Time capsule: A 1970 magazine on the 'good life in the Hollywood Hills'

holiday-mag-screenshot.jpgThe April 1970 story in Holiday magazine by John Weaver, a prolific writer on Los Angeles at the time, sought to delight Americans with tales of "the cliff dwellers [who] cling precariously to the brush-covered slopes of the Hollywood hills, sharing the common perils of fire and flood." He drops the names of celebrities who dwell in the canyons, mentions that Mary Pickford still resides behind a wall of privacy, and includes a picture of Mama Cass Elliott of the Mamas and Papas with her young daughter. Weaver offers the highlights of the major canyons and also educates his readers about the San Fernando Valley, the sprawl on the far side of the hills.

Read the whole thing — here's a sample:

In the late fall, when the humidity drops and a warm wind whips through the canyons, the hills may suddenly explode with flame. In the rainy season, when the naked cliffs crack and slide, the mortgaged wickiups come tumbling down. But the true cliffdweller always returns to his wildlife refuge. He trades in his charred Porsche, patches his pool, rebuilds his house-with-a-view and again settles down to enjoy the comforts of his mountain lair.

He has the best of two urban worlds. He is minutes away from the city’s offices, shops and restaurants, but when his day’s work is done, he comes home to down his tot of gin in a green and private place where ruby-throated hummingbirds flutter in the bottle-brush and quail skitter across his lawn. Mule deer drink from his pool and foxes feed from his garbage pail. His children are turned loose to climb trees, collect snakes and chase rabbits.

“We who live in our peaceful hills will enjoy the contrast of this feverish machine-age-minded picture,” the editor of the Canyon Herald smugly commented in reviewing Chaplin’s Modern Times in 1936, and a generation later, visiting New Yorkers still marvel to find defectors from the East Seventies living within walking distance of the Beverly Hills Hotel and awakening at night to the keening of coyotes. One canyonite had to stop using an electric blanket because a family of raccoons would sneak through his cat door on cold nights and curl up on his bed….


The cliffdwellers are less troubled by smog than the flatlanders spread across the San Fernando Valley floor, and less rigidly bound by convention. The valley is a straight, neatly bar­bered world of Rotary luncheons and American Legion essay contests. It is the butt of hill-country humor (cur­rent sample: “How old should a child be before his parents tell him he lives in the valley?”).

A throwback to the 1880’s, when God-fearing, midwestern asthmatics and dirt farmers crowded into emi­grant trains bound for the New Eden, San Fernando is a jumble of tract homes built on old beanfields and walnut groves. The owners tend to be middle-class conservatives unashamed­ly in love with the aging boy next door, Ronald Reagan. In the hills, especially in the uninhibited reaches of Laurel Canyon and Beverly Glen, sports cars tool around, flaunting the impudent bumper sticker, HAPPINESS IS A NEW GOVERNOR.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Place stories on LA Observed:
'In on merit' at USC
Olde-time L.A. journalism
New seasons of SoCal Connected, Lost LA on KCET
Bimini Baths in 1927
Four lion kittens found and tagged in Simi Hills
Vivid memories of the Ambassador Hotel, RFK and Donald Trump
Your Facebook info and the Trumps-Russians. OJ speaks. So much more.
Nate 'n Al's in play, sexual abuse of swimmers, cougar kills horse