I recently watched the award-winning musical movie La La Land. In my 20’s I lived and played in the heart of L.A., and embraced every moment including the jazz and Hollywood scene. I was young, rebellious and passionate about the city, as I still am today at a distance. The movie includes Universal Studios, Jazz and Griffith Park, as do these memories I share.
I somehow wandered into Universal Studios through a back gate with my BFF, my Asian twin. I think the gate was unattended, or we simply smiled and walked through. Tourists on trams were pointing at us and we seemed to be the only ones roaming the fake studios unattended. I think we were walking through the set of Back to the Future, among others. The tram slowed and we hopped on the back as people took photos. The driver was confused and pretended not to notice, or maybe he really didn’t. After disembarking and spending the afternoon exploring, we asked one of the directors to give us a ride back to my car parked at the other end of the studio.
“How did you get here?” He asked.
“We walked though the back gate, and jumped on the tram. I think it’s a few miles that way, ” I said pointing.
“Um, yes. Nobody said anything.”
He grinned and told us not to try that again and then he had a conversation with the gate guard.
My love of Jazz began in Los Angeles, with my first date night at JAX in Glendale. I think it’s one of the filming places in La La Land, or very close to it in ambience and location. It was during the L.A. riots, 1992 and a curfew was enforced.
“Are you still up for getting together?” My future boyfriend asked.
“I’m game. I need to get out for a while.”
The streets were smoky, eerie and strangely silent. Live jazz at the close-by club reflected the mood. We had a private booth, life altering conversations, and the beginning of a love affair that lasted until his sudden death. Memories made but not forgotten.
I considered Griffith Park my other love. It integrated nature and hiking, biking, the observatory, stargazing, drinking, and the famous Hollywood sign. I’d hike or bike the trails and solve many of my problems. Minor issues that seemed larger than life back then. A breakup, head to the park. A bad day at school, an intense bike ride through Griffith. An hour at the planetarium watching projected stars on the ceiling while listening to Pink Floyd was a complete escape or sometimes a bonding experience with a friend as we sipped concealed cocktails. I even watched a full solar eclipse with hundreds of others picnicking for popular the event. A friend and I climbed the Hollywood sign and even met and flirted with the two Matt’s, young actors from the TV series Friends.
I was blessed enough to live close to the park. When I moved near UCLA campus I found other places to enjoy the outdoors and jazz, but these moments will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m visiting L.A. later this summer and I might visit Griffith Park, but not Universal Studios. It’s too touristy and nothing can top my visit through the back gate. I recently learned JAX jazz club and grill closed last year, such a shame since it was truly a unique local jazz club.