Home to the rich and famous, specific adjectives come to mind when one thinks of LA, glamorous, hedonistic, decadent, to name but three, but what are the tricky truths about the City of Angels?
It’s not paradise
The LA we see depicted on TV seems like a perfect otherworld. On TV, everyone has perfect teeth, tits and tans. They all live in beautiful mansions with picture-perfect gardens, and children plucked from catalogues. The rich and famous of Hollywood are neatly sequestered away in privileged bubbles such as Beverly Hills. LA itself is a huge, sprawling city, and it’s rich and glitzy residents only make up a very minor percentage of its makeup.
You won’t see celebrities on every street corner
One of my guilty pleasures is celebrity gossip. I know far too many useless and random facts about celebrities that may only serve to reward me in trivial pub quizzes. I half-expected to see famous people everywhere, and actually I did spot a famous actor from Walk the Line at The Viper Room. They were also filming an episode of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend outside of my hostel.
But no, you won’t see Brad, Leo and Angelina slouching around on street corners. You may bump into a famous person, and there’s probably more chance that you will in LA than in any other city in the world, but it’s still not likely, and even if you did see a celeb, you probably wouldn’t even recognise them!
Everyone knows someone
The Uber scene in LA is very interesting, let me tell you that. Every driver seemed to have previously worked in the industry, and had some gossip to tell, usually about Tom Cruise. They told me who they liked and disliked. Who was a pain in the a** to work with, and who was good as gold. Everyone seems to have been an agent or producer or makeup artist to the rich and famous. It made my office job feel distinctly unglamorous by comparison.
Stars aren’t in everyone’s eyes
Tourists come to LA with a certain naivety that is palpable. There’s a fresh innocence to newcomers to the city that mark them out as targets to the sharks that begin to circle. Those that have been in LA for some time have a marked cynicism about them. They know that for every star that is made, another’s dreams are dashed. They also are familiar with the dirty underbelly of the city, it’s propensity for corruption and exploitation, and the harrowing working hours of those that have made it to the top.
The sun isn’t always out
I envisioned LA as an eternally sunny city, but the mornings tend to be grey and cloudy. By midday, the sun breaks out and the famous California sun works its magic, but it’s not sunny 24-7.
There are homeless people everywhere
Hollywood is a city of heartbreak. As with all of America, the issues of homelessness is ever-growing. There are homeless people absolutely everywhere, drawn to the West coast for its habitable heat. Where would you rather lay your head if you had to sleep outside, New York or LA?
You don’t need a car
I was forewarned as someone that doesn’t drive that you can’t navigate LA without a car of your own. I found this untrue. Yes, LA is huge, and everything is spaced out, but as well as Uber, there is an excellent public transport system, the buses and Metro are really not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. You may need a car if you live in LA, but if you’re on holiday, it’s not essential.
LA is coasting on its heyday
LA was arguably at its prime between the 50s and 70s, when stars at their Xenith were trotted out to the masses. This was before paparazzi became true parasites. Today’s LA is downtrodden, gritty and a little ugly, although you can still feel the faint throb of a pulse that brought us Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. Even the sunset strip lacks the glamour it possessed in it’s 80s-90s prime.
It’s not pretty
I loved LA, but it is not a pretty city. There is a grottiness to it, that arguably most cities possess. It’s certainly ‘lived in’ and it’s seen some things. The ugliness of LA is part of what appeals. It’s not beautiful, but it has character. It truly isn’t like any other city.
LA is its own microcosm
Love it or hate it, LA is highly self-sufficient. It is what it is, and it doesn’t really care to impress you, in fact, it expects you to impress it. I really enjoyed my time in LA, every dirty day, every tasty taco and every salacious street. Enjoy the petri-dish of perversion that LA is, put on an old Hollywood movie, and think back to better days.
All my love