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Reading about and then visiting tourist stops has its merits, but getting an insider's view of a place is always preferable. Such is the case with my visit to Los Angeles. I am lucky enough to have a high school friend who is part of the LA scene. Richard Eastman has been in LA some ten years now, bound and determined to become a celebrated screenwriter. And he knows the ropes, has made the contacts, presses the right buttons. Now if someone will just buy one of his scripts.
Now Richard is the personification of someone following his passion. For several years he held a job as a paralegal to pay the bills, but it got in the way of his dream. So for a couple of years he has been writing full-time. And living off MasterCard. And now trying not to feel desperate. I admire his dedication and determination.
Richard and I met on Thursday at Irv's Burgers, a West Hollywood institution that on Santa Monica Boulevard (and the tail end of historic Route 66) and a couple of blocks from his apartment. It's a classic hamburger stand, in constant danger of being turned into yet another redundant coffee shop.
There used to be hundreds of joints just like it along Route 66, and Irv's was a favorite hangout of '70s celebs. Linda Ronstadt even featured Irv's on one of her LP covers in her superhottie days (see left).
Locals like Richard formed a vigilante crew, the Burger Brigade, dedicated to defending Irv's from corporate greed. Richard was even interviewed on local TV. Irv's has since was declared a National Historic Place, a true testament to Irv's value in the city and nation's heritage, so it is no longer in danger of disappearing.
The true jewel at Irv's is Sonia (that's her, with Richard). Sonia makes everyone feel like Hollywood royalty. Each customer is greeted with a huge smile and (if you've previously been there) by name; Richard is very well known! It is a true "hole in the wall," but Sonia with a wink promised us a table "with ocean view" (the ocean is 12 miles away). Her family is there to join in on making this one fantastic, welcoming spot.
When the cliché "served with love" is used, here it is legitimate. Each plate has a smiley face and greeting drawn by Sonia. Here is my plate, which reads "For Richard's Last True Friend Ted."
While nothing could top Irv's, Richard and I drove around his neighborhood, and into Beverly Hills. We travelled familar sounding road names like Sunset and Wilshire. Every other building was "this movie scene was shot there" or "Scwab's used to be there" or "Spago was there, but is gone now." One stop was at this gigantic Rocky & Bullwinkle statue on Sunset, at what was once the home of animator Jay Ward (who created Rocky & Bullwinkle). It is now Hollywood Hounds, a doggie daycare. So I guess we will use this as my puppy fix. I am on the left.
We spent some time on the gorgeous grounds of the infamous Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which is now owned by the city and used for many movie scenes and special events. A recent example: There Will Be Blood. Within these walls Daniel Day Lewis uttered the immortal line "I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!"
Our visit to the mansion did provide us with a fabulous view of the city below on a clear blue day. Richard pointed out that it was a perfect day, and added "You know what? Everyday is like this. And it can get a bit boring."
My day in West Hollywood was anything but boring. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself, Richard.
I had actually arrived in the LA area on Wednesday evening, having travelled in from the Arizona desert. Family friend Martha Houk was kind enough to house me for a couple of nights at her home in Tujunga, near Burbank. Martha recently lost a leg to an infection, but it has not slowed her down! I enjoyed her indominable spirit.
We had a lovely dinner at Taylor's Steakhouse Wednesday night, and enjoyed a night at the theater on Thursday: Kiss Me Kate, a fine performance by the Glendale Centre Theatre.