Uptown Girl

It’s always a bit of a mind-bend to remember that I live in a town which is internationally famous for being the glamourpuss of the industrialized world. I imagine it’s a bit like being married to a famous supermodel. Everyone else thinks you must be incredibly lucky to spend your days (and nights) in the company of this gorgeous bombshell. You, on the other hand, are accustomed to seeing her without makeup. You know what she’s like when she hasn’t had her morning coffee. You’ve even slept with her – all night in the same bed after the taco dinner that didn’t agree with her. But you still love her, better perhaps than her legions of fans, who only know her from her picture in Vogue.

What bothers me about Hollywood is that these days she’s more likely to show up in the pages of Hustler than Vogue magazine. We don’t really talk about it much, but her lowered standards do tend to put a cramp in our relationship. Today, however, I’m hanging out with her snotty little sister, Beverly Hills. We’ve never gotten along too well – I know too many of her dirty little secrets – but Bev and I go way back…

Seriously though? I’m in the waiting room of the dance medicine clinic at Cedars-Sinai, where I’ve been receiving physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff. To my left, facing a giant sign that says NO CELL PHONES, sits a hipster who is shouting into his cell phone as loudly as his fey voice will let him. His vintage leather jacket fits him perfectly, showing off his skinny frame in strategically weathered jeans, beatle boots, and a mock-vintage T-shirt silkscreened with a snazzy retro design. A Greek fisherman’s cap, aviator glasses, and silk scarf tied around his neck complete the ensemble. And the beard, of course; beards are very fashionable right now. It’s extremely urgent that his friends know he is waiting to go in for his therapy. I already know that, of course, since I’m waiting with him. But now I also know that he’s getting ready to leave for Spain and has oh so many scripts to work on.

I’m disappointed because the view from the window is nothing like so spectacular as it was last week, when the rains had scrubbed the air so clear I could see my dear Hollywood waving at me from the other side of the city. I spotted two familiar landmarks, the Art Deco “Venus” building and a magnificent 100-year-old Italian Renaissance style church.  Precisely halfway between them, up in the hills, forming the apex of a triangle, the elegant and stately Griffith Observatory. Framing the whole scene, a gleaming mountain range sparkling with newly fallen snow.

But that was last week, and I didn’t have my camera. I brought it with me today, but the LA smog has returned, my view so obstructed by the haze that I can’t even tell if there’s any snow left in the mountains. I can barely see the observatory or the church, and the Venus building is half hidden behind a palm tree, as if ashamed. The Hollywood sign, on the other hand, is plainly visible against the dark backdrop of the hill, and it looks harsh and brazen.

Beverly Hills looks tidy and slightly forbidding, as usual, when I make my way home. At the light I see an elderly homeless man on the median with a sign that says “Old Dog, please help, any small job.” He looks imploringly into each car as they pass. This is the real reason why everyone here wears dark glasses. This time I remember to get in the right lane so I can head back through West Hollywood without going anywhere near the heart of this city, if she even has one.

Mr. Koz is waiting for me when I get home. We walk hand in hand down the block, crossing the stretch of sidewalk the Kozlet calls “Dog Poop Alley” as quickly as possible. We pass by a tiny theater that I found out a few years ago was originally owned by the dad of a friend I went to high school with. We turn the corner into a slightly sleazy looking mini-mall and slip inside a heavily curtained door. The transformation is sudden; the noisy street with its pawn shops and homeless transvestite hookers has disappeared. We’re in a cozy, family-owned restaurant decorated with maroon and yellow draperies, white linen tablecloths. A full lunch for two costs less here than an individual salad plate at any of the local hot spots. Another of my Hollywood’s wonderful little secrets.

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