The VQR has a new issue out dedicated to classic Hollywood. I haven’t made it all the way through yet — the first thing I clicked was an essay called “Leaving Los Angeles”. It’s a fast, fairly entertaining read, but I have to say I was disappointed — though I hoped for a different take, it’s yet another New Yorker’s tale of coming to L.A. and being seduced at first but then leaving after finding it shallow, isolating and soul-sucking. What’s ironic is that he actually begins the essay by citing Woody Allen’s critique of the city in “Annie Hall”, but plays right into that same stereotypical perspective in the end.
It amazes me that the default take on Los Angeles always seems to come from a New Yorker’s point of view. I’ve lived here for eight years now and though I have a litany of complaints, I always wonder why none of these writers ever seem to indicate that they’ve stepped outside of the Hollywood milieu to see the city that lies beyond the orbit of aspiring actors and filmmakers. They are flashy and blinding, I’ll admit, but once you learn to look beyond them, there’s so much more to discover. Music, art, technology, fashion, international commerce – they’re all here too.
I also wonder how long they actually spent here — this guy cites a lack of spontaneity as one of his major issues:
“In Los Angeles, traffic permitting, each day went according to plan, because you don’t get in the car without a destination in mind. I suppose you could run into an old flame at RiteAid on Fairfax or at the ArcLight on Sunset, but then what? There was no, “Do you want to get a drink?” because you’d have to get in your car, drive somewhere, valet park, and by then it’d be too late to enjoy yourself anyway. There was no sense of surprise, which perhaps explains, in part, the thrill of celebrity run-ins: They were one of the few unplanned happenings in Los Angeles, one of the last things left to chance.”
Did he ever explore downtown? Or venture out to Los Feliz or Silver Lake or even Santa Monica? You could do that in all of those places. Also, it takes time to build up a network of enough people where you might see them randomly. I just ran into a guy I dated a couple of years ago in Larchmont Village a few weeks ago, and we did in fact sit down and grab a coffee and catch up. It was nice. It was actually a moment where I thought, holy shit, LA really is my home.
He also says “the thrill of L.A. is celebrity spotting,” which is just ridiculous, especially considering that in my experience (I also lived in NYC for four years) you see just as many celebs in Manhattan as you do in L.A. Maybe even more, since everyone walks around on the street there.
In the end, I felt like all of the writer’s criticisms of L.A. (another choice one: “in Los Angeles, to be ignored or anonymous was the last thing anyone seemed to want”) showed how limited his experience with the city really is, and maybe his imagination by extension.