 11 years. I'm done. But I will miss it when I go.

Tracy | 2:48 PM

I live in LA and haven't been to several of these places...yet. Thanks for the suggestions!

I love the Getty!

Anonymous | 9:42 AM

Oooh, can I suggest? I love the downtown fabric district and all those warrens of shops that stretch forever and ever.

I love L.A. unapologetically.

The zoo isn't half bad - though I'm sentimentally attached as I went into labor and had my water break there.

(I know you technically can get to that tiny park right "under" the sign and see it clearly but even after years of living in Beachwood I never freaking managed to find it, go figure.)

Anonymous | 11:25 PM

I make fun of LA, but secretly I think it's the coolest city in the country with the best ethnic food. Much more than the liberal nazi bastion of Portland (where I live).

Anonymous | 9:25 PM

i just checked out Larchmont village today, and I loved it so much I'm going to do the rest of your list.

Anonymous | 6:17 PM

I moved from Chicago to Riverside (don't ask it was love) when I was 17 and man were my first trips to LA/Hollywood shockers. We used to head to Hollyweird on the weekends for shows and to see my friend Deah spin, my first glimpse of the walk of fame was a homeless guy shitting on a star. Priceless!

Anyway, I'll have to reference your guide next time we're out that way!

Sarah | 12:26 PM

My husband and I are visiting LA next weekend and everyone I tell this to says "I hate LA, why are you going there". I've always wanted to visit southern California but geez, why so much hate? Thanks for the post of where to go, any reccomendations on where to stay? Everyone tells me to stay away from "LA proper" and go to the beach towns. Is this true? Also, heading down to San Diego for a few nights, any favorites there?

Anonymous | 4:33 PM

there are also many great, historical, and multi-cultural places in Los Angeles, not centered around the Hollywood/West L.A. area... being born near the south bay, and moving all over L.A., from south to north, east to west, i've experienced many great locations that bring out the true essence of Los Angeles, the melting pot of the nation's melting pot... if people that visit here quit being lazy, and actually travel around this huge city and all it's sub-sections, i'm sure they'd love it instantly... i always say there is something for everyone here...

- sam 7

JustTara | 5:01 PM

I know this post is basically from 1987, but I just found it and... oh, thank you.

I am a native Ohioan with no aspirations of becoming a glowing celestial mass...errm...celebrity? (Attn: jennster! can I still call her out even though this post is from 1987?).

I'm moving for love. Mostly, I love my boyfriend (an Angeleno!), but I love this city, too (and he took me to all of the places on the "Don't" list during my first visit, so I'm either blind, tacky, or blind and tacky?). Now I can't wait to visit your suggestions.

Thanks for keeping it the-oppposite-of-fake. Your blog kicks a$&.

Erica | 11:04 AM

"The magic place where the actors look like bums and bums are selling their homemade films on the sidewalk."

best quote ever! i live here too and that is so true! i saw alec baldwin at coffee bean the other day and i literally thought he was a bum! 10 day stubble. dirty clothes. all hunched over. if he wasn't with his daughter i wouldn't have recognized him...