Archive for the ‘california’ Tag

Highway 1 Revisited – California recommendations

Easy-riding in Venice CA

Easy-riding in Venice CA

LA

sunset marquis hotel pool los angeles

Sunset Marquis hotel [Sunset & Alta Lomo]

Fun for its rock excess vibe/history and proximity to Sunset Strip, plus it’s something of an oasis despite being a stone’s throw from Sunset.

mels diner drive in sunset boulevard los angeles
Mel’s Diner [8585 Sunset + Hollywood & Vine]

Made this old school diner my office. Great for breakfast and lashings of ice tea on a scorching day. The table-top jukebox adds to the pleasure.

book-soup book store sunset boulevard los angeles

Book Soup [8818 Sunset]

A proper independent book store which is a joy to browse. Also has a bit of vinyl tucked down the back.

gjusta los angeles venice

Gjusta [320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA]

A bakery in an old boat factory – lots of exposed brick and Californian healthiness. Not cheap but fun to eat out back – in particular yoghurt & honey and beigels. Met a starlette here.

venice-canals-bridge los angeles venice

Venice Canals

Where Venice gets its name from and where Jim and The Doors got photographed. A tranquil backwater well worth a wander.

San Luis Obispo

boo-boo record shop san luis obispo

Boo Boo Records [Monterey St]

An absolute top record store with lashings of vinyl, new and second-hand. Total delight.

Big Sur

upper-creek-and-lower creek house big sur california

Deetjen’s – Upper Creek House

The quintessential cabin in the woods – off the grid, back to nature, cosy fire in the hearth (as opposed to the horror movie sort).

Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium_Kelp Forest

Monterey Aquarium

I’m not usually too in to such things but this is a real model for how to present nature and sea-life. Wondrous and beautiful.

Old Capitol Books [559 Tyler St]

Fine second-hand book store with a big selection and plenty of gems.

San Francisco

boogaloos valencia mission san francisco

Boogaloos [Valencia & 22nd]

Fun diner with staff who like comic books and stuff, in a striking Victorian building (old drugstore?).

baby blues bbq mission st mission san francisco

Baby Blues BBQ [3149 Mission St]

The real McCoy. Honest to goodness American food – great sauces and staff.

Biking the Bridge [Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito]

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge on a two-wheeled steed. Joyful and thrilling, especially when you’re being wind-blasted as you cross the bridge. Blazing Saddles was a good bike supplier and the name is irresistible of course – get 20% off by booking online, even on the day.

City Lights [Columbus & Broadway]

Perhaps a cliche of San Francisco …but who cares – a genuine book-lovers’ bookstore with, of course, an illustrious history. Live life to a different Beat.

City Lights 2015

City Lights 2015

City Lights 2004

City Lights 2004

Baby Blues BBQ

Baby Blues BBQ

The Last Hurrah (for Hollywood)

Charlie Chaplin Kid Auto Races at Venice 1914 little tramp

We left LA with two final movie things to delight us and cast a glittering light on the City of Angels. First, I found out that the apartment we were staying in – apart from being on the same street Jim (Morrison) used to live on – was adjacent to the location of the first movie in which Charlie Chaplin appeared as The Little Tramp. It is now a dog park but back in 1914 it was the site of the ‘Kid Auto Races at Venice’ where Mack Sennett produced a 6 minute short directed by Henry Lehrman. My second son has Charlie as a middle name in honour of Chaplin.

Last time we were in LA together (when he was 4) we were hosted by my Paramount friends at a house Chaplin had built for his mistress. This time (he is now 15) we enjoyed spotting various Chaplin traces around Venice (mostly murals) but it was only on our day of departure I found out in detail why they were there.

The other movie moment to adorn that day was when the same son spotted a face he recognised in the place we went en famille for breakfast, a bakery called Gjusta also in Venice, located in an old boat-building factory adjacent to Gold’s Gym of Arnie fame. It had been Arnold Schwarzenegger’s birthday the day before and by chance I spotted, when out running along the beach, that his image fills giant-size the wall behind Jim’s mural ‘Morning Shot’. So after a breakfast with a bit less raw meat than Arnie would be used to (Gjusta is pretty California nutty-crunchy), Enfant Terrible No. 2 spotted this hot girl he recognised from the big screen and I had the pleasure of seeing him pluck up the courage to speak to her, plan his approach and execute it cooly. She turned out to be Cody Horn from Magic Mike. Her father is chairman of Walt Disney Studios and was formerly president of Warner Bros. so I guess “How did you get into movies?” was not worth the asking. No, to be fair, she was very warm and charming and happy to be engaged in conversation, as well as plenty glamorous so she helped bring our LA stay to a perfect, fitting end.

cody_horn_actress

We drove out of Gjusta with the LA Road Songs CD aforementioned Paramount pals made for us on our Route 101 trip 11 years ago playing loud and headed North to do the reverse trip…

highway-101 ventura california USA

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine
You’re gonna go I know

‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air

Simple Pleasures – It happened in Monterey without thinking twice

Castro Canyon, Big Sur

Castro Canyon, Big Sur

Watching hummingbirds. Learning about nature. The way sea otters lie on their back (favour backstroke). Second-hand bookshops. Record stores in the USA. 60s book cover designs. Clam chowder. The sound of streams. Being naked in nature. Wood fires. Travelling as a family. Hippies. 70s American cars. Sandals when covered in dust. Eucalyptus trees. Strawberries. Watching waves. Watching surfers. God Only Knows. 

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

Kansas Girl

{22/7/15}

O

Kicked off the day at 06:45 in my office (third booth to right) at Mel’s Diner on Sunset, ready for a shoot north of LA [see LA Woman]. Nothing like a good diner omelette to get you fuelled up for porno production. The PA, Beatrice, picked me up and took a cool route out past Laurel Canyon onto the freeway. We picked up the producer-director, Ronan McCloskey, on the way.

We drove back to the gated community, the big innocuous house, and waited for the arrival of the ‘new girl’. She came through the white picket garden gate carrying her cloth bag of costumes which included an electric blue bra and various short dresses – none were used in the end, everything was selected for her by the boss-woman. Shortly after the boss-man arrived, casual in his jeans and T-shirt, looking relaxed, not at all thrown by the fact he was going to be nailing this 22 year old on camera within the hour.

We began shooting. As the producer-director was a bit short-handed and was self-shooting he asked me to do sound and then that morphed into doing the interviews. I had a ball – it’s been a while.

The wife&husband dynamic duo who were making this porno explained this was a very straight-forward kind – the Interview Video. The new girl gets interviewed, has some photos taken, does a “tease” (ie takes off her clothes) and then gets screwed on the couch (only two weeks old, shouldn’t we get some more easy to change covers?) The couch ends up getting covered in fake tan. The New Girl is wearing fake tan because she’s trying to cover up an injury from her first porno which was only 18 days ago. This is her fourth. Her knees are scabbed because she was doing a reverse cowgirl and got really bad friction burn off a rug. She’s done her best to disguise the wounds.

I get a chance to chat a bit by the pool before things start. She’s from the middle of the country and has flown to LA (her first visit) to do her debut five sessions of porn. She is using the money to pay her way through university. She wants to become a psychiatric nurse. She earns enough in this hour and a bit to outstrip two weeks normal work on double shifts.

Interesting details come out of the convo. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a stripper when I was quite fucked-up (in a good way) on my stag night, upstairs at El Parador. I can’t recall a word of that exchange (I couldn’t within two hours of it) but the vibe was similar to this. This New Girl has had body confidence issues. She doesn’t seem to see the probable connection with this new activity of taking all your clothes off, though I try to see if she’ll acknowledge the link.

She takes all her clothes off. Good body, even prettier face. The whole thing’s interesting to see – once. But somehow sad.

The stills are incredible – the boss-man/male performer is so close he must have the widest lens ever. From two inches from her arse how the hell is he getting her smiling face in?

When the time for sex arrives we withdraw to the other side of the white garage where the horses are. I read my book about Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks in the bright California sun, relieved to have a bit of another world and culture.

After the scene the boss-couple strip off the couch cover and I interview them. He has a natural gift for getting hard on camera and has a big dick. That’s how he got into porn while still a student in his native Europe. (She referred to this capability as “strong / strength” during our intro chat the day before.). She modelled, lost her clothes along the way, then felt the urge to have sex with guys like this on camera. She reads avidly and has a fine collection of books lying around the room in whose corner the fucking took place. She’s got a signed Richard Dawkins book of which she’s proud.

He is charming and friendly, animated and very helpful. She is pretty and practical, cares about story-telling and delights in her young family. I learnt a good lesson a while ago during my sabbatical about books and covers. This experience is related. I don’t feel compelled to make judgments moral or otherwise. These are decent people and they have a very professional attitude and pride. The same is true of the New Girl – she really wants to do a good job.

The second New Girl is postponed because the boss-man was feeling light-headed towards the end of the scene. The New Girl had talked during her interview for us about how she has clear boundaries about what she won’t do and she listed them – cream-pies (she politely explains what that is), group sex, ‘torture’, anal, etc. “Do you do anal in your own sex life?” asks the boss-man with disingenuous charm and out of the blue. She confirms she does. “I thought so.” “How did you know?” I asked with disingenuous charm. “I licked her ass-hole during the scene.” It was a point-of-view scene so he was filming it and licking away at the same time. It must be a bit like playing Twister. His question coming out of nowhere somehow punctured a veil of politeness or euphemism which us outsiders maintained. Anyhow, the second New Girl is coming tomorrow. Just as well, reckon I’d had enough for one day.

Watching and filming him saying goodbye to ‘Olivia’ was fascinating – slightly awkward given what they’d just been up to. We too took our leave and headed back to cold beer and guacamole out back of a Mexican on Sunset. An all-round exotic day…

LA Woman

{21/7/15}

Five Leaves Left : Nick Drake - back cover photo by Keith Morris

Five Leaves Left : Nick Drake – back cover photo by Keith Morris

Well, that was an interesting day. Got weirder and weirder. Started out from the rock-steeped Sunset Marquis hotel (shades of Joe Strummer and The Stones) past the Hockneyesque pool with my colleague Jody to explore the Sunset Strip. (Had already done half a day’s work in the overlap zone between PST and BST.) We checked out the Viper Room (I watched Running On Empty two nights ago and was reflecting on River Phoenix’s premature passing) and Whiskey-a-Go-Go (shades of Jim & The Doors). Pulled into an old-school bookstore and picked up some vinyl including Five Leaves Left, featuring a photo on the back by Keith Morris whose original hangs on our stairs at home.

[I’m writing this post at the junction of Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon (shades of Crosby and Young), driving out to a film shoot in Hidden Hills.]

Peeled off into Beverly Hills where we checked out residential LA with its fake-grass and fanciful flowers. Short pit-stop for an iced coffee where we people-watched – a male jogger with no top and tight lycra bottoms leaving nothing to the imagination, jogging being the operative word; a woman all in black with her friend all in white, Spy vs Spy, too old for their Porsche, faces distorted through Beverly Hills surgery. Then on to Melrose where we landed in the middle of a paparazzi ambush of Hollywood actress Hilary Duff, in a sheer shirt, carefully showing off her black lacy bra to the media collaborators (in this Princess Di style ‘accidental’ encounter going about her everyday business).

Hilary Duff photographed on Melrose Beverly Hills

So far so LA LA. Then we hook up with the director and PA of a short form series I’ve got shooting out here about the LA underworld. The PA can’t start her car without breathing into a breathalyzer device (very Lynchian) due to a past DUI. Every time she does a sharp manoeuvre, like rounding a tight bend, the thing goes off and she has to do a test on the fly. All a bit Blue Velvet.

[Now on Ventura Freeway, shades of America (the US band that made it big from Kentish Town). She’s sitting beside me now as I write, device across her lap.]

We head out for a meeting with our key interviewee, a porn star made good through the family-run porn business she’s set up  – both she and her hubby are leading stars. She’s pretty and delightful, lives in a gated community north of the city, loves reading and horses. She showed us around the house and facilities, all set up to be optimized for porn shooting – the pool, the living room, the out-buildings. Up in the office were the costumes – tiny skirts and huge heels. She shows us an 11-page script for a two and a half hour movie – the sex only takes up a line, the actors aren’t great with dialogue she explains. She opens the porn cupboard under the stairs – baby oil, condoms, hard drives, medication.

Back in the house we have a flowing chat which ranges from the impact of having a porn-star husband on their sex life (don’t ask if he’s done two scenes that day) to the two-weekly blood and urine tests (darn, there goes my hopes of a porn-star career, phobic about blood tests), from the reaction of her family to her vocation to her preference for working with only the four or five stars she actually fancies, from the rise of a Viagra generation of stars without the “strength” of the previous generation like her husband to her passage from nudie pics to porn films which she really felt a pull to do. She revealed that that cliché of young girl shows up in LA to became a starlet and drifts into porn is the wrong way round – girls with a bit of porn experience suddenly take up acting lessons and think why not take a crack at it. She described the experience of working with newbies who show up with a yeast infection, not fit for action, and little knowledge of their own bodies or sexual hygiene due to their roots in low socio-economic groups. All this over coffee at the dining table, not your everyday convo but a suitably weird adventure.

The crew and I repair to the bar of the Sunset Marquis to plan the shoot the next day. Two casting couch films. New girls. How LALA is that going to be …?

 neon sign man woman

Son of a Beach

michael shrieve woodstock santana soul sarcifice

I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking a small intersection one block back from Venice Beach in LA. It’s on Westminster Avenue. The names are European but the vibe is very much Californian. The last few stragglers coming back from the beach under the bright moon. The palm fronds swaying gently in a perfect cool breeze. A black dude with baseball cap at reverse 45 degrees is standing on the opposite corner under the Do Not Enter sign with his drum on a small trolley. That’s how a totally Venice evening got under way. I walked down to the beach with Mrs Simple Pleasures just after 6, only to hear the beat of the drums across the sand. We walked in the direction of the pulse and came across a circle of humanity, drumming together, dancing together, being together in the lowering sun. A stars’n’stripes fluttered above the Soul Sacrifice, see-through in the sunshine, adorned with an extra native American proud on his horse. A girl with waist-length curly hair in an electric pink bikini top and sheer sarong belly-danced with abandon. All manner of drums were beat with hands, with sticks, with plastered fingers. This is a regular gathering – Saturday and Sunday evenings – as the sun sets. A skinny bearded hipster danced a mad back-to-the-60s dance, moving weirdly but well, right to his shoulder joints. The sun drops behind distant hills but the beat goes on…

Mrs SP headed home, swopping places with Enfant Terrible No. 1 and we headed along the beach in the Santa Monica direction. At a stall we watched a fella scratching with languid fingers, playing the vinyl and the decks at moments with elegant flow which captured the power of that strangest of hip-hop inventions – playing the machines.

Our sunset promenade was punctuated by wafts of weed, sometimes from mysterious sources – a breath of sweet scent with no-one in range.

In search of coffee we came eventually to a cafe beside in a pub-like bar. From the bar came unexpectedly but so aptly the strains of Mr Mojo Risin’ – a Doors tribute band called Peace Frog. Another regular Sunday night happening. ET1 has got into the band in a big way in recent months so we sat&listened over drinks in the adjacent cafe, going more for an imaginative experience than a literal visual one. We discussed musicians and singers who died at 27 and he filled me in on the Amy doc I keep missing. We talked about fucking up your kids and what a good drummer his cousin has turned out to be. We strolled back with the shades of the Lizard King ghost-dancing about us. Oh, and there was a pale 12 foot long boa constrictor at one point. Camden Town-on-Sea. Everything Venice should be.

Mural by Rip Cronk (1991)

Morning Shot by Rip Cronk (1991)

LA LA Simple Pleasures

Some Simple Pleasures from LA…

A Bigger Splash (1967)

A Bigger Splash (1967)

Diner breakfasts. US bookstores. Vinyl LPs. Back in Black. People-watching in Beverly Hills. Weird shit. Juke boxes. God Only Knows. Ghosts of The Doors. Sunset Marquis hotel. Backless dresses. Smoking on the beach. Automobiles of the 50s and 60s. Short shorts. The colours of swimming pools.

The Empty Room

the candidate movie

Just finished watching ‘The Candidate‘ – the 1972 movie starring Robert Redford as a Democratic candidate for senatorial office in California. I thought it may be fun to watch given what’s going on over the water. Jeremy Larner picked up an Oscar for his original screenplay. One of the taglines for the movie was: “Too Handsome. Too Young. Too Liberal. Doesn’t have a chance. He’s perfect!” The other was: “Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in.” The former clearly has resonance with regard to Obama. You can feel the presence of JFK throughout the film – I kept waiting for Bill McKay to cop some lead – as it happens the worst thing that happens is a fist to that blonde waspy jaw. Whether the second tagline says anything about Hilary or Barack – who am I to say…

It was the end of the film that struck me most. It reminded me of that thing about your twenties. You spend all that effort finding a mate, you get hitched and think you’ve finished something, you’ve arrived, you’ve made it …and of course marriage, it’s just a beginning. I remember a similar realisation when we arrived home with our first son. Just back from the hospital, we put him down in the middle of the living room in his Moses basket. Sat looking at him for a bit. I went in to the bedroom. Realised some kind of radar had been switched on in my head and I was constantly thinking about how he was – wherever I was. It wasn’t the end of nine months – it was the beginning of nineteen years, or twenty-nine, or forever.

At the end of ‘The Candidate’ Robert Redford momentarily escapes from his victory celebrations, ducks into a room in the hotel with his campaign manager (played superbly by Peter Boyle – veteran of Steelyard Blues, Taxi Driver, Where the Buffalo Roam and the unjustly overlooked The Dream Team) and asks him the terrifying question: “What do we do now?”

Which, of course, is the exact same sentiment as Roger McGough’s ‘The Leader’, indeed pretty much exactly the same words (just two letters difference):

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

I’m not sure whether McGough wrote the poem before or after the movie was made – I can’t see it in 1967’s The Mersey Sound nor 1983’s New Volume which exhausts my collection of his pomes and makes me wonder where and when I know it from then.

So with the words “What do we do now?” echoing in the room, McKay walks out and closes the door leaving an empty, blank, off-white room behind him as he goes to realise his ‘better way’ – “Bill McKay: For a better way”. An empty room – and the credits roll.

Barack Obama: Where’s the harm, huh?

Hilary Clinton: Let the bint* in!

[* UK slang: Noun. A woman. From the Arabic ‘bint’ meaning girl or daughter.] (Yeh, well you try rhyming with ‘Clinton’)

So let’s hope, once Bush has withered away, that the room’s not empty, the cupboard’s not bare, there’s hope and there’s care.

The C Word

twin towers

Walking into work the other day I was delighted to be confronted by a proper demo. Not just a common or garden demo but a demo by a full-on, fully paid up Cult. The Moonies were outraged by Channel 4’s indelicate portrayal of their romantic mass wedding in My Big Fat Moonie Wedding. I stopped for a minute to talk to a boy who said he was 16 but looked less and asked him why he wasn’t in school – apparently he was on study leave. Yeah, chin Jimmy Hill chin – some people will believe anything …and others won’t. So I trotted up stairs and my colleagues in the immediate vicinity of the pile of papers formerly known as my desk were talking about the demo. Michael Palmer, business affairs man and fellow wearer of Adidas Chile 62s (fast becoming the unofficial uniform of the department), came up with a fabulous definition of religion: Religions are just cults that got lucky.

A couple of days earlier I’d gotten back from New York where I was speaking at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, presenting the Big Art Project to an international audience of telly-makers. I didn’t get down to Ground Zero (which I’ve never seen, haven’t been in NYC since before 9/11) but I was thinking about it and the absence on the skyline.

Just before I left for Noo Yoik, my very old friend Judyth Greenburgh was back in her native London for a few days sorting out her old pad in Camden Town. She now lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, California where we enjoyed a fabulous holiday stop-over the year before last on our way down Route 101. When Judyth worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, long, long ago before she headed West, her boss was a certain Paul Arden.

Yesterday morning I was at an engaging, lively facilitated discussion session on Blogging. It was chaired by James Cherkoff who I first encountered a couple of years ago at a New Media Knowledge conference at the Royal Society of Arts. Here is his Twitter picked up within moments of the finish by the organisation who’d employed him:

“I’ve just moderated a 4 hour session where I said four things and had to fight to get those in.”

Imagine there’s a salutory blogging lesson there somewhere.

So I’m walking out of said sesh at the Old Laundry in Marylebone and wander past the very cosy Daunt Books, can’t resist a quick pop-in and come across Paul Arden’s latest by-the-counter tome (the bookshop equivalent of supermarket check-out chocs). Since leaving Saatchi’s he’s been writing rather minimalist bookettes on Creative Thinking such as Whatever You Think Think the Opposite and It’s Not How Good You Are It’s How Good You Want to Be. When I was approached by some bizarre nascent outfit at ITV called Imagine about 18 months ago I read a couple of these to get me back into that zone (creative thinking theory) with which I hadn’t actively engaged that much since writing MindGym (with Tim Wright and Ben Miller). Arden’s latest is all about the Creator rather than creativity – God Explained in a Taxi Ride – and I was quite taken with the first page I opened it at – he suggested the best thing to put on Ground Zero was a big mosque. And I’m inclined to agree. And it really makes you think how thin on the ground Creativity is in political circles. I’ve no idea what Arden’s politics are and whether he’s of the ‘Labour isn’t Working’ era at Saatchi but you can’t help wondering how the world could be with a bit more left-field (whether left wing or not) thinking applied to the pressing problems (and opportunities) of our age…

%d bloggers like this: