Creepy in the Simi Valley - Bottle Village

The Simi Valley has always felt a bit creepy to me. It's home to the Santa Susana Pass, where Charles Manson and his "family" lived, on Spahn Ranch. It's also an epicenter for sudden brushfires that always roar out of control. Also home to Simi Valley is Bottle Village. 

Constructed by "Grandma Prisbrey" (who scowls at you from the official website), it's a little city made of glass that she salvaged from junkyards. It's advertised that it's open to the public "by appointment," but when no one on the fuzzy, vintage-sounding answering machine called us back, we took matters into our own hands. Driving into the blistering heat of Simi Valley, we pulled up to see a tall, locked gate and a trailer inside. We hoped no one was in the trailer, and we hoped for no guard dogs, as one person in the party hopped the fence to get a good look inside. 

The light glinting off the glass was beautiful, yet haunting. Pictures exposed immaculate craftwork, but total dilapidation. Particularly Cleopatra's Bedroom. One can tell it was a beautiful shrine with a raised bed and billowing curtains, but disintegrated into a dusty pile of scraps. 

After wandering fearfully through all the tiny sheds, it's a bit strange to jump back over the fence back to Los Angeles. One moment you are looking at decrepit doll heads on stakes, and the next moment, you see a man tinkering with his Chevy in his garage, Eagles on the stereo.

To see this place means to break in, because no one will call you back. I don't blame the owners of the property. With a lack of support for the arts, this folk art shrine is nearly dangerous to walk through. I blame the idiot taggers and wannabe gangsters, who would no doubt descend upon this place with backpacks filled with spray paint. 

I say break in. It's totally worth it.


Old Hollywood glamour thrives at the Beverly Hills Hotel

It wasn't the golden age of Hollywood, but the 60's were still glamorous in L.A.. Think Marilyn Monroe, the Rat Pack and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The Beverly Hills Hotel still encompasses that Mad Men chic, which has influenced the powers that be in Hollywood. After all, if it weren't for Mad Men, upstart series like The Playboy Club and Pan Am never would have been greenlit. I even saw a Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice, set in 1960's New York City amid Wall Street.

But did the Beverly Hills hotel hold onto that mid-century modern style throughout the changing times, like Palm Springs did? Or did they revamp it to make it look older than it was after some hideous 80's makeover?

Not sure, but one thing is: the hotel's Circa 55 encompasses all that glittered in the 60's. I enjoyed a lunch there recently. It was poolside with a view of the cabanas, of course. I half expected to see a starlet glide by in a white terrycloth robe and cat-eye shades.

Keeping with the old times, the cuisine at Circa 55 has not been infused with "Pan-Asian" or "California Cuisine." You can still enjoy a good, old-fashioned steak, martini, cobb salad or crab cakes.

It's no wonder this is a stomping ground for presidential visits and royalty too, like Will and Kate who came here on their North American tour.

If you don't have time for a trip to Palm Springs, lounge here for a while.


Musee Mechanique - opium dens, honky tonks and more!


One of the great things about living in Los Angeles are the weekend getaways. From the snowy peaks of Big Bear to the vintage chic of Palm Springs, the choices are endless. San Francisco is a bit further out, but every Angeleno has pulled off a weekend there. After all, it's just as far as Vegas as long as you take the inland route. You'll miss the high coastal cliffs that car commercials are made of, but you can at least see the route where James Dean died.

If you've done Alcatraz and Chinatown, there's a little gem in the Fisherman's Wharf area: Musee Mechanique, a penny arcade. It's free to get in, and just 1 to 25 cents to see an opium den come alive (per the video above) - a cautionary tale with skeletons popping from closets and addicts rocking back and forth. A slap-happy honky tonk bar with good ol' boys partying in slow motion. 
J'adore! XXX back then was a girl in a bikini and boy shorts!
When stumbling upon this place, you feel communal pride with the other visitors - all excited to be in on this big, great secret. It's esoteric, Gallic, vintage, funny and sometimes scandalous. What's not to love?

Nancy Regan had nothing on them!

ah, innocence


MTV Awards Pre-Party...but who are these people?

I once believed that Hollywood lured all the crazies. But I recently discovered that Tinseltown has nothing on the music world.  I went to a music awards pre-party and saw dudes with outfits made from glued-on plastic gems, Elmer's oozing off the sleeves and dripping onto the bar. Wannabe groupies  in outdated rubber dresses, snapping their ankles in 6-inch platforms. Guys with Rockin' Like Dokken long hair, circa Sunset Strip 1987. Guru types with shaggy grey hair and white linen suits. And holy Corey Hart - so many people wearing sunglasses at night.

Benetton did not approve this message
budget Jiffypop Gaga
he's not a musician, but he's everywhere
While in Hollywood everyone strives to remain current, some people in the music scene (and I use the word 'scene' very loosely) become ensnared in very specific times in music history. For some, the world screeches to a halt once they find their favorite band, like Captain and Tennille. Or worse, their favorite song, like Kiss Me Deadly. And not in a cute vintage way. 

with the dudes from Confessions of a Superhero


Casa de Charles Manson

I won't mince words - I have a fascination with the macabre. I read Helter Skelter before I entered high school. My idea of a perfect weekend is a Forensic Files marathon and some take-out. I read true crime books by Ann Rule and thoroughly enjoyed the Dearly Departed Tour here in Los Angeles.

George Spahn, O.G.
One of the first things I did upon moving to Hollywood was speed over to the Santa Susana Pass. Charles Manson and his "family" lived there at Spahn Ranch, a crumbling Wild West movie set that had downgraded to a place that offered the public horseback riding. The owner of the property, George Spawn, allowed Manson's commune to live there for free, since Manson ordered the women in the "family" to have sex with the nearly blind eighty year-old man.

But when I arrived at Spahn Ranch, there was no ranch. George Spahn had long since died and the Manson "family" incarcerated, but I expected the dusty movie set to still be standing. Gone also were any remnants of commune life there. Call it denial, but I was convinced I was at the wrong place, misled by shoddy internet references. But then I found this video.

all the way to the Simi Valley for nothing!
Scott Michaels, founder of Dearly Departed Tours is as obsessed as I am with all things Helter Skelter, and when all he found was a hubcap and can of Coors on the property (with the aid of a metal detector), I knew I was at the right place, and that there was no point in going back.



You never see German restaurants around Los Angeles anymore. There's a great restaurant in Big Bear and a few generic Steer & Stein chains that make mild referece to mother Germany, but otherwise, the restaurants seem an old throwback to the 50's. I've seen a few great places closed down that have the dark wood and stucco look of South Germany, and it's a shame Los Angeles lost the much-needed interesting architecture.

These days, if you want killer beer and sausages, you need to hit up the sleeker joints. Case in point? Wurstuche in downtown Los Angeles has a formidable beer list and specialty sausages to inspire shock and awe, such as Rattlesnake Rabbit Jalapeno and Alligator and Pork. This may not be classic German fare, but the quality of the menu would impress people from any country. Besides, it beats the Steer and Stein chains, filled with screaming babies in high chairs and watered down coleslaw. Did I mention that Wurstuche serves truffle fries? If Germany doesn't do that, well then they should.