1. BE A FREAK of nature, i.e., wear a size six or smaller. If this is not your situation, bribe a sales woman so she will put aside that rare eight, ten, twelve or fourteen for you when it comes in. Remember that a fourteen from the fifties fits a contemporary eight. You can always go on a diet.

2. DO NOT dress vintage from head to toe unless you want to look like Eliza Doolittle or a cast member of "Happy Days."

3. BEFRIEND a good tailor, but never butcher a classic.

4. PURCHASE DVDs of the following, and study closely:

THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962), for Doris Day's Norman Norell beige raincoat with black leather collar and buttons;
BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), for Theodora van Runkle's genius; and
EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978), for kinky Helmut Newton tableaux.
Recommended, but optional: THE WOMEN (1939) and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967).

5. ANIMAL prints never go out of style. Norma Kamali did them best.

6. DO NOT BE shy about asking for a discount. Say "Let's split the difference," or "What's the best you can do on this?" or "You've got to be out of your mind to ask $600 for this Rudi Gernreich jersey dress with sweat stains!" Remember, in many cultures, bargaining is a form of entertainment.

7. SWEAT stains can be sponged with a fifty-fifty vinegar and water solution, but don't hold your breath.

8. BUYING vintage online is like playing the slots in Vegas. Not recommended for the faint of heart.

9. A BOLERO can make an outfit. Ask any bullfighter. Or Yves St. Laurent or Geoffrey Beene. Ostrich feathers are particularly good. The bulkier on top, the sleeker on bottom. It's an optical illusion, but beggars can't be choosers.

10. OSSIE CLARK, Ossie Clark, Ossie Clark. Discover your inner vixen.---

   



 


IF YOU WANT TO GET
technical about it, I live in Beverly Center Adjacent, which I can't say exactly enchants me. I love shopping but I hate malls, in particular the behemoth that desecrated the hallowed ground of the pony rides of my youth, back when we lived around the corner from the May Company, in the far more charmingly named Carthay Circle.

But let's not get technical about it. I don't want to quibble about boundaries. If the people across the street live in West Hollywood, then as far as I'm concerned, I live in West Hollywood, too. And though I'm neither a gay man nor a recent Russian immigrant, no place has ever felt more like home.

IIt's that time of year. The sparrows are eyeing my nectarine tree. The squirrels are getting fat on purloined loquats. The jasmine is in full bloom, and it's crawling up the rain gutter and onto the roof and down into the neighbor's backyard. The smell is so sweet it's almost vulgar. It reminds me of the perfume I used to buy at Rexall, in the old days when Rexall was an oasis of commerce in the otherwise dusty nothingness of La Cienega Boulevard.

t's evening. My six-year old cruises down the street on her pink Razor scooter. She sidesteps the neighborhood dogs on their p.m. walks. She stops to chat up our neighbor, Butch, who is outside his house, assessing the state of his ivy. Meanwhile, my husband and older daughter are heading up to Gelson's, the most expensive market in the Los Angeles basin, to buy a freshly-baked baguette to replace the one our Lab stole off the kitchen counter earlier in the day. Along the way, they pass the Gloria Trevi bikini shop, which was not renamed even after Gloria's embroilment in a Mexican sex scandal, and then the fetish shop a few doors on. For the umpteenth time, my husband explains to my daughter that the studded leather codpieces in the window are Halloween costumes. It's Halloween in West Hollywood, even in springtime. It's Halloween every day. Maybe that's another reason I like the place so much. My birthday happens to be October 31st.

We live in a Spanish bungalow on Orlando Avenue. Built in 1932, it has Moorish arches, stained glass windows and one and a half vintage-tiled bathrooms. When we moved in thirteen years ago, we decided to trade reliable plumbing for charm, and I still think it was a good bargain (my husband has only been brought around by the expert skills of our plumber, Mr. Estuardo Gomez, who once paid a house call at 3 a.m. and didn't charge us).

West Hollywood is full of great old Spanish houses like ours, but eclectic doesn't even begin to describe West Hollywood's housing stock. You've got your Moroccan fever dreams, Hansel and Gretel cottages, itty-bitty French chateaux, and Home Depot So'Westerners. There is a Venetian villa at the end of our street, and then there's Butch's place, an ever-evolving phantasmagoria of Buddhist and Craftsman idioms. Around the corner, on King's Road, is the Schindler House, built in 1922, a famous temple of Modernist austerity. My favorite thing about the place, however, is not its clean lines but its messy psycho-sexual dynamics. Schindler conceived of it as an experiment in communal living: two couples, the Schindlers and the Chaces, under the same roof, sharing one kitchen. By all accounts, it worked out about as well as an Ibsen play.

If you follow King's Road from the Schindler house heading north, you'll hit the site of the last stand of Tiburcio Vasquez, the most notorious of the Mexican banditos to terrorize California in the 1870s and 80s. After a string of particularly vicious robberies, Vasquez was hiding out in a shack owned by a local known as "Greek George," who'd come out West leading a pack train of camels commissioned by the Union Army as the ideal means of desert transport. Somebody ratted Vasquez out, and a posse headed from downtown L.A. to Greek George's home, which was located near the present-day corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and King's Road (between Aaron Brothers and Basix, which makes an excellent corn muffin). They got their man, who in true Hollywood fashion, became a media sensation before expiring on the gallows in front of a throng of admiring fans.

Did I mention Fred Segal? It is the jewel in West Hollywood's crown. For decades, it has been the epicenter, the ne plus ultra, the pinnacle of grooviness. And I can walk there from my house. Sometimes I eat lunch at Mauro's, the little Italian café there. I like to order pasta, partly for the pleasure of watching skinny people watch me put noodles in my mouth. Then I spend an hour or so wandering around, studying the clothing, shoes and bags Cameron Diaz will be wearing in her next public appearance. I'm usually very tired after a visit to Fred Segal, and in need of intellectual stimulation, so I walk up Holloway to Book Soup on the Sunset Strip, where I spend too much money. I like spending money, and I like reading books, but I also like the walk home.

I take Sunset, past the site of the old Tiffany Theater, where I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. I stop at the top of La Cienega and look south. Spread out before me is a magic view of the city. I take a deep breath and I look and I squint and I look again and I swear I can see the house I live in now and, somewhere past the Beverly Center, the house I grew up in, long ago, before I was a grown-up.