LA Favorites

The Old Los Angeles County Museum of Art

1. I grew up right around the corner from LACMA , the museum I had in my head when imagining where Lynn Prosper worked. LACMA stands for Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but if you want to sound like a true, lifelong Angeleno, say “County Museum” instead. That’s what we called it when I was growing up (way back in the 70s). Then again, possibly no one will know what you mean. Very few people in LA are actually from LA.

The museum looked completely different in those days, too—a fraction of the size it is now. If you visit, take a special look at the Hammer, Ahmanson, and Bing buildings designed by architect William Pereira in 1961, and try to imagine what the place looked like when they made up the whole museum, fronted by a reflecting pool-cum-moat with huge, colorful Calder mobiles.

Mulholland Drive

When I wrote that Lynn and Jamie first met in a bar with a jukebox (which they were leaning against when their hands first brushed), I was thinking of Barney's Beanery. Make sure you go to the original, West Hollywood location. It’s a dive, but a great one, with booths and pool tables, a huge selection of beers, and noisy, young crowds. Try my old favorite, the fried mozzarella sticks, a perfect snack at 1 am.

Lovers’ Lane View

Jamie and tells Lynn “I love you” for the first time up on Mulholland, LA’s version of “Lovers’ Lane”. Hey, we do everything in a big, car-oriented way out here.

In an earlier draft of the novel, I also mention where Lynn and Jamie had dinner before heading up to Mulholland: Musso and Frank’s on Hollywood Boulevard, an LA classic and one of my all-time favorites (my husband and I ate there the night he told me he loved me). The waiters are waiters—as opposed to wannabe actors—and the martinis are superb. Mary Pickford, Chaplin, Garbo all ate there. Charlton Heston was once told he’d have to wait an hour for a table; he left.

But the restaurant, which opened in 1919 and is one of the few historic LA restaurants still around, was really a writers’ hangout in the 30s and 40s (perhaps because it was right across the street from the old Screen Writers Guild). Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Chandler were all regulars. In fact, Chandler reputedly wrote several chapters of The Big Sleep while sipping drinks in the old Back Room, which might explain why the plot of that novel was so convoluted that no one, including the author, could figure out who killed one of the characters when it was time for Howard Hawks to turn the book into a movie.

I always order the caesar salad and sand dabs—and a vodka martini, no vermouth, and as many olives as they’ll give me.

View from Sierra Towers

Sierra Towers

4. When Lynn goes to look at a possible apartment to move in to, I had a very specific building in mind: Sierra Towers.  Today, it’s a celebrity condo hi-rise. Apparently Matthew Perry, Rachel Zoe, Lindsey Lohan, and Cher have all owned units there. But I remember it from the 70s, when it was a rental building and my grandparents lived on one of the high floors. In those days, I was wowed by the fact that the tall ashtrays in front of the elevators always had an “S” written in the sand. I always wondered if they had a special stamp, or if someone went around drawing that “S” with their finger.

It’s a glitzier place today (I made up the lobby interiors—I haven’t been there since it went condo in 1974, but one thing hasn’t changed—the amazing views and the cool, apartment-long balconies from which to enjoy them.

I adore the Hotel Bel-Air, tucked away on Stone Canyon Drive—at least I used to. I admit, I’m a little afraid to see its latest renovation under the current owner, the Sultan of Brunei. I like to remember it the way it was when I was fortunate enough to spend the first night of my honeymoon there. For our first few anniversaries, my husband and I would go back to the Bel Air for brunch or dinner, sitting at one of the same, wonderful lagoon-side, pink-linen-covered tables where Lynn and her father have brunch. The food was good, but it was always more about the atmosphere. And the swans! (I don’t think I ever visited the bar when I was single, as Lynn does in the novel. I guess I believed that rumor she’d heard, that it was a haunt of upscale call girls.)

6. One of the joys of writing a novel is getting to play magpie with every place you've been, every person you've ever seen (or heard about!), every image that's crossed your path. I have zero talent when it comes to the visual arts (I even used to dread art project days when I volunteered in my children's kindergarten classes), but I love looking at art. It inspires my writing in an indirect way I can't quite explain. But several very different artists inspired me more directly when it came to making up the artwork described in my novel. 

Sophie Calle

Sophie Calle's work has long fascinated me. She does things like follow a man she's met at a party—all the way from Paris to Venice, disguising herself and documenting the whole thing with photographs. For the 2007 Venice Biennale she asked different women to comment on a break-up email sent by an ex-boyfriend. 

When my fictional artist, Jessica Klein, describes a "wedding hat" sculpture made of torn paper, I was thinking of a work by the Bay Area artist Nicole Phungrasamee Fein. While the fence paintings of a young German artist, Driss Ouadahi where in my mind for another of Jessica's pieces. Many thanks to Todd Hosfelt for introducing me to their work.

7. Not a place in the usual sense, but whenever I'm missing Los Angeles, and wanting a taste of its nutty Hollywood energy, I visit the Fug Girls at the fabulously witty website Go Fug Yourself . (Okay, let's just say that I often visit more than once a day.)