Sunset Boulevard. Along with Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, this is the street all tourists want to see when they come to Los Angeles. So as a tour guide I am duty bound to take busloads of out-of-towners along Sunset, usually after visiting Hollywood Boulevard on the way to Rodeo Drive. But I guess not seeing Sunset Boulevard would be like visiting London for the first time and missing out on Oxford Street.
So I decided it would be fun to walk along Sunset at a slower pace than hurtling by in the motor coach and take the time to look at a building or two.
My friend and I started out from Culver City on a beautiful February morning. The temperature was forecast to be in the low 80s F (approximately 27C). A little warm for walking but better than rain.
We took the Metro bus #733 to La Brea and Venice, then the #212 up to Sunset. A good starting point as in the tour bus we usually turn left on to La Brea after leaving Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. I know the theater has changed names again but sorry, to me, as to most people in Los Angeles, it will remain Graumann’s—there is no other possible name. The Kodak can be the Dolby, no problem, it doesn’t have the history. But Graumann’s is Graumann’s—enough said!
Anyway, I mentioned to my traveling companion that we should run into Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream a few steps up La Brea off Sunset just to take a peek at some of the more unusual ice cream flavors such as Rosewater and Lavender. Of course, we had to buy something and as we were deciding I looked up and did a double take. My friend Trish Procetto was on the other side of the counter scooping ice cream. For a second I thought maybe she had a second job!
Then I realized she and her husband, Matt Rubenstein, were running one of their foodie tours with their company, Tourific Escapes. LA is such a huge city that it isn’t easy to run into people you know. On the other hand it was Trish who introduced me to this parlor in the first place on one of her tours.
After that encounter and on a sugar high, we set off on our adventure walking west towards the ocean (albeit that would be a long walk indeed if we made the whole trip, about 14 miles following Sunset to Pacific Coast Highway).
The first camera stop was at Guitar Center where any guitarist worth his or her salt reportedly buys equipment before going on the road. There is a Rockwalk in the foyer. I don’t know if you have to be a customer to get your handprints immortalized in cement or merely famous. But some of the names I saw were Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills and Joe Cocker. The band Queen is there sans Freddie, although he is memorialized with a hand that looks like it is poking up through the cement.
The side streets offer a nice view of the Hollywood Hills to the north.
This Romanesque building is home to Bonham & Butterfields, one of the largest (if not THE largest) auction houses in the world. Bonhams was founded in London in 1793 and Butterfields was founded in California during the Gold Rush in 1895. That is some history. I think being an auctioneer would be a fun job and certainly more lucrative than a being a tour guide!
Fierce Entertainment LLC is located in this lovely two-story Beaux Arte-ish brick building.
And looking up this side street, do you see that circular mansion at the top of the hill in the center of the photo, just under the palm tree frond? Well, I blew it up for you! That is owned, as far as I know, not by some famous movie star, but by the guy who made millions by inventing the tool belt. Why didn’t I think of that?
A beautiful example of a Star Ice Plant found all over southern California, sometimes in unexpected places.
Villa Rosa apartments. A 680 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment goes for about $1,349 a month.
Villa Rosa courtyard.
The Director’s Guild building. If you are a Hollywood director of any consequence you get invited to join for, I believe, a $25,000 initiation fee. Almost the same price as a large tub of popcorn at your favorite movie theater.
The Laugh Factory. Supposedly so named because Groucho Marx owned the building when he was churning out all those jokes for his show and when Jamie Masada opened his club he wanted to honor Groucho. With all the billboards you can barely see the beautiful building underneath, but I guess that isn’t the point, is it?
Detail of the decorative plaster work.
When we crossed the street to go to Greenblatt’s Deli this older gentleman pulled up and parked his mint condition Cadillac convertible. I’m not a car person but I think it said El Dorado on the rear. 1970s? 1980s? I don’t have a clue.
We stopped at Greenblatt’s for lunch. I ordered my favorite dish: the scalloped potatoes. They are without doubt the yummiest scalloped potatoes anywhere in the universe.
My friend ordered the meat knish. She was picking at her meal so I asked what was wrong. She said, where’s the meat? I looked at it and to me it looked like the potato knish. So she asked the waitress if she had mistakenly brought the potato knish. No, that was the meat knish—but she said a lot of people complain because they can’t find the meat in it. Duh!!!!
Next up was the Chateau Marmont Hotel built in the style of a French chateau. You can’t see too much from the street. That was used to advantage by the Hollywood studios when they needed a place for their misbehaving talent to stay hidden away. I was amused to see the Starline Tours bus and the TMZ tour van (at left in the photo) stopped outside the hotel , no doubt telling lurid tales about past guests, true or false.
Entrance to the Marmont.
Stepping over the border and out of the City of Los Angeles.
Carney’s is a hot dog and burger restaurant in a Union Pacific rail car installed on Sunset Boulevard in the mid 70s. It is famous for good hamburgers and hot dogs, neither of which I eat so I can’t vouch for this!
Sunset Tower, in the Art Deco, Zig Zag Moderne style opened in 1931. It was the residence of many celebrities, including John Wayne, Howard Hughes and Truman Capote.
Saddle Ranch Chop House. As we passed by a couple of friendly waitresses asked us to come on back for happy hour during the week… that sounds like a good idea! But I think I will pass on riding the mechanical bull, thank you!
Another view of the homes in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, movie stars do live in the Hollywood Hills. I do a lot of different kinds of tours, not all of them in a tour bus and not all of them anywhere near Hollywood. But the number one question on the “see Los Angeles in four hours or less” tours is where do the movie stars live and will we see any? I get it. It’s like visiting Alaska and you want to see bald eagles!
The Comedy Store was opened in April 1972. This is where I first heard an unknown comedian by the name of Robin Williams. He changed characters so fast I couldn’t keep up and I remember laughing until it hurt.
House of Blues. The Los Angeles venue is covered in tin from a gin mill in the Mississipi Delta.
Piazza del Sol, also known as Hacienda Arms Apartments and Coronet Apartments. Mediterranean or Italian Renaissance Revival style structure was built in 1927. In the 1930s, it became a famous brothel and now houses the respectable offices of Miramax Films.
Pink Dot is a grocery delivery service. Until I looked it up online I always thought it was a yogurt store! I love the little VW waiting patiently to make a delivery.
View looking down the hill into the City of Los Angeles towards Wilshire and La Cienega. If you think San Francisco has steep hills, think again. I drove a stick shift for 30 years (including around San Francisco) but this hill is a clutch killer and I avoided it like the plague. I still won’t drive up to Sunset at this end with my automatic transmission as I don’t trust it not to roll back down the hill!
Mel’s Drive-in was formerly Ben Franks (get it?), serving famous people like the Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol. One of the last remaining “Googie”-style architecture restaurants in the LA area, it has been featured in countless television shows and movies since its opening in 1997. This guitar honors Stevie Nicks. There are guitar sculptures like this all over West Hollywood and some other time I will write a blog post about that.
Mutato Muzika is a music production company established in 1989 by Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh. The architecture always reminds me of an automobile air filter although I believe it was supposed to be a smaller-scale homage to the Forum in Inglewood.
At this point I had to put my camera away, although we continued our walk for a mile or so through Beverly Hills. The day before I had strained my hip lifting an awkward object out of my car. I didn’t realize how much I had injured myself until I started walking and even lifting the camera to take pictures or walking up a small incline became too much.
We had walked for several blocks further along Sunset through the residential area with mansions and palaces when I begged to stop at the next bus stop. I was so relieved to see the MTA #2. At UCLA we transferred to the Santa Monica bus #12 to Culver City. The Big Blue Bus is not yet capable of accepting the TAP card which is extremely annoying as for that bus I have to dig for change. The Culver City Bus and many other small city bus companies take it (along with the MTA, of course). When will SaMo get on board?
We arrived in Culver City and my friend had a hankering for sushi, so how could I say no? We stopped at the Sake House just a couple of blocks from my house so I didn’t have a long walk home. I ordered the Gangster Roll and a small bottle of sake… and soon I didn’t feel my hip at all!
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