Monday, May 16, 2016

Riot on the Sunset Strip – or Why I Moved to L.A.

When I was a teenager in my sleepy southern city, I yearned for signs that there was actually life out there and not just the drab existence I had. I stayed up late sitting in front of the TV watching “The Tonight Show” from New York with the sound turned low so my parents didn’t wake up. There I discovered a world of Broadway shows, designer dresses and fancy restaurants—pretty heady stuff for a kid whose social life consisted of being dragged to visit boring old relatives every weekend.

As fascinating at NYC was, it couldn’t hold a candle to L.A., especially the part of it called the Sunset Strip. When I was about ten, I loved a show called “77 Sunset Strip.” It was about three suave, handsome private detectives who had a chic modern office on Sunset Blvd., right next door to Dean Martin’s restaurant, Dino's. Every week, they roamed the most glamorous parts of the city, solving crimes with the help of a terminally cute parking lot attendant named Kookie.

Thus began my fascination with that rather short stretch of Los Angeles county known as the Sunset Strip, an obsession that just grew stronger in my teens as I watched TV shows like “Where the Action Is” and read teen magazines filled with photos of all the clubs, boutiques and other cool places located in the area. All the guys had long hair and cool clothes, unlike the crewcut jocks I went school with, and the girls wore miniskirts with go-go boots instead of Villager dresses and Weejuns. I knew then that I’d never fit in and had to get out.

So after years of plotting, I finally made my escape to the Sunset Strip. My first apartment was a one-room “bachelor” with a tiny fridge and hot plate catty-cornered from the infamous Hyatt House, aka the “Riot House,” home of rock star depravity. I paid an extra $5 a month for a unit on the back side of the building with a gorgeous view of the L.A. basin, spreading out like a million sparkling rhinestones on a blanket of black velvet. Looking out at the city spread out before me convinced me that this was where I was meant to be.

So now in what should be my golden years, I guess I should be sitting in a rocking chair in Alabama. Instead, I’m looking out my front window at the view of the Riot House, now called the Andaz. It’s still standing and so am I.

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