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Scott's L.A.™ Article:  The "Real" L.A.

There are a lot of great stories about L.A. & Hollywood – some of them are actually true.  Knowing which is which, well, that’s another matter.  But like a good mystery, the truth is usually hidden in plain sight.

Everybody “knows” that L.A. is a plastic town full of superficial people who are only obsessed with body-image, strange food, and making it in “The Business” (Hollywood).  It must be true, I’ve seen it on The E! True Hollywood Story, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and in countless movies & TV shows.  Some of these stories may be true, but they’re not the only stories in town.  They do, however, play well on TV and in the movies -- glamour, gangs, car chases, and broken dreams.

OK, Reality Check:   This is home to “The Entertainment Industry,” a business based on image, illusion, and self-promotion.  It’s a very visible industry, but it’s an extremely small portion of the population.  Most of the people in it are so focused on surviving in “The Business” that they don’t really understand the outside world.  These are ALSO the same people who put these stories on TV and in the movies, so they’re essentially telling you stories about themselves.

It’s a common joke in town that most of these people have never been south of Wilshire Boulevard or east of Burbank, and have no idea what’s out there.  But make no mistake, “The Business” also has thousands of the most creative and hard-working people on the planet.

Those are major keys to understanding L.A. – “creative” and “hard working.”  We do love to play.  After all, we’ve got great weather, wonderful beaches, and good surfing.  But consider surfing for a moment.  We’ve taken it from a pleasant pastime and into a multi-million dollar industry known all over the world.  Check out the International Surfing Museum down in Huntington Beach where you can also see the surfing championships down by the pier.

We’ve also created Disneyland, the granddaddy of all theme parks, the Apollo moon rockets, the SR-71 “Blackbird,” stealth airplanes, and the Space Shuttle.  To go a little further out, we’ve created the Voyager, Cassini, and Magellan spacecraft, as well as the Mars rovers, which you can see at NASA/JPL in Pasadena.  The creativity and effort required to accomplish these things are staggering.

But it’s the glitzy image of L.A. that most people seem to know.  When friends from all over the world have come to visit, their reactions are amazingly similar, particularly about Hollywood:  “Hey, this ISN’T what I expected!”  It’s amusing to see that they’re almost disappointed at how “normal” we are.  The truth is that most of us simply get up every day, get our kids ready for school, and go to work at “regular” jobs.  And work is a 24 hour a day fact of life in L.A.  That’s different from what people are used to seeing on TV, but daily life isn’t glamorous, beautifully photographed, carefully edited, or backed by a hot soundtrack.

L.A. is also one of the most diverse cities on the planet.  Our Hispanic history is everywhere, and you’ll find Chinatown, Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Little Saigon, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, and people from Russia, India, Tibet, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa to name just a few.  It’s a feast for the ear, the eye, and the palette -- there’s great food everywhere!  More important, you’ll find this diversity throughout Southern California, not just in specific areas.  One of the greatest forces that shapes creativity here is the diversity of people and ideas.

It’s also important to understand that all of us who live here know L.A. differently depending on where we live, where we work, who our friends, family, and co-workers are, and what our personal interests are.  Our tours are based on the L.A. that I know.  They weren’t designed to just show you “things,” but to give you a sense about “us.”  That’s why we frequently guide you off of the main streets and into the neighborhoods.  We strongly urge you to stop at places that interest you, get out of your car, walk around & explore, and more important, meet the “locals” and ask questions.

My family has lived in the same neighborhood for 100 years.  This 1918 photo shows my Grandfather and my Mom (2 years-old, in the passenger seat) in front of our old home.  It’s still there, I grew up in that house, it’s just a few blocks from where I live now.

Historic Photo of L.A. old time car with Scott's Grandfather and Mom as a child.

But even “locals” who have been here for generations don’t know everything about L.A.  That’s an impossible task and things are always changing.  I’m constantly learning new things from my friends, news sources, museums, docents, websites, and books.  And there are still places in L.A. I’ve never seen.

To learn more for yourself, check out our Links & Maps.  I also highly recommend the paperback book, Sunset Boulevard: Cruising the Heart of Los Angeles.  It’s a “fun read,” it starts at Olvera Street (the beginning of L.A.) and ends at the Pacific Ocean.  Great history, great photos, and it gives you a good sense of who we are.  (Did you know that L.A. is the final resting place of Mahatma Ghandi?)  This is a fine book to read before you come here, and a wonderful keepsake after.
So, what IS the “Real L.A.?”  It’s in plain sight, it’s everywhere, it’s just not all that obvious.  It’s in the architecture of those fine old buildings you drive by quickly.  It’s in the faces of the people who help you in stores, restaurants, or sitting next to you on the bus as they go to work.  Most of all, the “Real L.A.” is the spirit of the people here.  It has always attracted people with dreams of creating new businesses or new lives for their families, the idea that you can achieve anything here.  The results of those dreams are in spacecraft now in deep space, on movie screens, in more mundane places like In-N-Out Burger, and in every small “Mom & Pop” store around town.
We work hard, we play hard, and above all, we love to laugh.  And we laugh at ourselves as much as anything else.  We laugh & cheer when Hollywood destroys L.A. in movies like the 1953 War Of The Worlds, Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow, or Volcano

Downtown L.A. destroyed by Aliens

Like most Americans, we seem to be at our best in the face of disasters – natural or otherwise – and our humor always seems to be there.  My favorite image was a sign hand-painted on a building damaged by the Northridge Earthquake.  It said: 

Welcome to L.A. 
Some Assembly Required

Like all great cities of the world, L.A. has its problems and its dangers.  Change is a constant here and change frequently brings frustration.  Sometimes because it comes too fast, other times because it comes too slowly.  It’s said that you can’t fix problems, only manage them.  When you visit L.A., you need to manage your visit in order to feel safe and comfortable about where you are.  This will vary from person to person.  If you have any doubts or questions about where to go, ask friends or family, ask the people where you’re staying, or even ask the local police.  Ultimately, you’re the judge of what’s best for you.
Finally, if all you see in L.A. is what we guide you to in the Scott’s L.A. tours, you’ll have a wonderful time and see things most visitors miss.  Personally, I recommend that you think of our tours as “starting points.”  Once you have your bearings and see “the basics,” we hope you go out and discover your own L.A.
As I write this, the sun is coming up on a glorious Spring morning that Raymond Chandler should be describing, not me.  There’s a cool breeze, but the radio says it’s going to be hot later today.  The air is crystal clear, the mountains are dark purple, you can count the individual antennas on top of Mt. Wilson, the birds are beginning to call to each other, and the thick, sweet smell of Spring flowers is coming in through every window.
A lot of my friends arrive in town on hot, smoggy Summer days.  They’ve just survived the hell of rush hour on the freeways coming from LAX, then they look at me with wide eyes and ask, “How can you LIVE here?!?!”
At those moments I don’t even try to describe mornings like this, but those of us who live here understand.  And, today, the L.A. beaches are going to be spectacular!

Scott, your tour guide through Los Angeles' Hollywood and Pasadena.
Spring 2007  

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