We woke up on a bright and smoggy morning in Los Angeles realising that we’d not eaten for twenty four hours ever since we stopped at Desert Springs. Our hunger became more evident as the morning wore on so it was a necessity to get some food. We headed straight for Sunset Boulevard and basically dived into the first place we saw, which happened to be a classy bar called, State Social House. It was just before noon when we arrived and the place was busy, with most people having champagne breakfasts already at their table. Only in LA right?
My addiction to Philly Cheese Steaks forced my hand on the menu and when it arrived with a side order of fries it was devoured in record time. Not just because of how hungry I was, but because it was possibly the tastiest sandwich I’d ever had, and the fries were addictive too, covered in some sort of herb that made me think some class A drug was coated underneath to make me want more. It was well worth the $40 for both meals.
After that it was time to explore LA. We started out on Sunset Boulevard and were told to walk up the strip as far as La Cienega Blvd and walk down from there towards Santa Monica Blvd. Firstly, we entered a book shop called, Book Soup. We were attracted by the large array of music and entertainment reading materials shown outside. I’m glad we went in! This was how a book store was supposed to look, crammed to the rafters with a multitude of genres. When we hit the music and film section, it wasn’t just a small section’s worth like you get in Waterstones or WHSmiths, it was a full wall dedicated to the history of both music and film. There were several books about various artists in there that I never knew existed, or had heard of but knew of their rarity. I could’ve spent a whole week in there, but this is a very large city, and four days was certainly not enough time to do everything, so we left.
Walking up Sunset Boulevard I start to become one of those celeb hunters. Every top of the range car that passes I find myself trying to peer in the window to see if it’s anyone I recognise. I’m not usually like this, but when you’re in LA, home to many stars, you just want to see one….just one…..doesn’t matter how big or small an actor they are, but everyone should see someone they recognise when visiting the home of film.
Sunset Blvd is very much about the history of rock n roll. We turned left at the bottom of the road we were staying on, so it felt a little upmarket than the dirty rock bars that resided to the right, but that side of town could wait till the night. The way we walked still had a feel of modern cultural history about it, but I sensed a little bit had been compromised since the days of the 60s to the 80s.
We walked down to Santa Monica and despite it being very close to Sunset, the mood changed. We were told by our hosts that this is very much ‘boys town’, and boy weren’t they speaking the truth. It was a very open gay community on Santa Monica, and the colourful buildings captured that mood. Everyone seemed to be in a couple and were all flaunting it, holding hands, and were a range of ages; from teenage boys right through to men in their 60s. I’ve never seen it this open before, which is fine, I liked the idea that for the first time ever I had more chance of a pull than Sue did.
Venturing further down Santa Monica Blvd, the noise of the bars and restaurants quietened. We soon realise that the notion of ‘nobody walks in LA’ is very much true. Here we are, on one of the major roads in LA with an abundance of cars flying past, and we are two of five people I can see walking down the road. I feel like I’m missing something.
We walk so far we hit Beverly Hills and as soon as I see the sign I can’t stop myself from thinking of the Beverly Hills Cop theme tune. We didn’t hit the heart where Rodeo Drive is, but we ventured far enough to walk down a typical neighbourhood, which was an eye opener in itself. The noise from the busy roads seemed to be drowned out by the trees that overhung on each side of the road. Although the houses didn’t seem too flamboyant from the outside, the cars parked outside suggested otherwise.
Once we hit the bottom of the road we doubled back on ourselves and stopped at a Coffee Bean where we got chatting to a couple. They were telling us all sorts of things we should do whilst we were here, but the fact we said we only had three days left seemed to go over their heads as they gave us enough info to spend a month here. They were also amazed when we told them we’d walked from Sunset Blvd. Their reply? “Nobody walks in LA.”
We walked a little further down the road to check out The Beverly Centre on this couple’s recommendation, which was pretty cool, a bit like a souped up Arndale Centre. Given we were in Beverly Hills, it did of course have all the major outlets inside, including Macys and Bloomingdales….or ‘Bloomies’. I thought they looked like our equivalent of Debenhams.
After that we walked back to Sunset, forgetting that the journey so far had been mostly downhill, so after a few hours walk, we now had to fight our way uphill towards the Hollywood Hills. I picked up a crate of Bud on the way to start as I meant to go on for our night on Sunset Blvd, and smiled to myself when I passed the famous Troubador bar and venue, a place rich with rock n roll history, but our night would delve into rock folklore further.
Two places I definitely wanted to visit on Sunset were the legendary bars/venues of Whisky a Go Go and Rainbow Bar & Grill. Both are heavily steeped in rock n roll history, with The Whisky being the venue that housed The Doors on their way to stardom. I was excited to get into The Whisky, but after being told it was a charity event inside that would cost us $100, I decided to frustratingly put it off a night, which meant all my eggs would be put into The Rainbow basket.
If you look into the history of The Rainbow you’ll find that the walls and furnishings could probably tell stories. So much has happened there! Before he sadly passed away late last year, Lemmy was a daily fixture in Rainbow when he wasn’t on tour. John Belushi is said to have had his last meal in there. In the 70s, it became a hangout for the likes of Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz, Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, and Elvis Presley. As time went on it became known as the place to hangout for a lot of the 80s and early 90s rock stars such as Motley Crue and Guns N Roses. I believe a part of the video for ‘November Rain’ was filmed there too. There is of course much, much more that happened in Rainbow, so much so that books have been written about the place. I make a note to check that out when I return home…..or I could just have a look in Book Soup, I’m sure all I would need to know would be in there.
With all this history in The Rainbow, it was necessary to have a few beers inside. You walk in and the main room is split into the bar and the restaurant. There’s a very ambient and moody atmosphere as the light bounces off the red circular chesterfield sofas and booths, creating a real sultry aura. Great pictures and tributes of rock n roll legends plaster the walls, and the stools by the bar are emblazoned with Jack Daniels logos. I look around and breathe it all in, thinking of how many legends past and present have walked through the same walkways and sat at these stools and the amount of alcohol they’d consumed in one sitting. Too many to comprehend!
We take a seat outside in a different bar area, kind of like an awning, and that’s where we stayed pretty much all night, listening to the array of rock songs that fired out from the sound system. We just sat and drank and drank all night, absorbing the fact we were in the centre of rock heaven, and it was a night that would live long in the memory purely from the feelings and vibes I felt being in there. Even a man outside the awning, who sheltered himself from the wind to be able to light his crack pipe just a few metres from me couldn’t dampen my spirits, but it did make me think whether Rainbow had rules of its own, like The Vatican of rock n roll!