A Climb on the Hollywood Sign

Our son could have chosen to live anywhere.  He’s personable and well-educated.  Of all the places he chose to live, he chose southern California.

Now, I’m not one of those narrow Midwesterners who associates Los Angeles—the “City of Angels”—with all things evil.  I know all about the goofy liberalism, Botox, taxes, crime, homelessness, air pollution, traffic congestion, and everything else that makes this neck of the country so disreputable.

But I choose to concentrate on the positive. This includes year-round sunshine.  Ocean surf and beaches.  Great restaurants.  Beautiful and historic homes. A hundred years of high-quality motion pictures (aka films, aka movies).  Classic rock ‘n’ roll. And what red-blooded American male doesn’t like California Girls!

So here are a few pics from our recent vacation to visit our son in one of the most golden places in the Golden State. Come along if you dare!

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First is the header picture, a photo of the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, site of the famous 1955 “youth” picture starring, among others, James Dean and Natalie Wood: Rebel Without a Cause. I did an 8 or 9-mile hike through Griffith Park. The views were stunning: Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the San Fernando Valley on the other.

At the other end of the park is the famous Hollywood Sign. I climbed up Mt. Lee to reach this point. It’s one of the world’s great symbols, 45-foot-tall white capital letters that overlook the buzzing hub of the world film industry. Originally spelled “Hollywoodland” to advertise a realty firm, the most significant letter for me is the Peg Entwistle memorial “H.” (To learn what happened, click here.)

We also visited Venice Beach and nearby Santa Monica Pier. Venice Beach is noteworthy not only for it’s expansive beach and vagabond, free-spirited spirit, it’s also where Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek accidentally met one day in 1965 and conceived one of my favorite bands, The Doors. “Moonlight Drive” was in my head.

My son Nick and I visited the enclave of Hawthorne, home of the Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis, and Carl), who formed the Beach Boys in 1961. Their house was demolished to make room for a freeway, but a plaque commemorates where it all started.

Would a trip to Los Angeles be complete without a jaunt to Sunset Boulevard and the haunts of some of the greatest rock music bands in history? I think not. We visited Ciro’s, where The Byrds invented folk-rock and dominated the pop music world for a while, although the venue is now a comedy club. I also visited the former site of Bido Lito’s, on Cosmo Alley, where another fave band, Love, ruled the local underground scene for a short while in 1965-66.

Then there’s the Whisky-a-Go-Go, where The Doors gained notoriety before their revolutionary first album, released 1967. (The Doors being heavily influenced by Love.)

Hollywood Walk of Fame? Sure! And I finally got to meet my favorite actor, the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, and my favorite actress, the very naughty B-movie star, Gloria Grahame.

But the best part of all is visiting with family. Lynn and I capped off our SoCal sojourn with stunning seafood, thanks to our son and tour guide Nick and his girlfriend Elsa, at Moonshadows in Malibu, where the ocean waves literally lapped the restaurant.

Other visits included Laurel Canyon, famed hippie and music enclave of the ’60s and early ’70s; Robin Drive and Poinsettia Place, which featured in the classic Peter Sellers movie The Party (click here for a review); views of both Warner Brothers and Disney studios and the cylindrical Capital Records building; Doug Weston’s famed Troubadour club; and a lunchtime visit to legendary burger joint In-N-Out Burger.

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Thanks so much for joining me in my travelogue of Los Angeles, California! As Jim Morrison once sang, “This is the end, beautiful friend.”

11 thoughts on “A Climb on the Hollywood Sign

  1. A great trip. Last time I was at Griffith Park I caught a brief glimpse (the best kind) of a mountain lion on one of the trails below. And was strangely moved by the fir tree that George Harrison planted near the entrance to the Observatory. And the vintage guitar room at the Hollywood Guitar Center is filled with slobber-worthy treasures. My guide, my nephew, is a gold-record-awarded LA guitarist who says (this was ten years ago or so) that he often sees Roger McQuinn noodling around on the 1920s Martin acoustics there. But no luck on my trip ( though a year is so later he did two hour gig for an audience here in Chapel Hill that was one of the best concerts I ever heard).

    • Roger (Jim) McGuinn!! Someone I really admire, for co-inventing folk-rock, psychedelic rock, country rock, and his signature Rick 12-string sound. I got his autograph when he did a solo show at a suburban Cincinnati street fair, and there were maybe 30 people total in front of the stage. For a legend!

      Didn’t know about Harrison’s fir tree, or I’d have squatted there a while.

      Mountain lion? What a thrill. I heard they were in them thar hills. We came close to that thrill, in Tucson last week, when we saw a bobcat out back of the house we rented. Supposedly they’re very shy.

      Thanks, David! (and please email me your phone #, for when I get up into NC…coming soon to a trail near you)

  2. Looks like a great trip. Good on you for visiting Steve McQueen. I love SoCal. Was stationed at March AFB near Riverside 1979-81 and lived in the desert.

  3. Pedro and Lynn, Looks like you two hit the So Cal Motherload! Well done on the story of a fulfilling (what a) trip. I hope the AZ leg went just as well!

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