Observing Los Angeles

Seeing L.A. for the first time

Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and music critic for Commentary, hits cleanup in the lineup at one of my favorite multi-blog cultural websites, ArtsJournal. Somehow he got this far in life without any on-the-ground familiarity with Los Angeles. This week he is visiting for the first time and struggling to make sense of what he sees. He's staying at Hotel Angeleno, the converted circular Holiday Inn smack beside the 405 in Brentwood, and found the route there from LAX a "short, anonymously ugly drive." Here's an excerpt from his first jet-lagged post; I'm hoping he gets some sleep, leaves the stereotypes in his room and has some fun in future posts.

Iím sitting in a room on the fourteenth floor of a boutique hotel in Brentwood, looking at a deceptively familiar skyline and seeingÖnothing. Iíve only been in Los Angeles for one day, not nearly long enough to pierce the haze of half a lifetimeís worth of representation. The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, L.A. Confidential, L.A. Story, even Dragnet: all these fictional portrayals of the Unreal City stand between me and the thing itself, preventing me from seeing what Iím seeing.....

Iíd already been struck by how flat and uninviting Los Angeles looks when viewed from the window of an airplane, but Iím hoping that my tour guide will help me see the beauty of this strange place....Steph and I launched my visit to the City of Angels by dining at the Westwood In-N-Out Burger (mmmm!) and seeing the Geffen Playhouseís revival of Speed-the-Plow, David Mametís ferociously satirical play about the movie business, in which Alicia Silverstone has been cast in the role created on Broadway in 1988 by Madonna. Iíd say that was a real Los Angeles evening, wouldnít you?

Seen at ArtsJournal: The USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship Program is taking applications from "mid-career journalists." Seven will come to Los Angeles for a three-week residency (May 20 to June 10, 2007) and work with "Studio 360" radio host Kurt Anderson "and be exposed to a wide variety of people and perspectives in the arts." Info


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