Matt Maranian: Still Naked After All These Years

matt maranianOne year shy of its 10-year publication anniversary, the guidebook LA Bizarro retains a devout cult following among the perverse and overly informed in Los Angeles. Alongside Jonathan Gold’s Counter Intelligence, the guidebook and its writers, Matt Maranian and Anthony R. Lovett, forged a profound influence on many of my own writings right here at Losanjealous. For years now I’ve spurned Frommer’s guides and NFT spirals, opting instead to shovel the Gospel According to Maranian and Lovett into my houseguests’ unwitting hands, hoping beyond hope they end up in La Puente at the Donut Hole…hoping they take in a Bob Baker lavish puppet production…hoping that, at the least, they eat one meal at Clifton’s Cafeteria. One could say I’ve been a champion of the book’s merits, to be sure. It doesn’t hurt that the book is funny as hell.

We speak in depth today with Matt Maranian regarding LA Bizarro, the book he co-authored nine years ago. Also the author of the critically-acclaimed do-it-yourself home design books PAD and PAD Parties, various missives for bOING bOING, The Los Angeles Reader, Harper’s, Wired, British Esquire and God only knows what else, Matt now owns a new-and-used clothing store in Brattleboro, Vermont with his wife, Loretta Palazzo.

One word of caution, should you ever meet Matt Maranian: Mention neither St. Martin’s Press nor the 405 freeway, lest ye be fully braced for the ensuing onslaught of F-bombs. It is safe to say Matt Maranian is no fan of either institution.

Also, as the title indicates, Matt’s still naked. Naked, naked.

How did you meet Anthony R. Lovett, and how did the idea for LA Bizarro eventually come to be? Were you filling a niche at the time, or simply fed up with the influx of Zagat guides and Frommer’s humdrum? Both?

Tony and I met in an improvisational comedy class of all places, when we were both half-heartedly pursuing acting careers. Tony was working in the porn industry then — producing not performing — and I was living off residuals from TV commercials and wasting a lot of time. We hit it off right away; we sort of shared a brain with respect to our general sensibilities and had a real mutual respect. We were friends for years before we ever thought about writing together. We were sitting around stoned one night at his house and I guess we starting talking about all our favorite off-the-beaten-path, sort of fringey places in and around L.A. that we had each sought out over our collective twenty years in Southern California. cabazon dinoAt one point one of us said “We should write a guidebook.” It seemed like a great project for us to work on together but we figured that the idea was so obvious, surely someone must have already done a book like that. We combed bookstores and did our research and came up with nothing. There were books that touched on some of that material, but not whole-hog. No book even came close. Personally, I’ve always felt that great ideas are just floating out there in the ether, and the difference between someone who has success with a great idea and a person who doesn’t is all a matter of who jumps on it first. So I figured we’d better jump on it — and with a great sense of urgency. We created a proposal and wrote some sample entries, and our agent pitched it to something like twenty publishers. All of them turned us down. I wish I had saved all the rejection letters: They told us it was too vulgar, or too this, or too that. Some editor actually told us that “L.A. Bizarro would never work in a book format.” After we hit #1 on the L.A. Times Bestseller list I really wanted to send that clipping to that editor and say, “I told you so,” but that’s what you get when you don’t save your rejection letters. So let that be a lesson to every writer out there. I’ll never get a chance like that again!

Finally, when we had no other options, St. Martin’s Press offered us a really shitty advance of the minimum wage/working poor variety. We figured it was our only chance, and since St. Martin’s was such a prestigious publishing house we said okay. We obviously weren’t going to get rich from the advance, but no one else wanted the book so we agreed. We had to knock it out fast, because St. Martin’s wanted it for a spring release. I think we had something like four months to do everything, including the photography (which we did ourselves). St. Martin’s Press turned out to be a total fucking nightmare, though. Worth it in the end because we got to do the book the way we wanted and had great success with it, but truly a total fucking nightmare of endless fuckups and useless assholes.

anthony lovett, chicken boy and matt maranian by gary leonard

Some of the entries in the book are credited to either MM or ARL, but the majority of entries have no credit attached. Were you writing the majority of the entries jointly?

We didn’t write any entries jointly. We split the entries 50/50, and we each really did contribute a full 50%, but we did edit and sometimes rewrite each other’s work. I always wanted the book to have one voice and to keep the “I’s” out of it completely. I just didn’t think it made sense for a book of this ilk; it would detract too much from the subject, which was Los Angeles, after all, not us. But Tony’s ego is even bigger than mine. He liked to write about himself a lot, so we compromised and wrote some first person entries when they were more personal in nature. I still think it was a mistake to do that, and I think it’s confusing to readers, but whatever. We made a lot of mistakes with that book. Live and learn.

Which one of you gets the credit for “Is that a penis in your pussypants, or are you just happy to see me?”

That line was mine. It should be noted, however, that my favorite line in the whole book, “Hob-Nobbing with the Knob Gobblers,” was Tony’s. I still laugh out loud at some of his passages, which is quite a testament to his talent.

How did you go about determining what to write, and how did you research your topics? At the time of publication I’m guessing one would have found a noted lack of “Freaky LA Shit” references online.

We mostly wrote about what we knew. We had both invested a lot of time exploring L.A. prior to ever meeting. We sought out all that shit just because we liked to. That was one of the greatest things about living in L.A.: Exploring. I can’t believe how many Angelenos never do that. When we sat down to actually start creating a table of contents, we practically filled the entire book just by listing our long-time favorites and places we had always wanted to check out but hadn’t. I’d just get in the car and drive to find new material. I drove Route 66 for miles and miles one day and found amazing things I never had room for in the book. I can sniff that tawdry, stale, garish, sleazy stuff out pretty well. I’d almost never end up with a dead lead. I could check out lots of sleazy places and do lots of sleazy things all in the name of research.

For what it’s worth, I’ve done a lot of exploring thanks in no small part to your book. Getting back to Frommer’s: They eventually recommended LA Bizarro to their readers, calling it “titillating” … Was this the goal all along?

Titillating, sure, and more. We wanted to show people an L.A. they didn’t know. We wanted to show tourists that there was a whole lot more to the city than Universal Studios and Rodeo Drive. L.A. is a huge, sleazy, cool, disturbed, fun, tawdry, scary city and we wanted to celebrate that. I personally wanted locals to pick up the book and get excited about exploring their own backyard. It is so easy to start believing that you already know everything there is to know about a place once you’ve lived there for a few years or more. Lifelong natives told us that they hadn’t even heard about most of our stuff. That was always the nicest thing to hear. I wanted more sex in it, but the underground sex stuff is hard to write about for two reasons: No one wants their picture taken and it’s all about money, money, money. I wasn’t going to pay a dominatrix her full rate to take a picture of her dungeon. Those chicks are expensive!

matt maranian and anthony lovettWhat proved to be the biggest challenge while writing the book? (Was Anthony on the sauce?)

Our editor at St. Martin’s sucked. A totally fucking worthless piece of shit. L.A. Bizarro was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for something like 20 weeks — which was amazing for a book like ours — and their P.R. department did nothing for us. Nothing. We had to do all of the P.R. ourselves. After promoting our asses off for a whole summer and fall, we were ready for our big holiday push. This was our one big opportunity to really cash in on all that buzz we had worked so hard to create. Every bookstore in town was placing orders, but no one could get the book in stock because St. Martin’s Press hadn’t printed any copies for the season. None. St. Martin’s did this initial print run that basically only filled orders through the summer, then nothing. Barnes and Noble in West L.A. created a big special event around L.A. Bizarro for December during the peak holiday season, and they had to scrounge from every bookstore in the city to stock books for their event… and they still didn’t have enough. And they sold over 300 copies that one day. There weren’t any more copies of the book available for anyone to buy for the entire month of December, anywhere. St. Martin’s finally did another print run in January. What fuck-ups! It was very frustrating, and we lost a lot of money. That was one of their worst moves, but there were many others.

L. A. Bizzaro! The Insider’s Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los AngelesWhat was the biggest surprise you unearthed while writing the book?

Naked City was more fabulous that I could have ever dreamed: A nudist white trash swinger’s retreat occupying a former trailer park in the high desert with a skanky swimming pool and a mirror-tiled clubhouse with wall-to-wall porn video screens and a stripper’s catwalk and red carpet on the walls — all owned and operated by a paraplegic ex-hippie swinger with nude secretaries that also gave lap dances! It still feels like a dream. Nothing topped that for me, and I’ve been privy to some far-out shit.

One can only imagine. Would you go back to Naked City? Did they let you in as journalists, or did you have to fork over the $30 cover charge?

I DID go back. I had to. Horrible story. Tony and I generally researched things independently, so he never went to Naked City (which is now closed). I took my best friend Don as my “research assistant” almost every place I wrote about because Don will go anywhere and do anything with no complaints. We went to some pretty scary places and he provided good protection if I needed it. Don has no problem punching someone in the face if he has to, and I’m not confident like that. He is currently a professor of linguistics at a university in Singapore. His students have no idea that he is the biggest freak that ever lived. Anyway, Don and I went to Naked City and, because I wasn’t sure how they would receive me as someone who was basically there for reasons of pure exploit, we went undercover as horny swingers. We gladly paid the entry fee and it was worth every penny. It was an interesting experience going “undercover” while naked: You had to be naked to blend in. Once I got a vibe of the place and talked to a guest or two, I realized it was probably okay to approach the patriarch of Naked City, Dick Drost, for an interview. Dick was a thin, long haired, very unhealthy-looking guy with no legs (I never asked). He was sitting on a round bed covered with a silver sequin bedspread in the clubhouse when we entered, with a few naked young women, staff members, around…He was actually a second generation sex club proprietor. It was the family business! I told him what I was writing, and he was very cool. He was a very accessible guy with a good sense of humor and he answered all my questions and posed for pictures with me, which I wisely did not include in the book. It was a very difficult, very stressful day though, dealing with lots of delicate personalities and trying to explore the place while respecting the privacies of people who were there for casual sex (although cameras were allowed). It was a very trashy, very skanky scene. Desert white trash is a very different breed.

It was also 125 fucking degrees, and the sand was so fucking hot we had to jump around between photos to keep our feet from burning. It was awful. We were sunburned, hungry, thirsty and tired of being naked in the heat. When I finally finished getting interviews and coaxing naked strangers to step in front of my camera for pictures, Don and I started our long, long drive home. On the way back my truck started to overheat. As you may know, the best thing to do when the engine overheats is to turn on the heater. It was 100+ degrees and we had the heat blowing full blast in our faces all the way home, and the drive was the better part of three hours. When I finally got home, completely dehydrated, covered with desert dust and nearly sick with heat exhaustion, my wife asked me how it went. “Really good,” I said, “I got some amazing shots.” Then I looked at my camera and there was no film in it. I shot all those pictures without film. So I had to go BACK to Naked City the next weekend, and it wasn’t as good the second time. The naked secretary had some surgery and had this big gash across her lower abdominal area, all stitched up, but she was still naked. There weren’t as many people there, so the photos sucked. Mostly Don and I just took pictures of ourselves in front of the Naked City sign. That’s his ass in the book, which is my favorite picture of him. Truly the crack of Don. He would come to our book signings and autograph his ass picture. Even my mom has a copy of L.A. Bizarro with Don’s autographed ass. He always wrote “Love and Kisses From Don’s Ass.” He was willing to actually return to Naked City with me. He was my best man at my wedding.

If an out-of-towner had to choose between the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum and the Hollywood Wax Museum -­ one or the other ­- which should it be, and why? For the sake of argument, let’s say they are situated next to each other on Hollywood Boulevard.

For my money, Roy Rogers, hands down. But if you want to take a good Christmas card photo, the Hollywood Wax Museum is the place to go. I have a shot of a friend giving head to Fonzie! I haven’t been to the Hollywood Wax Museum in years, so I don’t know if it’s still as shitty as it used to be. They may have cleaned it up and improved the displays. They definitely redid the facade, and I don’t think that mime is out front anymore.

Rest assured the Hollywood Wax Museum, while probably cleaner than its heyday, remains unbelievably shitty and bizarre. The Titanic display looks as if it may have been reworked from Overboard, an incredibly non-fauxwaxworthy movie. That’s no DiCaprio up there, but whatever it is could easily pass for Kurt Russell.

Conceptually, the Wax Museum is certainly the weirdest, but the Roy Rogers museum offers more for your money, plus they have a great gift shop.

Who’s the biggest crackpot you met while writing the book?

Crackpots are my specialty! Although I got to know her long before I wrote the book, the Angelyne entry is one of my favorites and she is certainly a first-rate crackpot. She was fun. Hanging out and driving down Sunset with her in that pink corvette was the most wonderful, perhaps the best, vantage point anyone could ever have on L.A. She’s a total star, L.A. style. We hung out in the late ’80s and went to clubs and parties together. I don’t want my crackpot assesment to sound unkind though, because I really do believe she is an artist of the highest order. Call it living art, performance art, environmental art, whatever. She’s transformed a whole cityscape and shaped the Los Angeles mental environment, singlehandedly, and she’s 100% committed to her expression. She’s never used any grant money either. I will be so, so sad when she dies.

Have you ever eaten at Oki-dog on Fairfax? I must ask: At any time, was Oki-dog a consideration for the book?
Yes, I’ll go anywhere sleazy. Oki-dog should have been in. There were a lot of places that should have been included and weren’t. Of course Oki-Dog should have gone in, but we had a page count to consider, and we were already way too heavy on food entries.

matt maranian in day-gloThis book has been a major influence on my own personal development within Los Angeles. Sadly, as expected some of the places you wrote about are now out of business. Did you foresee future installments or updates at the time of publication?

Yes, that was always the entire point. With L.A. Bizarro we were just getting our feet wet, and we never wanted to see our book be so dated and unusable. But that’s St. Martin’s Press for you! After L.A. Bizarro made the bestseller list, we pitched L.A. Bizarro II to St. Martin’s and they offered us the exact same insultingly low advance as before, as first time authors! Not a dollar more! So we said fuck it. It was complicated, but we couldn’t take it to another publisher. Years later, we approached St. Martin’s again and said, “Hey, this book has been in print for seven years now, why don’t we do an updated, revamped version since half the entries have been bulldozed?” They said no, that it was still selling well enough as is. How fucked up is that? They never put “#1 Bestseller” on the cover. They did nothing for us. They didn’t even copyedit that book. They didn’t even run a spell check on that manuscript before they sent it to press! There are still typos in it; they’ve done nothing. Pigfuckers, all of them.

One of your final quotes in the book is in reference to a Coppertone Billboard which has been torn down. “Driving that portion of the 5 freeway is now like passing an old house where a childhood friend once lived. It never gets any easier seeing treasured parts of Southern California disappear.” You seem to have captured the essence of the impermanence of this place. What other parts of LA give you this type of feeling?

Christ, all of it! I was just there about a month ago and it felt like a totally different place to me. It’s all getting too hip and too polished and too done. What happened to all the vacuum cleaner repair shops, X-rated movie theaters and Russian dry cleaners? Now it’s all hip store after hip store after hip store. There aren’t old Jewish people at Farmer’s Market anymore. Everyone there looked like a porn star to me. So synthetic. I actually felt sad to see that a parking lot had been replaced by a shopping mall — how sick to feel nostalgic for a parking lot! I don’t want all the neighborhoods in Hollywood and Silverlake to get nicer and hipper. They need to get a little shittier. Hollywood Boulevard used to be fun because it was so sleazy. Those crosswalks that look like big strips of celluloid make me want to yak. Where are the hookers? Where are the sex shops? Where are the rock and roll junkies? But that’s L.A.: It’s all so ephemeral, it’s nature. It’s always changing, and it always will. I think Rome has changed less in 1000 years than Los Angeles has changed in 10. I officially arrived in 1984 and left in 1999. That was a good time to be in L.A. The early ’80s in L.A. were especially great, but the city I left was nothing like the city I arrived to in ’84.

What was your personal favorite entry in the book?

For me Naked City was the apogee of all entries; a totally bizarre, freaky, fun, scary, shocking world unto itself that no one knew about. Ideally I wanted all the entries to have those qualities. There were so many favorites, though: The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum of course, Kitten Natividad’s used panty mail-order business, the historic downtown movie palaces, Farmer John’s Slaughterhouse, Santa’s Village, Madonna Inn, Hard Art Phallic Replicating service — they really cast my hardon in plaster– Clifton’s Cafeteria, so many. My true personal favorite though is the piece about the Coppertone Billboard.

matt maranianakedYou live and work in Vermont now, and you operate a designer thrift store with your wife. What prompted the move?

We have a new and vintage clothing store. We discovered Vermont on a road trip and totally fell in love. It felt like home, instantly. It’s one of the most remarkably beautiful places on earth. We stumbled upon this wonderful community of people in this great, progressive little town and never wanted to leave. We started making plans to leave L.A. almost immediately, but the move didn’t happen until three years later. My wife wanted out of L.A. long before that, and I really felt like I had done it and was finally ready for a new experience. We wanted to buy a house, and there was no place in L.A. that we could afford where we would actually want to live. And the traffic is just out of control. I also didn’t want to spend too much more of my life without winter. I love winter. I love all the seasons of Vermont; seasons are good for the soul.

Do you see yourself staying in Vermont for the long haul? How was the adjustment? What’s the biggest lifestyle difference after living in LA for so many years?

I’m a person of extremes. I really loved being in L.A.. There is no place on earth to which you could possibly compare it. I had a great time there. I had many defining moments, many important firsts (and seconds). Some important successes. I had that whole period of my life in my twenties when you can swing way out and live life like you really can’t as easily after you reach your mid-thirties. L.A. is a good place for all that. But being a person of extremes, I needed an extreme change. I couldn’t see myself staying in L.A. forever, and I finally realized it was time for me to go when the city didn’t seem strange to me anymore. It started looking normal, and I didn’t want my sense of perception to be quite that fucked up. Now when I need a hit of the city I go to New York or Montreal. Sometimes Boston. All are within arm’s reach.

In many ways Vermont was not such a huge shift. Southern Vermont — Brattleboro, the area where I live — has a very urban edge with a lot of big city transplants. Vermont is a very forward-thinking state, a progressive area politically, home to the first civil union in the U.S., home to the first self-sufficient commune in the ’60s, possibly the most liberal area in the country. They literally ran the KKK out of town here in the ’70s. And it’s very sophisticated for a small New England town; not everyone’s a dairy farmer. In fact, all the dairy farmers I’ve ever met are a whole lot cooler than some boho Silverlake poser. All the adjustments I had to make were good ones. We have a state-wide ban on billboards in Vermont which has been SO great for my mental environment, really. I find that I pay less attention to appearance and more attention to content when I meet people. I also find that the more time I spend here, the less I find myself wanting things I don’t have. Plus, my house sits in the middle of acres and acres of forest, so I can be naked in the woods. There are a lot of naked people in the woods here, which is cool. There are no nudity laws in Vermont: You can walk down Main street naked, and no one can arrest you.

There are things I miss about L.A., though. Like when I need some really specific item for a project or a photo shoot, something like checkered faux fur or a giant plastic Santa head in the middle of July, I’m usually at a loss. I know there are resources around here I have yet to discover, and certainly you can get anything in New York, but I knew where to get ANYTHING in L.A., and if I didn’t, there was always someone I could call who did. I also love the art scene in L.A. I think it’s a lot more free and much more loose than the scene in New York. Particularly performance. I saw Ron Athey’s first show ever. I saw some great super far-out things at the old LACE downtown, and at Highways and in some of those divey venues in Silverlake which are all probably designer dog biscuit shops or yoga centers or something now. Right now I have no plans to leave Vermont. I’ve been a lot of places, but I haven’t been anywhere that I love more. If I moved, it would again have to be an extreme move. Like Cairo. Or Berlin.

bahookaWhen did your interest in tiki culture begin, and where do you see it ultimately taking you in the long haul? Do you ever make it out to Oceanic Arts or Bahooka when you come back to visit?

I can draw a straight line from my interest in the pseudo Polynesian to a seminal visit to L.A. as a child. I was about nine. I visited The Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland AND the (now defunct) Luau in Beverly Hills in the same trip. That was a whole lotta Grade “A” Tiki. That whole scene is still so intoxicating to me, and I love the guys at Oceanic. I don’t think anyone wrote about that place before I did. At least not in that context. Love the Tiki Ti, Trader Vic’s — no one was writing about Bahooka before I did. I still seek out the old tiki dives wherever I happen to travel (excellent tip: Bar Hawaiiano in Madrid!!)… I’ve been living with tiki for so long though, I’ve finally started to thin out the tiki crap. Sold my whole mug collection on eBay and invested the money in my IRA — it was a nice investment, I had some super rare pieces! I won’t part with my treasured tiki ashtray that appears on page 134 of Pad Parties, though. Pad Parties : The Guide to Ultra-EntertainingMy friend Stephan gave that to me as payment for appearing in his short film. I played a burn victim who got attacked at a bank. It was based on a true story. I killed myself in the end and got to put a real gun to the roof of my mouth, so that ashtray has sentimental value. I kept some good items, but I’ve pretty much grown out of it in terms of cultivating my immediate atmosphere. You can buy tiki mugs at Target now. That’s no fun. I got all my original restaurant mugs at thrift shops and flea markets for 50 cents or whatever. It’s the age-old lament. It’s overexposed. Plus, I try hard not to collect anything and the tiki path tends to put you on a path of collecting stuff.

Pad : The Guide to Ultra-LivingThe PAD books are works of art. They’re also unique in that they challenge their readers to actually do incredibly creative things with their living space without a lot of cash. Will we be seeing more PAD books in the future, or are you moving on to other projects?

Thank you, that’s quite a compliment. I always saw PAD as a multi-faceted art book; the people in it are art, my how-to designs are my art, the layout and design was Shawn Hazen’s art, the photography was Jack Gould’s (and my) art, my writing I guess, too, in a way is my art. Everything. It still sells in a lot of museum shops, which really pleases me. Yes, I’m working on another PAD book now, and with some partners produced a PAD TV show promo which we have shopped to a couple of networks. Although everyone loves it, it’s getting the same reaction L.A. Bizarro got from prospective publishers: It’s too vulgar, too edgy, too extreme. I don’t get it. Look at what’s on TV! All those horrible reality shows?! I just want to show viewers a good time, to inspire, to inform, to celebrate visionary talent and to encourage a shift in perspective. Maybe if I created the show around some unimportant cut-throat competition where the contestants fed off each other like rats I could sell it better. It is a brave new world indeed.

I wish you the very best of luck with it. Speaking of television, though. We should briefly discuss Mr. Belvedere. Or maybe not so briefly. You decide. It’s my understanding you played a foreign exchange student with a pet goat on the show. Exactly how many episodes did you appear with the goat? Was this happening while you were writing the LA Bizarro book?

Interesting how an internet search shapes a person’s biography. Mr. Belvedere happened in the late ’80s — the book came almost ten years later. I was only in a few episodes, and I did have a goat on the show, on a leash. We were in every scene together and he was a really nice goat, too. His name was Bart, and he was very well trained. He would even heel like a dog. He always hit his mark and only ruined a scene one time, but he always smelled like piss. Mr. Belvedere, Christopher Hewett, was actually a pretty cool old theater queen. He was something like a hundred and five years old when he was doing that show but you’d never know it, except it took so long for costume changes because he wasn’t very agile. That’s why he wears almost the same outfit through the whole show. (That craptastic cardigan? –ed)

I was so young and stupid at the time, I had no idea that he was in The Producers. During breaks we would chat and he would tell me about his experiences working with Tallulah Bankhead and all these iconic actors on Broadway. He had an amazing theater career. He’s dead now, which ruined any chance of a Mr. Belvedere reunion special. That was always my fantasy, you know like the “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” where the whole cast regroups wearing the same costumes and hairstyles but they have aged faces? I thought that would be so great, I don’t think anyone cared enough about Mr. Belvedere to warrant a reunion special. (Holy fucking shit. Losanjealous would have personally bankrolled such a reunion. — ed)

matt maranian and nina hagenLet’s move on to music. You once wrote a great article regarding a “dream date” with Nina Hagen for bOING bOING. Do you still listen to Nina?

I don’t “listen” to her, I worship her. With all my heart and soul. I have been worshipping her for so many years now that I’m sure I’ve developed a neuropathway in my brain entirely devoted to Nina Hagen. I’ve seen her live countless times, and we’ve had many chance one-on-one meetings in some remarkable ways. During that night we spent together, we actually communicated through movement; through dance. And we weren’t on drugs, either… just a little vodka. Words were superfluous. But yes: I will still pay $35 for an import CD, gladly. She keeps getting better and better with age. I would love to see her live in Berlin. That’s always been a fantasy.

This has apparently become one of our standard questions. Most dreaded LA freeway? Most dreaded intersection?

My most dreaded intersection: Sunset and Beverly Glen anytime between 4:00 and 6:00, weekdays, traveling north. Do anything to avoid that. At least it’s a pleasant tree-lined street. Dreaded freeway? That’s easy. The 405 sucks ass. I hate that fucking freeway, all of it, fuck that fucked-up pig-fucking shit-eating freeway. Especially the parts between Sunset and the valley. And the part just south of West L.A. is fucking death, cancer. The 405 is the fucking cancer of freeways, I can’t even let myself think about that endless expanse of pissfuck pavement–I pity the poor fuckers that have to drive that crappy-ass freeway twice a day, fuck all those fucking cars, all those fucking hours, what a fucking waste of life! The earth is going to open up and swallow that pigfucking freeway because it’s caused so much human suffering. If I never drive another inch of that fucking freeway for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

I don’t disagree, but we can’t end on that. Any final thoughts you’d like to convey to all of the Angelenos reading this right now?

Take breaks from Los Angeles. Go to other places to keep your perspective balanced. Never forget that L.A. is not the real world, in any respect. Los Angeles is a city whose chief industry is illusion — don’t ever forget that. Stay mindful of how appearance-obsessed you might become, and keep it in check!

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Photo Credits:
Anthony Lovett, Chicken Boy and Matt Maranian by Gary Leonard, 1997
Bahooka Flaming Drink and Cabazon Dino by Losanjealous Ryan

L.A. Bizarro is currently out of print, but available used for a wallet-thumping $1.91 on Amazon. I also spotted some dozen-hundred new copies available in the gift shop of the Natural History Museum during the L.A.: Light / Motion / Dreams exhibit which ended January 9, 2005. Godspeed.