Just up the hill from my apartment in West Hollywood is the parking lot that is the actual “paved paradise” that Joni's singing about in "Big Yellow Taxi." At Sunset and Crescent Heights was The Garden of Allah, a luxurious apartment complex with 25 villas built around a main building which from 1927-1959 housed everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Bogart, Harpo to Garbo, Errol to Orson, and apparently, Marlene Dietrich swam nude there. It’s mindblowing to think of what it has become. But the pizza place is pretty good.
There are three movies I’ve been watching over and over recently because of the great footage of my neighborhood from forty or so years ago. One is “Myra Breckinridge” from 1970 with Racquel Welch and Rex Reed that is commonly listed by film critics as literally "the worst movie ever made." My Dad remembers seeing it with my Mom at a drive-in and they thought it stunk. But there are amazing scenes filmed from the top front balcony of the Chateau Marmont and a couple of times the camera makes its way down the same sidewalk that I routinely jog past every morning. If you get up early enough you’ll see me. Anyway, they show as far west as the Body Shop and if you zoom in and up, I think you can see my apartment building or at least a blur that could be my apartment building.
Also, there’s “Mondo Mod” which I got from Netflix and it shows footage of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in 1967. And again, the spot is a part of my morning run towards Crescent Heights around the Chase bank. On the corner in front of the bank is in my opinion an ugly 80’s new wave-ish looking sculpture of five silver figures with arms open and ready to embrace with a square plaque on it that reads “The Family by David Green-Commissioned by Lytton Savings.” If you blink, you’ll miss it.
I'm not sure when exactly it was Lytton Savings but the building has just recently been taken over by Chase. I know it was once Washington Mutual and I remember it being something else before that. Recently I came across this photo of the Doors perched on top of a billboard promoting their first album on the north side of Sunset in the beginning of 1967.
Behind the boys you can see “The Plush Pup,” a hot dog hangout which is now “Pinches Tacos” where the kids from “The Hills” like to meet up and get all bitchy and steal each other's boyfriends. But I was SHOCKED to find “The Family” on the bottom left side of the picture!
I wonder how long that thing has been there? I tried some internet research but came up with nothing. Well, at least now I know “The Family” was around for the summer of love and survived the teenage rioting shown in “Mondo Mod.” So much for my 80's opinion...what the hell do I know about art anyway. Just around the corner, Bullwinkle still stands in front of the building that is now “Hollywood Hounds,” a high price dogsitting service where I’ve seen that weird looking fashion critic guy Steven drop his dog off a few times. That building AND the Pinches Taco building were owned for years by Jay Ward, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, George Of The Jungle and many other cartoons.
Yes, Bullwinkle has survived but he’s not as visible these days thanks to gated security and he’s older now and doesn’t spin anymore. I’ve also heard rumors that he underwent a paint job although he vehemently denies it.
On the other hand, in the “Mondo Mod” film there’s a psychedelic fashion boutique called “Belinda” that was located right next door to Bullwinkle at 8220 Sunset, an address that no longer exists and with no trace of the original building.
Oh yeah, the third film I’ve been watching featuring great West Hollywood scenes is “The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie” (I never saw a Cassavetes film I didn’t like) from 1976 that has scenes filmed at the top of the hill on Sunset near my other cross street, Sweetzer Avenue, as well as cool Gazzarri’s footage which was later rebuilt as the Key Club and I hear they’ve closed their doors just this past month. Parking lot, anyone?