Tower on Sunset

My first memory of Los Angeles is December 11, 1986.  I am a junior in high school. In the time-honored tradition, my dad and I have flown here from Ft. Lauderdale to “look at colleges” – specifically USC.  My mom didn’t make the trip and I don’t remember why.

From far-off Florida, Hollywood is the center of my universe and the Sunset Strip is mile marker zero.  I know for a fact that it was December 11 because when I tuned the rental car radio to KNAC 105.5, the radio station of record – the New York Times of metal, Tawn Mastery was playing “Livewire” in honor of Nikki Sixx’s birthday.  For a girl with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Aerosmith on constant rotation, this is one of those moments when the clouds part and a singular light shines through accompanied by an angelic chorus.  I am with my people – and my dad.

I don’t remember a heavenly light shining on the rented Lincoln as we drive down Sunset, but I do remember Dad pulling into Tower Records.  We take pictures of Tower and the Whiskey, the Rainbow, and the Roxy.  He buys me a copy of Kerrang! Magazine and I pick up a KNAC bumper sticker.  (This bumper sticker would haunt me years later and result in a $200 ticket but that’s a story for another day.)  I save the plastic, yellow bag with giant red block letters to take home to show my friends because we don’t have Tower in Florida; we have Specs and Peaches Records.  (One of Marilyn Manson’s first jobs was working at the Peaches in Ft. Lauderdale.  That’s before he ditched the Spooky Kids and spent most of his time hanging out in front of the Button South.)

Who cares?  Why am I talking about this all these years later?  Because today I saw Rock of Ages and – despite many not awesome things about the movie – there on the screen, in full Technicolor, was the Tower Records on Sunset in all its glory.  (There are indeed some awesome things besides the recreated Tower – like Sebastian Bach from Skid Row and Extreme’s Nuno Bettancourt in the crowd scene at the end and Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx.)

It’s not a great movie, but those were great times.  Axl Rose was still in a band with Slash, Eddie Van Halen didn’t play in a band with his son, Nikki Sixx was having a birthday and Tom Cruise was Maverick, not Stacee Jaxx.

I didn’t go to USC, but I did eventually make it LA.  Unfortunately for me, I arrived one month before Nirvana’s Nevermind hit Tower’s shelves and everything changed.


My first post was titled, “Fun is Where You Find It’ for a reason:  I actually believe it.  And sometimes you stumble upon something so fantastic you just can’t believe your own damn luck.

That is precisely what happened to me tonight.  During an unrelated conversation involving two incredible writers and a cross-Atlantic table tennis rivalry, an offhanded suggestion was made to try the restaurant at the Ace hotel in Palm Springs.

“It’s a diner-y – not too expensive – fun, cool kinda place.”

This totally undersold the evening we ending up having at Kings Highway because tonight was BINGO night.  And not just any bingo, but Sissy Bingo with Linda Gerard.  We knew we were in for something special when she said “Let’s play some f-ing bingo” (my edit, not hers) and then proceeded to fill the gaps in the games with classics from the American song book including Night and Day & Come Fly With Me.  Two things you need to know about Linda Gerard – first, she can belt out those numbers like nobody’s business, and second, she somehow manages to make BINGO totally cool and fun.

Sadly, neither of us got BINGO, but it didn’t even matter.  So if you’re ever in Palm Springs on a Monday – Bingo starts at 7:00 at the Ace hotel.

The one, the only, Linda Gerard.

My Big But.

I promised this blog would be about my experiences as I matriculate – see I’m so much more literary already!

So today I start my first residency period at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, California.  So for the next ten days or so I hope to post pictures and a funny story or two about my journey – both literal and figurative.

Yesterday I flew from Newark to Los Angeles.  Montel Williams was on my flight so I figured there was no way God would let him die so my fear of flying wasn’t too bad.  Good start to the trip.

Then I drove from LAX to Palm Desert/Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage.

I stopped at the gas station, in Cabazon across from the outlet mall and the Morongo tribal casino, to see giant dinosaurs.  This wasn’t my first time here, but I feel compelled to stop each time I drive by.  First, because I love a roadside attraction, and second, because I love Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  “Everyone I know has a big but.  What is your big but?”  I wanted to be writer, but … I was scared, I went to law school, etc., etc., etc.  But, then Mom and Dad challenged me to go back to school and just do it.  So here I am, in the desert, about to start my first residency. (And if you haven’t seen Pee Wee – do.)

Enough deep thoughts, here are some things I know so far:

  1. Climate control in the desert (115 when I got here yesterday) consists of boiling lava hot on the outside and frozen ice-y cold inside.  (Tip of the hat to Jim Gaffigan.)
  2. It makes me happy to drive on Bob Hope Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive, and Dinah Shore Drive; even if half of the locals drive giant black cars like my Dad’s and take up 1.5 lanes on said streets.
  3. While I usually get over jet lag pretty quickly, I am tempted to make as much noise this morning when I am wide awake at 5:30 AM as the people outside my window did when they were wide awake at 11:30 PM. (Side note:  They are already playing Earth Wind & Fire by the pool.  The pool that doesn’t even open until 8 AM.  Weird.)
So enjoy the pictures, and please, for heaven’s sake, do something about your big but.

Welcome to LAX!

I did warn you there would be talk of cheeseburgers


“Everyone I know has a big but.”