A few years ago I was at a salsa club and some snotty New Yorker told me that LA’s clubs were few and mediocre, that New York was soooo much better. I reminded her that there were like eight other salsa clubs packed with dancers that Tuesday night. She didn’t know anything about that.
And many people don’t know that two of the greatest Russian composers lived blocks away from each other in Beverly Hills. Rachmaninov, that great purveyor of 19th Century Russian romanticism, died in Beverly Hills in 1943. Igor Stravinsky, who destroyed that template and brought in the 20th century with The Rite of Spring in 1913, lived a few blocks away from Rachmaninov at 1260 North Wetherly Drive in West Hollywood. Charlie Parker, before setting his mattress on fire in a hotel on Central Avenue and then relaxed at Camarillo State Hospital, went by the Wetherly home to try to meet Stravinsky, but the diminutive composer only came to the door as the car was leaving.
Meanwhile, Blaise Cendrars, the French writer, was living in and writing about Hollywood. The great filmaker Luis Buñuel stayed here but didn’t stay long: he didn’t like Hollywood at all. German playwright Bertold Brecht was living in Brentwood–before being chased out of the U.S. by Joseph McCarthy–the great novelist Thomas Mann was living in Brentwood, too. I once read that Brecht didn’t ever bathe, constantly smoked cigars in his 25th Street home without ever opening the windows, and as a result his house smelled pretty bad. That being said, I’ve always wondered why women were so attracted to him.
Meanwhile, Arnold Schoenberg was teaching his serial composition and technique at UCLA. And, finally, the great Viennese architect Richard Neutra was designing dream houses that would forever define the architectural landscape of LA.
So please, please, don’t ever tell me that LA doesn’t have history or culture. It’s all around us, waiting to be discovered. Contest, see if you can name who’s who in these pictures!