Hello, hello! Today we are very excited to welcome STARSTRUCK author, RACHEL SHUKERT, to the blog. She’s discussing all things Hollywood, which means many of the wonderful spots featured in the first two books of her young adult series. If this doesn’t make you want to jump on a plane (or even better, pick up Starstruck — the fiscally responsible option!), I don’t know what will. Palm trees, celebrities, fancy drinks… sigh.
Take it away, Rachel!
When I started writing the STARSTRUCK books, my life was totally different. I was living in Manhattan, in an apartment in the East Village above a pizza place that used to blast music through our bedroom floor at 4 in the morning. I never slept, because there was so much to do, so many people to see. I was a New York girl through and through, who could count the number of days I’d actually spent in Hollywood–my imagination is another story—on my fingers. I loved it.
Four years and two and a half books in (I’ve turned in the first draft for Number 3!) and everything has changed. I’ve made it to what my friend calls: “the end of America.” I’m living in Los Angeles now, in a Spanish-style stucco house built in 1926, probably to house some of the very first employees at the nearby Paramount Studios. I’ve got a hibiscus tree filled with hummingbirds that I see every morning through my bedroom window. I spend most of my days on the phone or at my computer, dealing with notes on television projects, and I go to bed by 11 at the latest. I don’t drive anywhere without seeing the Hollywood sign looming in the middle distance, reminding me and everyone who sees it just what’s at stake here. I love it.
There’s a lot to love about LA after so many years as a New York City girl—the weather, the ocean, the ability to go to Target and the grocery store and the post office and the bank not only all in one day, but all before lunch (seriously, the first few months I was there, my only answer to anyone when they asked me what I liked best so far was: “Is it weird if I say running errands?”)
What I love most of all is how so much of it feels preserved. LA is a town with real nostalgia for the past. Sure, many of the places I researched and described as the STARSTRUCK girls stomping grounds have made way for the new—Schwab’s Pharmacy, where Margaret Frobisher (soon to be Margo Sterling) is discovered over a sandwich and an ice cream soda, was torn down to make way for a shopping complex; the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where Gabby, Margo and Amanda get up to so much glamorous trouble, was demolished along with the Ambassador Hotel in 2005, despite all efforts by some of Hollywood’s leading lights to save it.
But the majority of places on the Starstruck grand tour are still alive and thriving, and I’m so excited to take you on a little virtual tour!
First stop is the gorgeous Beverly Hills Hotel, a place I have been in love with every since Phyllis Nefler took the rain-drenched Wilderness Girls there in Troop Beverly Hills. (Roughing is one bathroom for 9 people!) It’s been restored completely to its former glory, complete with the iconic Martinique pattern of lush green palm leaves on every wall. And the pink tufted couches. And the white wrought iron chairs. And I’ve gotten a little obsessed with interior design now that I’m living in more than 500 square feet. Please excuse.
But the hotel is amazing, truly. You can have the famous McCarthy salad at the famous Polo Lounge, where Margo fights with her leading man Dane Forrest and desperately tries to fend off the leading inquiries of the malicious gossip columnist Perdita Pendleton, or you can pretend to be a hopeful young starlet desperate to be discovered at the counter of the totally vintage and museum-quality Fountain Coffee Room in the basement (it’s not exactly Schwab’s but it’ll do, pig, it’ll do. And yes, I am unable to use the phrase “that’ll do” or “it’ll do” without an allusion to Babe.) And the pool, my God, the perfect turquoise pool where you get that very particular kind of LA light that makes you feel very tan and like you have very red lips and your life is perfect.
Or for something a little sexier, the Chateau Marmont, where Margo discovers Jimmy in one of the poolside bungalows doing something they never told her about at the Orange Grove Academy for Young Ladies, is just a short drive down Sunset. Decadent and gothic as ever, it’s still full of celebrities doing things they shouldn’t. (I maaaaayy have been a secret witness to a screaming fight there once between a certain blonde female rock star and her teenage daughter. If I hadn’t been cleverly concealed in the stairwell I might not be alive today.) For food you can actually afford, the original Barney’s Beanery, where Amanda likes to go drown her sorrows and not run into anyone, is still there on Holloway Drive. The televisions blasting sporting events are not strictly vintage, but the famous chili is, and it’s amazing. (Chasen’s famous chili, so good Elizabeth Taylor used to have it overnighted to her in London when she was married to Richard Burton, is sadly long gone. But you can pretend.) Speaking of Amanda, Bullock’s Wilshire, where she indulged in so many bouts of ill-advised retail therapy, isn’t actually a store anymore (she might have put them out of business,) but the gorgeous and landmarked art deco building is still there, at 3050 Wilshire Boulevard. Pay homage, and then go shopping for real at Saks Fifth Avenue, in the original Beverly Hills location that opened in 1938, just in time for Margo’s mother to buy her the blue serge suit she wears to her very first screen test. (It was supposed to be for her debutante luncheon…but, you know.)
Gabby’s a Downtown girl, and while the Dunbar Hotel, where Eddie Sharp takes her to take in some jazz (and some other things) is now a private residence apartment building, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival still swings every July. And there are so many amazing restaurants around there now (although I can’t promise that any of them serve chili.) Or if you’re hungry in Hollywood, check out Harry Gordon’s favorite hot dog stand, Pink’s on La Brea, which has had lines snaking around the corner onto Melrose since 1938. And the price is right (Harry’s a cheap date.)
For a taste of old Pasadena the way Margo experienced it, check out the Gamble House as in Proctor & Gamble (not to mention Evelyn Gamble), an architectural masterpiece that makes you wonder why she ever wanted to leave. And finally, Griffith Park at sunset. Named after early Los Angeles grandee Griffith J. Griffith, it was also where the legendary film director D.W. Griffith (no relation, if you can believe it!) shot his landmark (and super creepy racist) silent film Birth of a Nation. Olive Moore probably had an affair with him, back in the silent era. You can see her house from your cliff-top perch. It’s whichever one you want it to be.
Happy reading, and LA loves you!