I vividly recall my first trip to Los Angeles. I was around ten or eleven years old and my parents took us down the California coast during summer vacation. We started in San Francisco and took the train down to Monterey and Carmel, LA and we finished up in San Diego. Being the little television and movie addicts that we were, my brother and I were greatly looking forward to our time in Los Angeles—we had stars in our eyes, if you will.
So the train rolled into the station in LA and we hopped right off ready for action. As I am sure you can imagine, the Los Angeles train depot wasn’t exactly a country club. To be perfectly honest, it was one of those places where one feels they need vaccinations to enter. However, as far as my brother and I were concerned the Coast Starlight train from Monterey and Carmel was very pretty for the first half hour, but one can only see so many craggy ocean-side cliffs and sea lions before one grows quite bored. We were ready to run around like wild hoodlums for a while.
The taxi drive to our hotel was...bracing. I’ve heard the horror stories about the LA freeways and I’ve even had occasion to drive them once or twice and they weren’t the best time I ever had, but our cab driver seemed to be intent on scaring the bejeezus out of us. I’m not 100% certain that the fella spoke English and he seemed as though he would have been more comfortable on the life and death streets of Rome instead of a place where travel lanes were actually demarcated. Poor Dad had the misfortune of being stuck in the front seat and the only other noise from the racing engine was him stomping the imaginary passenger brakes we’ve all been guilty of using once in a while.
As I am sure you can imagine, my parents’ nerves were shredded by the time we arrived at the Beverly Hills Sands—or whatever it was called. There were several functions going on at our hotel, including some sort of party with a red carpet walk. Ethan and I hopped out of the car and who was the first person we saw? Little Richard!!!
Yes, I know, Little Richard is a bit of a downer when it comes to celebrity sightings, but we were young and fresh off of the turnip truck. We excitedly grabbed onto Dad’s arm to show him our amazing discovery, but it was a bit windy and we caused the $20 bill Dad was paying Dale Earnhardt the cab driver to go floating off into the wind never to be seen again. Now, take a moment to think about the fact that a $20 in those days was equivalent to probably around $50 today.
Suffice it to say that our father was not amused. I can’t even look at a picture of Little Richard to this very day. You can furthermore infer that the rest of our time in Los Angeles did not improve (and I’m not even mentioning the after party for the porno film across the hall from our room).
Flash forward about twenty years or so: I flew out to visit my brother who was living in LA at the time. My recollections about the town were intertwined with the no-so-happy memories of my only other visit. I started to have misgivings on the plane ride out there. I am not a good flier and about three hours on a plane is the most I can manage. I kept looking down and seeing desert and our pilot kept coming on the speaker saying that it would “be another hour or so.” I swear to you that I was seconds before asking for a parachute and walking the rest of the way.
The fight through LAX and the rental car place was a bitch and I was quite the bitch myself by the time we got to the hotel. Right before I started fussing about something else, I realized that I was channeling my father and I needed to step back, take a look at the situation and attack it from the perspective of a Southern Belle.
I hate like the devil to be trite, but I am Olympic shopper and, if I calmed down and thought about it for a moment, I was in my own personal Mecca. Melrose was a blast and Fred Segal was a complete trip, but the moment I stepped one toe onto Rodeo Drive, a chorus of angels sang. Apparently, a little Southern grace goes a long way at Versace, Vuitton, Weitzman and Chanel—everyone was so darned friendly!
Before you get all excited, there was no “Pretty Woman” stroll. I didn’t end up like Julia Roberts with fifty bags hanging off of my arms and a theme song playing as I walked triumphantly down the street. Also, in complete contrast to the Julia Roberts experience, all of the sales people were just as friendly and chatty as they could be. It was mind-blowing, but Rodeo was like a little slice of the South in sunny California.
Oh okay, fine...I bought one little purse and maybe one or two pairs of shoes.
Trips to Los Angeles as a Southern Belle are much more fun--even when the credit card company calls your husband and alerts him to "suspicious activity on the account."