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
a good tailor, but never butcher a classic.
DVDs of the following, and study closely:
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.
stains can be sponged with a fifty-fifty vinegar and
water solution, but don't hold your breath.
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.
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
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.