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welcome to la la land
check reality at the door
by heather m. millen

There is a reason they call it “La La Land.” My first five months living in Los Angeles declares it so. This is a place where too much is never enough. Where beautiful people live apparently beautiful lives. Fine, maybe “those aren’t real” (if I were a bettin’ man, I’d go with “no”), and maybe under it all she's clinically depressed and borderline psychotic. But she wears it well and that Prada bag is just to die for.

It’s the home of high-dollar, high-fashion, and high people. The sun-drenched rival to New York, it too is the city that does not sleep. Sure it gets manicures and takes spa days a little more frequently, but it does not sleep.

A city that prides itself on its “coolness” and aspires to meet the “in” of everything, it is the birthplace of trends. Yeah, even the stupid ones like where you freeze nerve cells in your face to dissipate wrinkles (see “botox”). But trendsetters they are. And so as the city infamously known as the city the country loves to hate; how do they do it?

Long after the Gold Rush has ended, California has maintained its image as the quintessential home of hopes and dreams. With no doubt through the assistance of the big screen, Hollywood itself has been granted the reputation as a town where magic is made and anything can happen. Yes, including smog, but there’s a price to pay for having it all, right? The traffic of millions is part of that. And how could so many people be wrong?

Now on L.A.’s behalf , no matter what type of personality you have, there is a niche for you here. The freaks, the geeks, and the normal working man each have their place somewhere amidst the Hollywood starlets and aspiring scriptwriters. You can often find them at happy hour sipping their $10 cocktails and plotting toward the weekend. We’re not all in “The Industry,” and each Monday I thank my lucky stars for the monotony of my job. (Okay, make it Tuesday, I’m still a little hungover most Mondays.) But it keeps you grounded in a town that’s known to soar a little too high. Here a life of excess is the norm. And so each weekend begins. Pick the appropriate attire (it better be designer) and let’s go. Just bring your toothbrush. I guarantee you’re not making it home.

You have the city. The electric life. You know when you're watching a sitcom where beautiful, expertly fashioned people are sipping cocktails with their beautiful, expertly fashioned friends and you say to yourself, “Righhhttt.... where does that happen?” Sunset Boulevard, my friends. On pool decks of the chic hotel bars (the newest ‘in’ thing) and in the lines of tragically trendy clubs where doormen are gods, there they are. Even at the old dive bars that someone famous once said were cool so now all the anti-star stars hang out there, they’re guzzling “Red Bulls and vodka” and analyzing the latest Indie film.

This is the Hollywood you hear about. And there it is alive and well. On any given Tuesday morning, try the local café and you’ll find it thronged with customers who are suspiciously not at work, sipping their skim-milk latte, people-watching from behind their dark sunglasses (it needn’t be sunny) and chatting it up on their cell phones. Hey, leave them alone. They’re working on their screenplay.

And then just a few miles west (which of course translates into approximately two hours in L.A. traffic), you have the beach. Ahh, the sun-drenched coast of Southern California. Where hot surfer guys exist outside of Abercrombie ads. Where the curvaceous bikini-clad chics lay aloofly on the beach watching the ripped tanned boys of summer play beach volleyball. Rollerbladers, skaters, runners, bikers all enjoying the sunshine as they make their way down the strand.

Yes, remember, you have seen this movie! Its hard not to have that “pinch me is this real?” mentality. The weather and lifestyle promote an atmosphere where you just cannot spend a weekend inside, no matter how desperately you want to eat pizza and watch “The Breakfast Club” on TBS for the hundredth time this Sunday. There are trails to hike and beaches to lay on. Sights to see and road trips to take. I’m convinced. You just cannot beat a SoCal summer.

And your day at the beach needn't end with the setting of the sun. Grab some sushi for dinner and let the nighttime debauchery begin. This is the playground for the young and the young at heart. Remember that scandalous spring break week of college? Times that by fifty-two and you’re here. Scantily-clad under the starlit sky, this is where the sun-kissed kids play their days and nights away. Welcome to my beer commercial.

It's all a very picture-perfect image that's a bit of a Monet. Because if you step back just a hair, what you'll see is millions of individuals living their real lives in a place that thrives on fantasy.

So the next time you find yourself wondering where Hollywood comes up with these images they so love to portray, take a little vacation to my town. I'd be honored to offer up my sofa and give you the tour. It’ll be surreal.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


who moved my chi?
finding my way back to inner peace
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 4.23.08

the rest of my life
ruminations on my 25th year
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 10.29.03


robert melos
8.22.02 @ 2:35a

I am SO there I can taste it! Who needs reality? I want to see beautiful people. We do have some in New Jersey, but, well, LA! I mean, Yeah! I AM THERE!

Sorry. I got carried away. I'm calming down.

Great article. Do you know anyone who would read my novels and turn them into multi-million dollar feature films? Not that I'm the type of person to take advantage of a passing acquaintance, or anything like that. Really, I'm not.

Abercrombie type guys, you say? (Sighs heavily.) Do you need a houseboy? I need weekends off, from Thursday to Tuesday. I don't do windows, but I do tend bar.

matt morin
8.22.02 @ 2:23p

The biggest thing I hate about LA is that you have to drive so far to get anywhere.

That's why hotel bar/lobby/pool decks are so popular. Because when I'm staying at the Mondrian, I'd rather walk downstairs, eat at Asia de Cuba, and have drinks all night at the Sky Bar instead of drive 30 minutes to the Sunset Room.

sarah ficke
8.22.02 @ 2:31p

Red Bull and Vodka is like the alcoholic version of Powerade.

heather millen
8.22.02 @ 2:34p

Exactly, Sarah. That's why its so fabulous. Ooh, or try Rock Stars and vodka. That'll get ya.

Because Matt's right. A night on the town can be work. Cabs are the rule. Can everyone say "Road Soda?"

matt morin
8.22.02 @ 2:40p

Cabs? In LA? So do you drop $250 a night in cab fare?

I can get from one end of SF to the other for $12 plus tip. Gotta love that.

heather millen
8.22.02 @ 2:45p

Hey, I can get to, uhm, the other end of Sunset. And luckily I live in the main stream.

Granted cabs work better in the Southbay. The Rock and Roll Lifestyle isn't cheap.

russ carr
8.22.02 @ 2:56p

Now how do you afford it?

trey askew
8.22.02 @ 3:38p

When I was in London, the big thing was TVR. Tequila, vodka and redbull. Good stuff! Just morphs me into a dancing fool.

sarah ficke
8.22.02 @ 3:45p

I had the vodka and Red Bull combo while I was in Ireland. It wasn't until a year later that I noticed Red Bull being sold in the states.

katie kilgariff
8.22.02 @ 4:01p

I hear that the TVR is an excellent choice, and have seen myself drinking them in pictures.

heather millen
8.22.02 @ 4:10p

Well, Red Bull was illegal in the US for a while. After some outings, I wonder if they still should be.

And, Russ, I walk a very fine line on that one.

jon lastra
8.23.02 @ 12:06p

I lived in LA for a year and
a half, till Eastern Airlines
went bankrupt. As the Customer
Service Manager, I think I heard every possible reason
why you could be late for a flight. Mostly heard from hollywood celebs, sports celebs every kind of celeb you can imagine. Unfortuantely these folks came to learn that the 'show must go on' in the airline biz too. Not even O.J. had the star power to delay a flight. Interestingly enough,
traffic didn't count.
One thing that really impacted me was actually seeing the beauty of this seaside metropolis, which
only occured during the very occasional rain. Too bad it's usually obsucred by the ubiqutiois smog. It's not hard
to see why it's such a magnet for the masses. The temperate weather, the sun, the rugged coast line. The other element
is the diversity, it's such
a melting pot of cultures.
There is absoultely nothing better than a great meal at
El Tarasco's in Manhatten Beach and a leisurely stroll
on the pier as the sun sets
into the ocean,just like in the movies !

mike julianelle
8.23.02 @ 12:10p

There's a fantastic short story about moving to L.A. and how it changes you in Bret Easton Ellis' compilation "The Informers". It's actually pretty freaky the way he communicates, over a series of letters from a girl who moved to L.A. from the East Coast, how the lifestyle changes her. Good stuff. Scary too.

heather millen
8.23.02 @ 12:40p

Jon, I love El Tarasco in MB.

I'll have to pick up that short story, Mike. Are you saying I should fear for my life out here?

Nah, I'll be fine. Pops a doll and washes it down with vodka...

jon lastra
8.23.02 @ 1:51p

Heather, your right, it doesn't get any better!

heather millen
8.23.02 @ 8:05p

And Robert, EVERYONE in LA needs a houseboy. And if you like Abercrombie guys, let me tell you a little more about exactly where I live, West Hollywood... oh, you would LOVE it!

daniel castro
8.25.02 @ 2:51p

Heather, you have to go to the West Hollywood Halloween parade (Santa Monica Blvd. & Doheny to be more specific) or the one on Hollywood Blvd. I bet you'll see all the Abercrombie guys with their boy-toys there...

You don't have to drive so far to get anywhere. It just depends where you are, and if you know any shortcuts. With no traffic, you get from one end of sunset to the other in 20 minutes. The best places there are The Whisky and Roxy, best clubs ever! Not to mention the "Hustler" store.

And Heather, how did you end up in West Hollywood? that's a lot of dough to live there.


heather millen
8.26.02 @ 11:14a

Lucky I guess, Daniel. I live near Doheny, so I'm sure the parade will be unavoidable and great to see. It's a fabulous crazy place!

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