Civic History as Loop

To borrow a phrase from Michael Jackson, L.A. tends to always “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’” Not as in fights & feuds, but as in flashpoints & geneses. Was reminded of this with all the Olympics coverage of snow-boarding, a sport clearly spun from So-Cal skateboarding, itself an adaptation of California-popularized surfing—each one an under-the-radar activity that later wowed the world. This week I also watched the just-out DVD of The T.A.M.I Show, the 1964 Santa Monica Civic concert (Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, James Brown, Supremes, etc.), whose frontispiece has Jan & Dean skateboarding from Hollywood to the Civic. Stop-frame and squint and you’ve got vanished history at hand. Last night it was The Real Beach Boy, a sad and touching BBC documentary on Dennis Wilson. In Hawthorne, bandmate David Marks walks the camera past a plaque commemorating the group (another auspicious startup), then gestures to the two-story berm and onramp behind it: “This wall of dirt here was where the Wilsons’ house was… and mine was right over there, where that dirt is.” Now I’m wondering if the dozen under-construction, city-block-size apartment complexes changing the face of H’wood and the Wilshire Corridor will turn into the tenements of 2040, warrens for poor, newly arrived Angelenos, thence to be ’dozed and carted off in time for another cycle to start. If you love the town, catch it while you can.

 

Gene Sculatti’s occasional column about Cali-bashing, ‘They Hate L.A.,’ appears at www.sofein.com .