Twenty Things I Really Like About L.A.

August 3, 1998, 8:00 AM UTC
Hollywood sign
Hollywood's most famous icon, Hollywood Hills, CA, USA.
Stuart Westmorland—Getty Images

1. The new Lincoln Town Car. I get to LAX and there it is, gleaming at the curb. A complete redesign of the basic box Dean Martin rode in. A rounded snout. Heavy duty grillwork. My driver isn’t a talker. After the mandatory comment about the weather, which is excellent, by the way, we respect each other’s space. There’s a cellular phone I can dial without screwing with an access code, and mucho bigtime air conditioning. I get on the horn, and I can practically see my breath in the icy cold of that big back seat.

2. Did I mention the weather? Really terrific weather. Bright sunshine. A little heat, but dry, you know? Makes you glad to be alive. All in all? Great weather.

3. The freeways. They get you nowhere, real…slow. Why not? It’s later in your head by three hours, and you don’t need complete immersion in the L.A. thing just yet. You want to hang a little. So you get on the 405, and you just sit there, man. Chill.

4. Getting places. It’s a very big deal. You arrive where you’re going to, and you’re…there, baby. But where? Are you south of where you were before? How close are you to that little tower that was on Dragnet and Perry Mason? Where is West L.A.? West of here?

5. It also rains very little, incidentally. The sunsets turn the canyons to bronze. People have pools where they can sit and enjoy all that weather.

6. Max’s Jaguar. Out in L.A., people judge you by your car, and I respect that. At least you know where you stand. My friend Max has a black, 12-cylinder Jaguar that he drives from place to place. It’s a very cool car in a land of cool cars. Where I live, everyone has an off-road vehicle that combines the feel of a small, well-appointed truck with the power of a four-cylinder subcompact sedan. I like Max’s car better.

7. Polo shirts. People wear them to business meetings all the time. And khakis. And comfortable shoes. I had a meeting the other day with a guy on reengineering. He was wearing moccasins. We didn’t come to any conclusions. Good!

8. The roof of the Four Seasons Hotel. There’s a pool up there. A few years ago I watched the L.A. riots get closer and closer from that vantage point. “Wow, lookit that!” says this guy next to me as we watch the smoke and fire moving up Doheny. You know who it was? Harvey Keitel!

9. Fruit. Everyplace you go, people have fruit. You can just go up in your polo shirt and unstructured sport coat and take, like, a plum. And when they give you coffee? It’s espresso.

10. Pasadena. You have to travel by limo for a long time to get there, and after a while, there you are. There’s a good Chinese restaurant there and several bookstores.

11. Venice Beach. You travel on one of the boulevards for a long time, and suddenly you’re in this extremely quaint little beachside town that has real authenticity. Blue skies. A little breeze. We have dinner in a fabulous place where people are not allowed to smoke at the bar. Michael Keaton is talking to a guy at another table. We don’t bother him, though. He looks like he’s eating.

12. Downtown L.A. I stay at the Biltmore, a great old hotel very much like one you might find in any American city, except slightly more Chinatown, if you know what I’m talking about. At about 5 P.M. I figure I’ll take a walk around, you know, outside? See what’s going on. I get about 50 yards from the front door of the hotel before I realize I’m the only person on the street. I walk a couple of seconds more, listening to the sounds of my shoes on the empty pavement. It’s weird, and beautiful, kind of like being in a great urban space that has recently been hit by a neutron bomb. Then I go back to the bar and have a very good martini.

13. Bungalows. Real little ones. They’re all over the place. You’d think tiny mice live in them, but they don’t. Agents live in them.

14. Earthquakes. They could have one at any time. A really big one. But they don’t think about it. After a while, if you go there, you won’t think about it either.

15. Malibu. I go to a party there. We take a big, long stretch limo and have fun fiddling with the climate control. After a very, very long time, somebody points out the Santa Monica pier, which looks nice from the road. The party’s at a house some star rents to groups when he’s out of town. I mean, I think he’s out of town. I don’t see him, at any rate, or if I do I don’t recognize him, and that’s what counts.

16. Century City. It seems to be very close to Beverly Hills, although maybe it’s not. You are driven by what looks like a very quaint and lengthy enclosed parking area that goes on for miles, and then you turn left onto a big boulevard and a gigantic forest of stone and glass emerges from the ground before you and looms over your head. Enormous Lincoln Town Cars in black and white purr by on the desolate, futuristic streets.

17. Red carpets. Outside the Hyatt in Century City, there is one rolling away from the front doors. A gaggle of photographers hovers behind a velvet rope. This is not for me. I walk past the cordon of paparazzi, and not one razzi pops. I am nobody. It’s an interesting feeling, and not bad at all. In L.A., everybody is nobody eventually.

18. All of a sudden, it’s happening! The Hyatt is host, it turns out, to the Festival of Fantasy and Science Fiction movies. A lot of fans show up. I watch for a while as I wait for the car that will take me someplace either north or south of Century City to some portion of Los Angeles that is not called Los Angeles to have food that is a combination of Texan, Mexican, and Basque. The electronic flashes are exploding. Limos pull up. In a pool of klieg light stands one of my all-time favorites, Martin Landau, talking very affably with the press. He looks happy. He has on black tie, big black-framed glasses, and a bodacious blonde on his left arm who appears to be some years his junior. I could be wrong. I don’t get that close.

19. The redeye. On the plane back home I sit very near NBC star Al Roker. We have a little chat, but I don’t want to bother him. After that, I sleep, and not one person talks to me for more than five hours.

20. When I get back to town, dawn is breaking, and it is raining, thank God.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he’d rather not name.