What’s your favourite anti-L.A. insult? There are lots to select from – Alokito Mymensingh 24

Oh, how they like to hate us.

Los Angeles, the punching bag. Los Angeles, the tease. Los Angeles, the place the aggravated and disillusioned discover even the daylight to be sinister.

Anybody who has ever concluded that L.A. is disappointing, irritating, perplexing, unhinged or incomprehensible can discover loads of quotes that talk for them, remarks by celebrated folks about how terrible Los Angeles is.

The resentment and mockery have risen in tandem with the dozen a long time of Los Angeles’ ascent to worldwide standing — and particularly towards Hollywood, a smallish neighborhood that may be a large, irresistible goal.

However L.A. is greater than Hollywood — elusive, all the time in flux, defying and defeating cliché. Walt Whitman would have beloved it right here, recognizing that L.A., like his nineteenth century America, comprises multitudes, and is completely advantageous with contradicting itself.

Your favourite anti-L.A. barb is probably not right here, for there are tons of of those slings and slaggings. Perhaps one can find a brand new favourite. (If not, add your personal within the feedback — or make up a brand new L.A. insult or praise.)

First, let’s acknowledge that there are many sober, thought of, considerate, analytical critiques of the phenomena of L.A. and California. Many advantageous books are filled with that, and too many awful books attempt to match it.

However the bumper-sticker zinger is catnip for skilled turners of phrase, and particularly these whose fortunes and reputations are invested in New York’s or London’s yardstick of what an actual metropolis is meant to be, or an actual mental, or actual tradition.

To do to different cities what is finished to L.A. — scale back it to Hollywood and seashores — we’d find yourself with:

  • New York — moneymaking, museums, unique Donald Trump enablers.
  • Chicago — hog-butcher to the world, metropolis of massive shoulders and even larger political scoundrels.
  • Boston — Ivy League snobs and Irish mobs.
  • San Francisco — lovely setting, now with silicon chips as an alternative of jewels.

Perhaps I’m not staying up late sufficient, however I don’t hear about late-night comics dissing New York as they do L.A. (“I do love America. And L.A. is a really brief commute to America. It’s like half an hour on the aircraft.” — Craig Ferguson). Probably that’s as a result of New Yorkers already do such a bang-up job of whinging about their very own metropolis that they don’t want an help from skilled comedians.

So here’s a categorized sampling.

Los Angeles as a bodily place

The Baltimore columnist and all-around misanthrope H.L. Mencken: L.A. is “19 suburbs in quest of a metropolis.” The New York author and icepick-wit Dorothy Parker later expanded that to 72 suburbs. Extra on her later.

Additionally Mencken: “The entire place stank of orange blossoms.” Citrus made L.A. aromatic earlier than smog crowded it out, however possibly orange blossoms — flower of bridal bouquets — scared off Mencken. He got here to California in 1926 and squired round silent film actress Aileen Pringle. She was anxious to marry him, however he fled the jurisdiction.

L.A.’s off-again-on-again downtown puzzled the out-of-towners. The CBS Information sage Eric Sevareid, within the Nineteen Sixties: “Downtown Los Angeles is already lifeless.” As we now know, to recast Mark Twain, reviews of downtown’s dying had been exaggerated.

L.A.’s conflicted crosstown identification disaster, although — that lives on. Additionally within the Nineteen Sixties, Occasions columnist Jack Smith kinda kidded {that a} Westside lady instructed him the one cause to return downtown was to get divorced. In 1994, in The Occasions, a “Westside arts chief confides that spending $214 million on the Downtown Library [restored after a 1986 arson fire] was ‘a whole waste’ as a result of Westsiders don’t use it.” (The famend writer Ray Bradbury, who didn’t drive, nonetheless managed to get downtown to the Central Library on a regular basis; the library’s sq. now bears his title.)

The scale and scale of Los Angeles created unease in folks accustomed to being mashed into Manhattan, which is why you discovered so lots of them huddled on the Westside, and prone to agree with New York author Fran Leibowitz, that “Los Angeles is a big city-like space surrounding the Beverly Hills Lodge.”

The freeways are the concrete internet that overlies all of it, however solely actual Angelenos enter their mesmerizing alpha state. “The freeway expertise … is the one secular communion Los Angeles has.… Precise participation requires whole give up, a focus so intense as to look a sort of narcosis, a rapture-of-the-freeway.” That’s Joan Didion. Her sage writings about Los Angeles may fill this house many occasions over. Dwelling right here, she drove a Daytona-yellow Corvette Stingray, a 1969 mannequin, the yr of the Manson murders, which may have been a deliberate alternative, and was on the very least helpful serendipity.

Angelenos dwell in stressed coexistence with our freeways. Gregory Rodriguez, founding father of Zocalo Public Sq., wrote in The Occasions that “we take our freeways without any consideration, and we take each alternative to badmouth them … however that’s too simple. Site visitors jams and fool drivers however, the freeways join us at the very least as a lot as they separate us.”

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley, pictured in 2013.

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Occasions)

In Walter Mosley’s seminal novel about postwar Black L.A., “Satan in a Blue Gown,” his hero, Straightforward Rawlins, is aware of that “… in L.A. folks don’t have time to cease; anyplace they should go they go there in a automobile. The poorest man has a automobile in Los Angeles; he won’t have a roof over his head however he has a automobile.”

Smog deserves to be badmouthed, however L.A. had smog earlier than it had automobiles. The panorama itself created the unique “Hollywood bowl” that cupped smoke within the broad L.A. Basin — brushfire smoke, campfire smoke, the miasma from tailpipes. In 1542, the Iberian explorer Cabrillo and his crew had been the primary Europeans to clap eyes on L.A., and Cabrillo had the place entered within the ship’s log because the Bay of Smokes.

4 hundred one years later, 1943, L.A. had its first acknowledged smog assault.

The science fiction author Larry Niven is an Angeleno born and bred, great-grandson of the oil tycoon Edward Doheny, who would have been 5 in that first smog assault. “As soon as each hundred years, the Los Angeles smog rolls away for a single night time, leaving the air as clear as interstellar house. That means the gods can see if Los Angeles remains to be there. Whether it is, they roll the smog again in order that they received’t have to have a look at it.”

Los Angeles as an mental capital

Start with the standard suspect: “I don’t wish to dwell in a metropolis the place the one cultural benefit is you can make a proper activate a purple mild.” Woody Allen tiptoed that again a bit in 2012, when he instructed the LA Weekly that he’s not “anti-Los Angeles … I couldn’t dwell right here as a result of I don’t like a spot the place I’ve to drive everyplace, and I don’t like sunshine. However I like popping out right here for a few days. I’ve lots of buddies right here, and the city has, through the years, actually come on very sturdy. After I first got here out right here years in the past, you couldn’t get a good meal in Los Angeles. Now it’s filled with nice eating places, nice museums; the opera’s great.” Three years later, right here for gigs together with his jazz band, Allen answered a Occasions reporter’s main query that possibly L.A.’s not such a nasty place in spite of everything? For a solution, he obtained the Allen eye-roll, and, “Nicely, I wouldn’t go loopy …”

Now we’ll hear from Ethel Barrymore, the empress of the New York theatah. “Los Angeles society is anybody who went to highschool.” I by no means learn that Miss Barrymore scorned to just accept the Oscar from considered one of her 4 film appearing nominations, nor the paydays that got here with it.

The playwright Neil Simon, one other New Yorker, however one who didn’t win the Oscar for any of his 4 screenwriting nominations: “When it’s 100 levels in New York, it’s 72 in Los Angeles. When it’s 30 levels in New York, in Los Angeles it’s nonetheless 72. Nevertheless, there are 6 million attention-grabbing folks in New York, and solely 72 in Los Angeles.” For brevity’s sake, in his screenplay “California Suite,” he decreased it to: “It’s like paradise with a lobotomy.”

Among the many multitudes of artists and intellectuals who had been refugees from Hitler’s scorched-earth Europe to this “Weimar on the Pacific,” the acclaimed German playwright Bertolt Brecht felt profoundly the tragic distinction of Hitler’s distant, systematic slaughters and the sunny humdrum of Santa Monica. He tore on the wound in a poem, “Considering Hell.”

“Considering Hell, as I as soon as heard it/My brother Shelley discovered it to be a spot/Very similar to the town of London. I/Who don’t dwell in London, however in Los Angeles/Discover, considering Hell, that it/Should be much more like Los Angeles.”

Again to Miss Dorothy Parker. Her post-mortem of Hollywood is under, however in 1962, she succeeded Christopher Isherwood as visitor lecturer on the American novel at Los Angeles Valley Faculty, in Valley Glen. She admired the variety and pluck of her college students, nevertheless it was not the idyll she had anticipated. “I believe I anticipated an educational paradise underneath the elms. What I discovered had been 18,000 college students and 150 parking areas.”

The phrase “plastic” — the set off phrase within the movie “The Graduate” — was too temptingly simple even for writers of huge fame. For the novelist Norman Mailer, “Chicago is the nice American metropolis, New York is likely one of the capitals of the world, and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic. San Francisco is a girl.” In 2006, he conquered his distaste lengthy sufficient to just accept the town Library Basis’s literary award.

William Faulkner, the novelist of the Gothic South, got here right here to jot down screenplays, and located that “Every part in Los Angeles is simply too giant, too loud and often banal in idea. … The plastic a—gap of the world.” And on one other event, “They don’t worship cash, they worship dying.” That’s fairly nervy, coming from a person whose novels positively roll in incest, lynching and decay. Certainly one of his tales is a few Southern gentlewoman who retains her lifeless fiance’s corpse in her mattress. So, there’s that.

Me, I’ll take the genuine fakery of Andy Warhol. “I like Los Angeles. I like Hollywood. They’re lovely. Every part’s plastic, however I like plastic. I wish to be plastic.” Mission completed.

Los Angeles because the outpost of apocalypse

The novelist Henry Miller, like his contemporaries and fellow novelists Aldous Huxley and F. Scott Fitzgerald, was born elsewhere however got here to L.A. to dwell and work, and right here they died. To Miller, “Los Angeles offers one the sensation of the longer term extra strongly than any metropolis I do know of. A foul future, too, like one thing out of Fritz Lang’s feeble creativeness.”

It’s the Santa Ana wind — greater than earthquakes, for some cause — that bears omens of disaster, that “reveals us how near the sting we’re,” from Madame Didion once more.

As for the nonstop journey to endtimes, right here is the actor/producer/rapper/and so on. Ice-T: “Los Angeles is a microcosm of america. If L.A. falls, the nation falls.”

You may have been warned.

Los Angeles because the illusory and disappointing

Me, I’ve all the time thought that L.A. noir literature can pack extra punch than even the crime tales of perpetually dour London, as a result of right here, the sunshine makes the shadows all of the darker. James Ellroy’s writing inhabits that everlasting shadow, in a Los Angeles “temperate, sunny, supreme for outside dwelling. A variety of choices, till they slim to dwell or die.”

Woody Guthrie frolicked right here within the Nineteen Thirties, lived on the down-and-out aspect of the ledger, and wrote it in “Do Re Mi”: “We obtained to Los Angeles broke/Do-re-mi/California’s a backyard of Eden/a Paradise to dwell in or see/However consider it or not/You received’t discover it so sizzling/Should you ain’t obtained the do-re-mi.”

It might come as no shock that Jack Kerouac, the stressed prosemaster who wrote “On the Street,” didn’t like L.A., a metropolis as improvised as he. “I by no means felt sadder in my life. L.A. is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York will get godawful chilly within the winter however there’s a sense of wacky comradeship someplace in some streets. L.A. is a jungle.” (OTOH, it might come as a shock that when it got here to San Francisco, he may trill like a Hallmark Valentine: “ … fabulous white metropolis of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific …”)

Los Angeles as not more than the plus-one of Hollywood

Towards the tip of 1926, Herman Mankiewicz, the screenwriter who would co-father “Citizen Kane,” telegrammed his buddy Ben Hecht, the newspaperman who was discovering himself between gigs and behind on his hire. “Will you settle for 300 per week to work for Paramount Photos. All bills paid. The 300 is peanuts. Hundreds of thousands are to be grabbed out right here and your solely competitors is idiots. Don’t let this get round.” A long time of writers, actors and others put their creative snobbery in storage and got here west to get wealthy off the films. A few of them failed miserably. Now who’s the idiots?

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the attractive and damned writer of “The Nice Gatsby,” dropped lifeless in his girlfriend’s WeHo condominium on the winter solstice in 1940. He was 44 years previous, and had labored on and off in Hollywood for years. Kevin Starr, the California historian and my late, smart buddy, would conclude years later that “Los Angeles is the Nice Gatsby of American cities.” For Fitzgerald, L.A. was Hollywood. “You may take Hollywood without any consideration like I did, or you possibly can dismiss it with the contempt we reserve for what we don’t perceive. It may be understood too, however solely dimly and in flashes.”

Dorothy Parker couldn’t abdomen L.A. or Hollywood for lengthy. In 1953, again in New York, she delivered this about Hollywood. “I don’t know what extra to say about Hollywood. I simply say it’s a Stagnation. It’s a Horror … Sensible flowers odor like previous greenback payments. These monumental greens style as if that they had been grown in previous trunks. That means of getting no seasons … it’s simply horrible. … I can solely give to you, this message — anyone who isn’t dwelling in Hollywood is having a great life!”

Los Angeles as … itself

Guests from the Previous World are likely to dote on San Francisco, which is a bijou-beautiful California model of a European metropolis.

John Lennon was unsparing.

“We’re loopy about this metropolis. Los Angeles? That’s only a massive parking zone the place you purchase a hamburger for the journey to San Francisco.” For context, Lennon spent about 18 troublesome months dwelling right here within the Nineteen Seventies, separated from Yoko Ono, ingesting and drugging and dwelling with one other lady, and as soon as getting thrown out of the Troubadour for heckling and preventing, fruitlessly taking part in the L.A. trump card, “Have you learnt who I’m?”

Among the many earliest slights to L.A. was Frank Lloyd Wright’s, “Tip the world over on its aspect, and all the pieces unfastened will land in Los Angeles.” So far as I’m involved, that was a praise. Tip the world, and the fearful and the timid, nailed securely and drearily in place, would keep put — however the footloose and daring and adventuresome would roll into L.A. and remake themselves.

Similar for Billy Connolly’s comment. The Scottish comic, actor and musician lived right here on and off for a number of years, sufficient to have the ability to say, “I like Los Angeles. It reinvents itself each two days.”

He was proper; you’ll see. Come again subsequent week and this will likely be a very totally different column.

Patt Morrisonat USC, in Los Angeles, CA, Sunday, April 24, 2022.

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