Monday, September 12, 2011

City in Pages - LA (Hollywood Ending edition)

Welcome to my first international post in my City in Pages series! I have loved taking you around Melbourne and Sydney through some of my favourite books and am now thrilled to bring you to LA with me and one of my all-time favourite reads, Kathy Charles' Hollywood Ending.

One of the things I love most about this is the fact that alongside Hilda, Benji, Jake and Hank, the city of Los Angeles is really another character in the book. The novel is full of Hollywood landmarks and ventures into the dark history of the city, as Benji and Hilda seek out locations which fuel their obsession with celebrity deaths. What makes this post more special is the fact that by the time you're reading this, I will actually be in LA (for the first time!), so I hope you enjoy it:

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Hollywood Ending
Published by Text Publishing, 2009
264 pages

Ambassador Hotel
Before being demolished in 2005, the Ambassador Hotel was a Los Angeles landmark. It was the site of the 2nd and 12th Academy Awards, and also (most notably) where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. It also housed the renowned Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where stars such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole performed. The hotel closed it’s doors to guests in 1989 and was demolished in 2005 after extensive legal battles. The site now houses the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.

Barney’s Beanery
A West Hollywood restaurant and bar, known as watering hole for icons such as Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin (who even had her final drinks at Barney’s, before becoming a member of the Forever 27 Club).

Mann’s Chinese Theatre
Opened in 1927, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre has hosted numerous movie premieres, Hollywood parties and three Academy Award ceremonies. It was declared a cultural and historical landmark in 1968, and since then, extensive restoration and maintenance has taken placed (despite the ownership of the theatre changing hands many times), in order to keep the theatre as it was in the golden age of Hollywood. It’s most distinctive feature is the 200 celebrity hand and footprints in the concrete forecourt, including Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx, Betty Grable and Steve McQueen.

Chateau Marmont
A famed hotel on Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood and noted for its celebrity clientele. It has been a temporary home for the likes of Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Morrison and Lindsay Lohan (to name just a few). John Belushi died of a drug overdose in one of the hotel’s garden bungalows (which Benji and Hilda revisit during a wild party in the novel). To learn more about the Chateau Marmont, read Raymond R. Sarlot’s Life at the Marmont.

Leimert Park
An LA neighbourhood, now often considered home to the African-American arts scene. However, it was originally known for being where the body of Elizabeth Smart (the Black Dahlia) was found, after she had been brutally murdered. Her mutilated corpse was dumped in a vacant lot (the location has now been cemented over and is part of a well-populated, middle class neighbourhood). The murder has never been solved.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Previously known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, this location was saved from financial ruin in 1998 and was christened the Hollywood Forever cemetery. You can take a guided tour through the cemetery and if you do visit, make sure you look out for the Lady in Black (the mysterious woman clad in black who leaves roses on Valentino’s grave). Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Vampira, Victor Fleming. You can also go see bands play and watch outdoors there during the summer. If you want to know who else is buried here, check out the interactive map on the website (creepy but fascinating!)

9860 Easton Drive
The address of a house with a sad history in Benedict Canyon. In 1932 MGM producer Paul Bern was found dead in the house, from a gunshot wound to the head. At the time, he was a newlywed (having been married to starlet Jean Harlow for only two months). His death was ruled a suicide, though this has been somewhat disputed in the press numerous times. Thirty years later, Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring purchased the house, and his life was also cut short - a victim of the Manson murders at Cielo Drive.

Cielo Drive
The name of this street is most often remembered in relation to the horrific Manson murders – when actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski were brutally murdered by members of the Manson family on August 9, 1969. Prior to this, the house at 10050 Cielo Drive was home to Lillian Gish, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda and finally Trent Reznor. In 1994, the house was demolished by its new owner and no part of the original property remains except for a telephone pole.

LA County Coroner
Responsible for investigating and determining the cause of death in violent and unusual cases in the LA County. It also has a gift shop, Skeletons in the Closet (Benji and Hilda go shopping in Hollywood Ending), where you can buy everything from toe-tag keyrings, to welcome mats, to crime scene party tape.

Mel’s Drive In
A homage to the 50s style American drive-in. The original Mel’s was located in San Francisco and is now a franchise, with restaurants in Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood (where Hilda goes with her aunt Lynette). From a quick look at the menu, the burgers sound delicious and they boast the “thickest shakes in town” mmmmm.

Westwood Cemetery
The final resting place of Marilyn Monroe and a wealth of other stars (Fanny Brice, Truman Capote, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Bettie Page. It’s less ‘showy’ than Hollywood Forever, it's considered more private and doesn’t actively promote itself as a celebrity cemetery (apparently cemetery employees are reluctant to point out famous burial sites).

A note for my American friends, Hollywood Ending was published in the US as John Belushi is Dead by MTV Books in 2010.

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