Friday, November 23, 2018

The Center of the Universe

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sandstorms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to the flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle' a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior. I remember being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why.     – Joan Didion 

So there were interesting houses we could walk to. Or we would catch a ride to Peter Tork's house on Willow Glen. Peter had been a dishwasher at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach and now he was a TV star, a Monkee. My friend Ned Doheny and I would say, "Let's go up to Peter's house, see what's going on." Sometimes you would walk in and there would be twelve girls in the pool, naked. And they were beautiful women, people of substance, not bimbos-not that we would have minded if they were bimbos. One time Jimi Hendrix was up there jamming with Buddy Miles in the pool house, and Peter's girlfriend was playing the drums, naked. She was gorgeous, like a Varga girl is gorgeous, this physically flawless creature. She looked like the drawings of Indian maidens that they airbrush on motorcycle tanks. I don't think she was as good a drummer as she was an object of desire, but she was something. Barry Friedman was on Ridpath too, about a block from Billy James, two blocks from Paul Rothchild.    – Jackson Browne

Located within Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley Coordinates:  34.117275°N 118.375281°W, City of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles, Time Zone: PST (UTC-8), Laurel Canyon was first developed in the early 1900s, and became a part of the city of Los Angeles in 1923 (prior to then, it was an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County). Much like Topanga Canyon, community life was and is focused on its central thoroughfare. Some of the main side streets are Mount Olympus, Kirkwood, Wonderland, Willow Glen, and Lookout Mountain Avenue. The zip code for the neighborhood is 90046. Laurel Canyon is an important transit corridor between West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, specifically Studio City. The division between the two can roughly be defined by the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive. Laurel Canyon was inhabited by the local Tongva tribe of Native Californians before the arrival of the Spanish. A spring-fed stream that flowed year round provided water. It was that water that attracted Mexican ranchers who established sheep grazing on the hillsides in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. After the Mexican government was ejected, the area caught the attention of Anglo settlers interested in water rights. Around the turn of the century, the area was subdivided and marketed as mountain vacation properties.

Between 1912 and 1918 a trackless electric trolley ran up the canyon from Sunset Boulevard to the base of Lookout Mountain Road where a road house served visitors. Travel to the newly subdivided lots and cabins further up the canyon was, at first, made on foot or by mule. As the roads were improved access was possible by automobile. Around 1920, a local developer built the Lookout Mountain Inn at the summit of Lookout Mountain and Sunset Plaza roads, which burned just a few years after opening. Among the famous places in Laurel Canyon are the log cabin house once owned by silent film star Tom Mix that later became home to the Zappa clan, and, directly across the street, the home of Harry Houdini, and, as readers of AM are aware, Laurel Canyon found itself a nexus of counterculture activity and attitudes in the 1960s. That bohemian spirit endures today, and residents gather annually for a group photograph at the country market.

Robert A. Heinlein's short story "—And He Built a Crooked House—" mentions an address on Lookout Mountain Ave. as the residence of the mad architect Quintus Teal. In real life, that address, 8775 Lookout Mountain Avenue, was the residence of Heinlein and his wife. The story has nothing to do with Laurel Canyon.


Notable residents past and present include Jennifer Aniston, The Beatles, Clara Bow (1920s, Lookout Mountain)    , Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Louise Brooks (1927), Jackson Browne, Eric Burdon, David Byrne, Lon Chaney, Jr., George Clooney (present), Alice Cooper, David Crosby, Kat VonD (present), The Doors, Henry Diltz, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork, Francis Farmer, Errol Flynn, The Eagles, Greta Garbo, Katherine Helmond, Boris Karloff, Anthony Kiedis, k.d. lang, Leadbelly, Timothy Leary, Bela Legosi, Marilyn Manson, Dean Martin, Steve Martin, Joni (still owns the Lookout Mountain cottage), Toom Morello, Trent Reznor, Keith Richards, Slash, Justin Timberlake (present), Orson Welles, Pete Wentz (present), Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Zappa.