Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is What Happens

A few days ago I was bemoaning what typically happens in a teardown situation. And then I realized they'd used 377 S. Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills as a location for MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963). So, anyway, this is the way it used to look:

Today, it looks like this:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Requiem for 1021 N. Beverly Drive

It wasn't a surprise. For weeks now, a chain link fence lined with dark green material -- the upscale version of a chain link fence, one supposes -- had encircled the verdant acre at Beverly Drive and Shadow Hill Way in Beverly Hills. Like the judge drawing a square of black fabric over his head, it condemned the house as a teardown.

This afternoon I saw that the house was no more.

The upscale chain link fence will remain during construction of a new house.

And what was so special about the house at 1021 N. Beverly Drive, you might ask. After all, there wasn't anything remarkable about the architecture, and I don't have any personal connection to the property.

Well, for me it represents a Beverly Hills I love, one that must inevitably fade away, but one I want to hold onto a little longer. Beverly Hills wasn't built by movie stars. It was largely settled by professionals who built comfortable houses with good proportions and thoughtful siting. But now the professionals want to live like movie stars, or the way they think movie stars live. And once the original understatement and good taste are gone, they're gone.

I might be wrong -- I hope I'm wrong -- but I predict that this site will soon be dominated by a badly-proportioned house of at least 10,000 square feet, though probably closer to 15,000, in a perfectly horrendous "French" style that's so popular right now. Also, there will be walls and gates, fussy in design, because who ever heard of living in a house with a two-foot hedge and an un-gated driveway?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Thought On Anti-Gay Sentiment In America

I've a theory that the Bible wasn't so much concerned about gay sex as it was concerned about wasted semen—you will notice that nocturnal emissions were also grounds for getting kicked out of the Old Testament camp.

That concern made sense, perhaps, when one's family was one's society, one's army, one's everything. Semen spent on anything but procreation was a luxury the family group didn't believe it could afford.

It's a pragmatic rationale that no longer exists. But a few lines written for Bronze Age conditions were encoded in a holy book. Practical considerations became a sin. And that's unfortunate. Because we're now stuck with a lot of Americans who think this justifies unapologetic—nay, proud—persecution of our gay compatriots.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Hello, there.

I've made you uncomfortable, haven't I, by choosing a chair so close to yours in this otherwise empty waiting room. I can tell because you've become very, very interested in that tattered Newsweek magazine from 2008.

I assume you don't want to make eye contact because that might encourage me to keep talking. Or, worse, ask you a question.

So, what are you here for?

Do you see how I gave you time to answer, even though you just looked at me like I'm insane? I'll be blunt: I wouldn't play that card if I were you. We're both at a psychiatrist's office, after all.

Wow, you've got a white-knuckle grip on that magazine. The analysis of McCain's chances in the presidential race must be really riveting. Maybe I'll read it after you.

Oh, look, it's another patient entering the room. She sees your eyes, pleading with her to rescue you in some way, but she chooses to sit as far from us as possible and bury her head in a Maxim. Can you really blame her? Let's face it, you'd have done the same thing.

Who's that on the cover? I can't keep up with starlets these days.

Why am I here?

You're not going to ask, so I'll take the liberty on your behalf. Believe me, if I didn't do this, I'd never have a conversation with anyone at all.

Well, the truth is that I hear voices in my head.

Oh, don't worry. They're not violent or anything. They don't tell me to burn down houses or murder people. No, they put on Broadway shows. The only time I don't hear them is on Mondays when they're dark, or when they're doing out-of-town previews.

They're very good, actually. There was a bit of drama when two of the leads had an affair that went wrong, but other than it's just listening to the same show again and again. This was especially tedious in the eighties when Cats was so popular. I thought it would never close. If I'm being honest, that was the nearest I ever got to being suicidal.

What show are they doing at the moment, you might ask if you had any manners at all. Well, I'll tell you. It's American Idiot, and it's marvelous. Don't tell anyone I said this, but I think they're better than the Broadway cast.

An oblique glance.

You think I might be putting you on, don't you?

Clever girl.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Martha's Vineyard, Madonna, Monopoly

Over several decades, our family had evolved a complex set of house rules for games of Monopoly. Pending the banker's approval, for instance, loans could be taken at prime plus two percent. (During the inflation of the Carter years this option was rarely exercised, and the game was really quite boring.) Players with a strong financial footing could also establish private banks, providing loans to those turned down by the central bank. (Usury laws capped interest rates at 21 percent.) And when players were in a particularly socialist mood, we voted in rent control on Park Avenue or filed antitrust suits against the utilities and railroads.

After dinner one summer evening, we took our positions—the six of us—at a round table near the far end of the sprawling living room. There was an excellent view down the lawn to Edgartown Harbor, but it would be obscured by darkness long before we finished.

“Nine. Connecticut. I’ll buy it.”

“What are you working on, Dad?”

“Oh, don’t get him started.”

“An essay on Madonna.”

“Ten. Just visiting jail. My drug dealer son? My prostitute daughter?”

"Maybe your prostitute son."

“If I have to hear Like a Prayer one more time. All this retrospective stuff is killing me.”

“Kentucky. I’ll buy it.”

“What’s your angle?”

“She can’t win critically. There will always be someone second-guessing her motivation.”

“Twenty-eight dollars.”

“She’s asked for it, hasn’t she?”

“Yes and no.”

“Electric Company.”

“You have to credit her for improving her vocal skill.”

“And her mind. She’s really smart, isn’t she?”

“I’d like to buy houses.”

“Wouldn’t we all, darling?”

“Why is it we go from place to place paying rent when we could buy something and stay put?”

“So there will be a game.”

“And an economy.”

“Calling her a good businesswoman is just what I’m talking about. It makes everything she’s done into crafty manipulation.”

“Healthy economies also require unemployment. Isn’t that strange?”

“Two hundred dollars is outrageous!”

“Trying to skip out on your bill at Marvin Gardens, are you?”

“I like her music. It’s that simple.”

“We should form a community association.”

“It isn’t that simple. Her personality is too strong for it to be only about her music. Who she is informs her music.”

“Why doesn’t anyone land on my hotel?”

“It’s in a slum, darling.”

“But who is she?”

“We only know what we’ve been told. And how accurate is that? And is it any of our business anyway?”

“I think a lot of it’s imagined.”

“Anyone for another round of drinks?”

“Is that money you’re hiding under the table? Do we have a rule about Swiss accounts?”

“Swiss accounts are fine.”

“Okay, vote. Those opposed to Swiss accounts? Those in favor? All right, no Swiss accounts.”

“I’ll need to borrow a thousand dollars.”

“Your credit rating isn’t up to snuff.”

“Oh, come on.”

“I saw her in concert during the Sticky and Sweet tour. Very good.”

“You’re overextended.”

“She did well in Evita. Perfect casting.”

“You’ll only loan to people who don’t need it.”

“And you’ll notice that the bank does well. I expect a bonus at the end of the year.”

“Now we’re back to whom we think she is.”

“What good is Free Parking if we don’t have a jackpot.”

“Nobody wins the lottery when they park their car. We’re going for realism here.”

“There are Swiss accounts in reality.”

“And the IRS. The best part of this game is that there’s no income tax.”

“I saw an interview where she herself said it was perfect casting.”

“Where are those drinks?”

“You think I’m leaving you sharks alone at the table?”

“When did you put up a second hotel?”

“One thousand dollars.”

“I’d like to talk to the manager.”

“That price includes the use of a Jack Nicklaus-designed course. We’re talking PGA standards.”

“I think it’s possible to overthink Madonna."

“I’d like to announce the opening of the new Grand Hotel on Boardwalk. The Grand Hotel prefers American Express.”

“Does anyone realize we’re all fighting over property in Atlantic City? New Jersey?”

“I’d like a line of credit.”

“You’d need a triple-A rating for that.”

“I don’t see Dun and Bradstreet anywhere.”

"North Carolina."

“I’ve won second place in a beauty contest. A whole ten dollars.”

“I cried when she visited her mother’s grave in Truth or Dare.”

“Assessments! I didn’t budget for assessments.”

“That’s just the devil-may-care approach that keeps banks from lending you money.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

14th December, 1999

I was stopped at the intersection of Crescent Drive and Sunset Boulevard when I heard on my old Jeep’s radio that she was dead.

The Beverly Hills Hotel loomed ahead of me, gleaming pink and lime in the midday sun. Tall skinny palm trees arced gently toward the western horizon, and a persistent, warm breeze crossed the small triangle of manicured foliage called Will Rogers Park.

Such news was impossible in this postcard perfection.

But the report came from England, where December was cold and damp, and death was viable.

The facts were delivered with unemotional precision: Shot on the doorstep of her London house; no suspects; a tragic end to a scandal-filled year; stay tuned for updates on this breaking story.

The traffic light turned green, but I couldn’t coax my foot from the brake to the gas pedal.

Cars streamed by on either side.

Drivers stuck behind me sounded their horns at the first indication that I would continue to obstruct their progress. In my rearview mirror I saw exasperation in their angry gestures, in their angry faces. Those who could get around me underscored their displeasure with dramatic acceleration and squealing tires.

But I could not loosen my grip on the steering wheel. The skin on my knuckles became starkly white.

The traffic light turned red again.

Suddenly regaining command of my extremities, I moved the gear selector from Drive to Park and shut off the ignition. I got out and started to cross Sunset toward the hotel.

More horns, more yelling.

The driver of one BMW made a pretentious show of swerving to avoid me. He yelled “Fucking idiot!” out his window as he passed.

There was no good reason to leave my car unattended in the middle of the street. Or to traverse multiple lanes of traffic at a tricky intersection. I wasn’t sure what compelled me toward the hotel—it felt like sleepwalking, devoid of rationale.

A man, probably a tourist, watched me from the sidewalk. As I neared, the expression on his face indicated a spark of recognition.

“Hey, I know who you are,” he said, as he snapped a photo with a camera that was slung conveniently around his neck.

The bulb flashed unnecessarily.