Laurie Frank

Writer - Director - Gallerist - Collector- Designer - Decorator - Salonnière - "She was a real life Auntie Mame" (Olivia Wilde)

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Which of these terms best describes your relationship to Los Angeles: point of origin, detour, or destination?

Destination. It's a hard place. I lived in the Valley for 10 years and it was never a hard place for me the way L.A. itself was. In L.A., every place I went there was some emotional connection that was really, really profound.

What year does your relationship with Los Angeles begin?

I moved out in 1984 from New York. I’d just been held up at gunpoint outside my apartment on West 21st in Chelsea. I’d written a screenplay that got purchased and produced but I was only writing because I wanted to be a director. So I enrolled in AFI. My student film was called Dummies. The stars were Johnny Depp, Sherilyn Fenn, and Max Perlich when they were teenagers. I guess Johnny was 21 and Sherilyn was 19.

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Sherilyn Fenn, Johnny Depp, and Max Perlich on the set of Laurie Frank's student film Dummies, 1985

What is an image of making Dummies that stays with you?

For me in L.A. there were four things: palm trees, Jacarandas, wind, and the oil wells you could see on the road from the airport in Baldwin Hills. These four things were my quickening.

The oilfields of Baldwin Hills had absolutely nothing to do with the parameters of my script but I needed them in the film. So I took the crew in the middle of the night and I asked Johnny if he would ride one of those oil wells. Johnny had the same idea. Nothing on heaven or earth could keep him from mounting an oil well. Up and down. Up and down. Johnny Depp was born to ride an oil well. It didn't matter to me or to him that it was illegal or that we didn't have insurance, or that we could be arrested, or that he might die or get maimed. We were making a film. This wasn't real life, it was a shared dream. Somebody at the oil firm complained to the AFI . There was an investigation. I should have been expelled but I wasn't because everyone knew that that's what you did at the AFI. That’s what you did when you make a film: you go all the way to the edge and sometimes you fall off.

Can you describe your first house or apartment of significance in L.A.? What was the street? Who were the neighbors?

The very first place was Barbara Ling's apartment in downtown L.A. It reminded me of the way Soho had been when I first moved there after college in the early ‘70s, when it was nothing but warehouse space. Downtown had that same spooky, deserted feeling. Barbara became a brilliant production designer. She just won the Oscar for her work on Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Is there an object or detail from her loft that still sticks in your mind even now?

Well, it's like you could never look at another chair the same way again, you know? All of a sudden you realize that a chair has its own music apart from your experience of sitting in it.

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Laurie Frank, 1980s

When the city was new to you, where did you go for fun? What were your rituals?

My big discovery when I first moved here in 1984 was the blue and white food trucks that would show up in the neighborhoods at construction sites. They held this treasure previously unknown to me—it was called the breakfast burrito. Another thing that was really, really meaningful to me was the Farmer’s Market right near the Beverly Center. Supermarkets in New York City were shitty. They were small and cramped. You enter the Farmer’s Market and it was so spacious. It had produce that was so beautiful it should have starred in a major motion picture. I mean, I would go in there and just stare at the peaches or the tomatoes.

Then I found out that all the groups headlining the Hollywood Bowl did their tech rehearsals in the morning, which you could go see for free. You show up at 10:30 and walk in and you can bring your lunch and see the whole show. And there were fireworks every night because the Olympics were happening. And you could have trees in your backyard and that actually give you lemons or avocados. L.A. just kept giving and giving.

What song or piece of music evokes the period when you were new to LA?

Oh, it would have to be the Talking Heads. "This Must Be The Place" and all the songs from Stop Making Sense. My friend Ed Lachman shot the film and then when I first arrived in L.A. I stayed with Jonathan (Demme) and Sandy (Macleod, his partner) out here when they were finishing it. They were staying up in the hills in Outpost Estates. I couldn't believe that places like Outpost actually existed, with these old Spanish ranches that just sort of went on forever and were filled with secrets.

After staying with Barbara, what was your first place of your own in Los Angeles?

I had the most amazing experiences house sitting for people then finally I got my first permanent house—a beautiful old Spanish duplex at 643 S. Cloverdale, right near the El Rey Theater. I was really happy there but the minute I saw this house on Whitley Terrace, I knew. It was 80 years old and sliding down the hill but it was just my dream house. So I would say that 6680 Whitley Terrace was my house of significance.

That house became a nexus in Los Angeles. What did it have that initially seduced you?

Well, it used to belong to Maurice Chevalier, who I loved. The most incredible thing was the view. It had all these terraces in the back and it looked down to the Hollywood Bowl. Because of the stipulations of the 1031 transfer, I couldn't live there for a year and a half. It was incredibly frustrating to own it and not be able to make it mine. Finally the year and a half passed and I'm spending my first night there. I'm by myself and I'm sitting outside and there's a big terrace right outside my bedroom, and there's a slight rain, just a mist of rain. And all of a sudden the sky lights up with fireworks from the Hollywood Bowl and I just burst into tears.

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View of Whitley Heights from the Whitley Heights steps, 2024 (Sam Sweet)

What year was that?

That was 1988.

Who were your neighbors in Whitley?

Well, there was Patrick Bauchau and Mijanou Bardot, Brigitte Bardot’s sister. They were at 6633 Whitley Terrace. And the Noyces—Phillip Noyce and Jan Sharp at 6666. My neighbors became my family.

When you first ventured into the city beyond your immediate environs, what were the places that made an impression? Who showed you these places?

Barbara Ling came from a family of seven kids and she grew up in a house in the Palisades, on Adelaide. Her father was a screenwriter. I remember visiting that house and looking out the window and there was an actual arroyo on the other side of the window. That really, really fascinated me. And Barbara showed me the Samuel-Novarro House, one of the houses that Lloyd Wright built in the hills above Los Feliz. It was the most incredible house, just everything in it, the way it was painted green. I mean, it just blew my mind. Every object in that house was perfection. And Barbara had found so many of the things there.

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The Samuel-Novarro Residence by Lloyd Wright, 1928 (Juliette Hohnen/Douglas Elliman)

When radio mattered in Los Angeles, what program, station, or announcer did you love?

I remember listening to the radio during the L.A. riots. I had gone to see a matinee of Howard's End with Jan Sharp. We left the theater and there was something so eerie about L.A. All of a sudden the traffic lights weren't working. There was just this really strange feeling to everything. And we turn on the radio and hear that these riots had begun over the Rodney King verdict. I decided I would make a big dinner for all my friends. I immediately went to the grocery store and there were people with guns everywhere. There was already a lot of looting on Hollywood Boulevard. And Whitley Heights is surrounded by Hollywood Boulevard and Highland. Supposedly people were storing the loot on Whitley in different people's gardens.

Describe your first, favorite, or most memorable car.

It was a gold Oldsmobile convertible from the early ‘70s that had been the star of the Wim Wenders movie The State of Things. Patrick Bauchau drives it all over Hollywood in the movie. I can't remember the backstory of the car but I was with Pierre Cottrell, who produced the film and somehow I got the car for $150. And people would recognize it all the time from the movie. I kept the license plates for years.

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Patrick Bauchau in The State of Things, (Wim Wenders, 1983)

Describe the restaurant in which you've spent the most hours.

Well, for me, it would have to be Les Deux Cafe, Michèle Lamy’s place on Las Palmas. Michèle had been a dress designer and then decided she would open this restaurant called Cafe Des Artistes, which was on McCadden Place, in Hollywood. After the city banned cigarettes in all the restaurants, you could still smoke at her place. We were both smokers, so I would be the only person in the restaurant and we would smoke cigarettes and eat the food and nobody else came.

When they really cracked down on smoking, she opened Les Deux, which was just a parking lot on Las Palmas. The restaurant was mostly outside and all of a sudden it caught on that you could still smoke in this one restaurant. So people started coming and all of a sudden it was packed and it got so popular because it was the only restaurant where you could smoke. She actually bought this building, a big craftsman house, and moved it onto this parking lot right off of Hollywood Boulevard. And that became Les Deux.

Les Deux was open from 1996 to 2003, when Michèle Lamy left L.A. for Paris. What made it unique in that period?

Well, for one thing, it was a total secret. It was a parking lot. It was really the first restaurant that had no signage. It didn't have any publicity, it didn't have anything that other restaurants had. Michele created a garden in this parking lot surrounded by a very high wall. She had so many old friends from art world and fashion that had all this shared history. It was so bohemian and exciting and soon enough there was a huge line to get in. And the parking lot people were enchanted because they made so much money from parking.

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Michèle Lamy outside Les Deux Cafe, 1638 N. Las Palmas, late 1990s (Denise Prince)

Who are the people you associate with Les Deux?

There was Bill Murray—his brother John was the bartender and Bill was always showing up. Johnny Depp had been the star of my student film and he came by frequently. Everybody you could imagine. I mean, every model, every actress. One day I walked in and Michèle said, “This is my friend Barney, he’s interviewing people to marry.” What do you say to somebody like that? But Barney ended up marrying one of the people Michele introduced him to that day and they’ve been together for 25 years. I just saw on Facebook that they've been having this huge anniversary traveling the world. It started when Michèle sat her down and said, “This is Barney. And he's interviewing for a wife.”

What outdoor space in Los Angeles have you spent the most hours?

I had a boxer named Mega and Mega had difficulty with other dogs. They're too big for me to walk on a leash, so I had to find someplace where they can run around but it was really hard at dog parks. When I lived on Whitley, there was a little park where they have the Hollywood Heritage Museum, right across from the Hollywood Bowl. There's a little parking lot and then there's a little green space behind the museum where a dog can run around. So we would walk down the Whitley Heights steps from my house and Mega would run down there.

At one point, Paris Hilton was my neighbor in Whitley Heights. She had this little chihuahua and the chihuahua would wear the same clothes as Paris. We would run into each other on my walks down to the museum and I would beg her to put a leash on her dog. If she got close enough, I knew Mega would maul the chihuahua and it would be all over the news. Paris treated this as a completely absurd request.

Whether or not you swam, what beach or pool lingers in your memory?

For me, it would have to be Big Rock, in Malibu. I’m not a swimmer but my friends had a house there and I would stay with them a lot. That was my best association with the beach.

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Laurie Frank on the beach in Santa Monica, 1999 (Erica Lennard)

What movie theater would you bring back from the dead?

Well, it would have to be the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where they used to do all the screenings for Academy members. The first time I was invited to a screening there it was so exciting. I don't remember what the movie was. The movie was not consequential. It was the feeling of being inside. I got there early and I found this really great seat. There was a big horizontal aisle in front where you got all this foot room, which was rare in those days. And I was right in the middle. It was exactly where I wanted to be. Cross this off my bucket list. So I'm sitting there and waiting for the movie to start and then at the last minute, this tiny old lady appears out of nowhere and looks down at me and says, “Do you have a seat for Ruth Gordon?” Ruth Gordon was maybe 90 years old at this point and had that delicious wrinkled twinkle. I couldn't turn her down and I gave her my seat and I ended up sitting in the last seat in the way back.

What is a bar or nightclub you loved that no longer exists?

Helena’s. I was there almost every night when it was on Temple Street. The food sucked but it was the most exciting place to be. It was really wonderful. They never had good air conditioning and it was probably the only nightclub that had a fireplace going all the time, so it was always very hot. I remember I had this great vintage leopard skin jacket that I wore to Helena's. I had taken off the jacket to dance and when I came back, somebody had shredded it into a million pieces. I guess because it was fur, no matter how old it was. I remember being there the night Sean Penn nearly killed a guy for giving Madonna a hug. He smashed a chair over his head.

Helena Kallianiotes and Michèle Lamy were both European women who transformed dead spaces into destinations: a parking lot on Las Palmas, a vacant building on Temple Street. What made Helena's stand out from a hundred other nightclubs at that time? Was it that you were allowed to break the rules or was it something else?

It was definitely that you were allowed to break rules but it was also that there wasn't a conventional hierarchy. Everybody was all mixed in together. She'd be just as willing to throw out some movie star as a person off the street. And she's one tough cookie. One day it was not there and then it was there. It just materialized. After Helena's, Helena opened a club in the house that she was living in Venice that was owned by Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham. And it would be like once a week.

How was that?

It was incredible. I mean, there was maybe a hundred people that could fit in there as opposed to 400 people. So it was all movie stars.

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Madonna entering Helena's through the parking lot, 2735 W. Temple Street, 1987

What household threw the best parties or the parties that you best remember?

For me, it would have to be the Noyces, Philip Noyce and Jan Sharp. They became my surrogate family. They lived two houses down from me, at 6666 Whitley Terrace, in a beautiful Spanish mansion that had been Barbara Stanwyck’s house. It was the most incredible house. I mean, it was my house twice. For someone like me who had no real family, it was the greatest thing. Talk about people coming in and out. At one point when Barbet Schroeder was living with me, we went to a party at the Noyces’. Barbet had just made Reversal of Fortune and George Miller comes up to him and wants to talk to him and Barbet has no interest. And it's like Barbet, that's George Miller. And Barbet really didn't know who George Miller was. And then Tom Cruise would be there.

Are there any L.A. places that you associate with Barbet? I think of him as a European who had an L.A. period.

Oh, he had many L.A. periods. Mine was just one.

Were you there for his Bukowski period?

No, I was after that. I had first met Barbet in the early 1970s. When I was just out of college, I got a job working for Films du Losange, which was run by Pierre Cottrell, Eric Rohmer, and Barbet. I moved to Paris and somehow, by real luck, ended up in this little coterie of filmmakers. When Rohmer was making Claire's Knee, they were looking for someone with beautiful breasts. And at that point, my one great feature was I had beautiful breasts.

Are you in Claire's Knee?

Well, Pierre sent me over to Barbet’s office to show him my breasts but he didn't like them.

So no Rohmer movie for you?

Nope. I met Barbet again 10 years later at the Telluride Film Festival and I didn't talk to him. When I met him for the third time, I had a roommate named Suzanne Fenn who was a film editor. She was American but grew up in Paris, and she invited him to come and stay. So I'm asleep in my bed and I hear loud farting coming from my bathroom. And as far as I know, I'm home alone. And I go running into the bathroom and there's Barbet taking a shit on my toilet. And that's how we connected. And he asked me for dinner at a café and the rest was history.

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Laurie Frank in her kitchen at 6680 Whitley Terrace, 2003 (Kirk McKoy/LA Times)

What was your first earthquake or your worst earthquake?

My first earthquake, by coincidence, was in New York City, in 1985. I was staying with my friend Ruthie Hunter at her apartment on West End Avenue. It was a big old apartment with a grand piano. I went to sleep and all of a sudden it was like a subway train was barreling through this apartment and shaking the piano. I had already moved to LA and it was so ironic that my first earthquake was in New York City.

Where were you for Northridge in 1994?

I had a guest apartment that was downstairs at my house on Whitley Terrace. I had the most incredible people who stayed in this guest apartment. Every single person who was there thrived and left in much better circumstances than they arrived. And those people became family. So after an earthquake, everybody came and checked on you. There were maybe 10 people from the neighborhood at my house after the earthquake and we all went over to Patrick Bauchau and Mijanou Bardot’s. Claire Peploe was making her first movie and she was staying with them. She had been Patrick’s girlfriend when he was at Oxford and was married to Bernardo Bertolucci. So she was traveling with Bertolucci’s assistant and her daughter and they were staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt. So they were asleep at the Roosevelt and all of a sudden there's an earthquake and they panic and they run out of their rooms onto Hollywood Boulevard, totally naked. These two wild Italian girls, a mother and a daughter. And there was some rock band that was staying at the Roosevelt too and they took off their shirts on the sidewalk and gave the girls their clothes. So we were all gathered at Patrick's house and these Italian girls show up along with the rock band and we all start drinking and eating. And it was really one of the best nights of my life.

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5370 Wilshire Blvd, 1981 (Elisa Leonelli)

If you had the power to preserve a space or building in Los Angeles, what would you protect? Not necessarily for the public good but for personal reasons.

The building that was most dear to me was this camera shop on Wilshire where the exterior was an actual camera. My first house on Cloverdale was a half a block away. I used to just go all the time and just loved it.

Conversely, what’s something you would tear down?

I always hated LACMA. I thought it looked like an Ohrbach’s. And I always thought the La Brea tar pits were nothing. When I first arrived, they didn't even have the fake wooly mammoths. There was no fence. It was just a black pool of sludge. And just yesterday, I read that it's been declared the foremost prehistoric space in the world by an international compendium of geological scientists.

What's a place in L.A. you love that no one ever mentions?

Right on Highland, just below the Hollywood Bowl, there’s a Hollywood Legion building. It's a beautiful old Egyptian building that used to be owned by the Masons. There’s a parking lot there, and a motel, and a little road. And if you take that little road, there's an old art school that has a building with a huge glass atrium. It is the most divine secret place in L.A.

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Founder Henry Lovins on the grounds of the Hollywood Art Center, 2027 Highland Avenue, 1949 (Leland Auslender/The Hollywood Art Center Archive)

Besides the traffic, what’s one specific change you've observed in Los Angeles over the period you’ve known it?

When I first came to L.A. you could still smoke in the Chateau Marmont, especially inside. Drinking and eating and smoking in that restaurant made me so happy. I remember sitting in the interior lounge one day, having martinis and smoking away, being blissfully happy, and they literally cracked down in the middle of my cigarette. They made me put the cigarette out and that was the last time you could smoke at the Chateau.

Did you go back?

When my house in Whitley Heights burned down in 2004, I got to live at the Chateau for a year and a half. It saved my life. That too became a family. Who is the actress with red hair who was always getting herself into trouble?

Lindsay Lohan?

They had given me Lindsay Lohan's old room. They had just kicked her out. The insurance company was paying for my stay, of course, but the Chateau was so happy to have me because I was no trouble at all to anybody.

Did you meet Lindsay?

I never met Lindsay but I was constantly getting booty calls in the middle of the night from people who didn’t realize she had moved out. I was the one who had to disappoint them.

Being in Manhattan in the 1970s, had you experienced the mythologized places of that period, like the Chelsea Hotel and Max's Kansas City?

I was at Max's the first night that Patti Smith ever performed, when she did “Piss Factory.”

How was that?

It was the most memorable thing ever. It was unbelievable. The power emanating from this skinny little person.

As someone who had lived through a heavily mythologized time in New York City, how did Los Angeles compare?

I think have an answer to that. By ‘83, I had begun to hate New York. The men were only interested in two kinds of women. They were interested in British aristocracy and they were interested in beautiful black girls. They had no interest in anybody else. The minute they got with a beautiful black girl or a countess, they married. The nightlife had become the Mudd Club and CBGBs and Area. Everything happened really late at night, really in the dark, really only about sex, really loud. You could never have a conversation.

When I got to L.A., it was the exact opposite. Nothing happened really late at night because people couldn't drink and drive. And everything was about conversation and connecting with people. So it was an entirely different atmosphere. It was the height of Woody Allen jokes about L.A. being a wasteland but the reality was that everything we had in New York was in L.A., but here it was always a secret. You had to invest the time to unlock it. Have you ever heard of Hickory Sweet Meats?


At my parties, I used to serve all kinds of sausages and I was trying to find a place where you could get weisswurst. I don't know how I managed to find it but way down in South Central, on Main Street near Manchester, there was this place called Hickory Sweet Meats. It was probably the biggest butcher shop in America. They made sausages and German pastry and everyone spoke German. If you went there for Christmas, it would be like a Bund meeting. They would sing German Christmas carols. You couldn't believe that this place existed. It was part of a time warp and it was full of the most beautiful meats you have ever seen. And it had a completely black clientele. And during the riots, the community got together and protected Hickory Sweet Meats.

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Laurie Frank and her dog, Daddy, at her gallery, Frank Pictures, ca. early 2000s

What's one thing that hasn't changed—in other words, one thing in Los Angeles that is timeless?

Well, my last dog, his name was Daddy. He was a Catahoula, a Louisiana leopard dog, that I got from Ed Moses. Daddy was really aggressive to other dogs so I couldn't take him to dog parks. In fact, whenever I did take him to the dog park, all kinds of problems happened. There would be 50 people screaming, “Get out! Get out!”

After I lost my house on Whitley, I moved to Reseda for a while. Chloe King showed me this magical, magical place that blew me away. It was a space at the end of the Sepulveda Pass owned by the Department of Water and Power. It had become a helipad for official L.A. business, and it was fenced off, but they allowed people in the immediate neighborhood to crawl through a hole in the fence. If you went through the fence, you could actually go into this park-like place that was miles of deserted wilderness.

Dog walkers with 16 different dogs would start showing up during the day, so Daddy and I could only go at dawn when it was empty. We'd enter through that little hole and I realized when you walk in, you can see all the way to the ocean. The Sepulveda trail was actually where the wagon trains came. You just heard the voices of the thousands of people who took these wagon trains and arrived right there at the Sepulveda Pass, which is the way to the ocean. They had come thousands of miles and there was so much hardship, and suddenly they were there and they had that view. I mean, talk about L.A. being a destination.

A simple view can be a profound portal.

Have you read a lot of Joan Didion? Because she was also a way into L.A. for me that was profound and deeply, deeply moving.

Is there one piece or line or passage of hers that comes to mind?

Well, it was the whole beginning of Slouching Towards Bethlehem about the winds. I mean, wind is really a season here. And then there were times when L.A. was like Ireland.

What is a place in Los Angeles that was described to you but you never got to see for yourself? In other words, a place that lives only in your imagination?

At one point, I wanted to open a club of my own. There was a little Persian restaurant called Joseph's right off of Yucca and I tried to take it over once a week but it never really took off. Then I found the most incredible space in the whole world. Next to the Capitol Records building was this beautiful old church in a huge garden. It was right across from the Pantages Theater and they were asking a ridiculously small amount of money to buy it. There was a stipulation that you couldn't serve alcohol in the church itself so I was going to use that as an art center, and then the whole restaurant would be outside under permanent tents, which is what Les Deux was. I wanted to open a supper club that would also show movies. It was the only way that you were going to keep people in theaters. I had all this experience with Les Deux and I saw what it took. I just kept trying to find people who would buy it. And I almost got it together but it never happened.

Did you ever have a prospective name for that spot, Laurie?

No, because I could never bring it into focus to that degree. The incredible part was this was the most prime real estate but it was protected because of the church. And ultimately somebody bought it. And the first thing they did is they torched the church. It's now a major housing development.

What’s a demolition that broke your heart?

When I was living on Cloverdale, before I moved to Whitley Heights, there were all of these really beautiful bushes that covered my windows. And one day gardeners showed up and completely cut down all the bushes. So what had been a completely private space felt suddenly so harshly exposed. That was one of the dark days.

Whose backyard would you return to if you could?

Patrick Bauchau created an incredible garden behind his house in Whitley Heights. Gardens are his entire life and he puts his soul into them. It is what makes life worthwhile for him. He had probably the most beautiful house in Whitley and around it, he built this garden. He worked on it every single day. I mean, it was his soul food. The garden grew to block the view of the house. And there was a television writer who lived in Whitley who was part of the local historic preservation committee. He had been there for a long time, and he had some major bug up his ass over Patrick's garden. I don't know if he was in love with Patrick or insanely jealous or hated what Patrick represented. But he went on this crusade and he had Patrick cut down his entire garden and pull everything up. And he actually had Patrick thrown out of the neighborhood. Jan Sharp said it was a Whitley Heights version of the Serbo-Croatian conflict.

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Patrick Bauchau in the garden of his house at 6633 Whitley Terrace, ca. 1990s

What is an image from Patrick and Mijanou’s backyard that stays with you?

Well, Bertolucci was my absolute hero. I would die to meet Bertolucci. So finally, Bertolucci and Clare Peploe come to stay at Patrick's place and I'm invited to lunch. Mijanou is crazy about dogs, so I bring my beloved boxer, Mega. And there’s Bertolucci in the kitchen and Mega goes and jumps up on Bertolucci and scratches his neck. And it turns out Bertolucci is really allergic to dogs but he doesn't even notice because he's so involved in an argument with Clare about whether or not he can eat the lunch. It turns out he's allergic to garlic and Patrick is making garlic pasta. So Clare and Bertolucci are having this big argument of whether or not he can eat the pasta. Finally we go out in the courtyard and Patrick and Mijanou have this beautiful table under this enormous olive tree. Out comes Patrick with this giant bowl of pasta with the glistening tomatoes and it's really steaming. He’s bringing it to the table and you could just see the expression on Bertolucci’s face. And Patrick is almost at the table and my dog runs up and puts her paws on the edge of the bowl and all the pasta spills out on the ground. Bertolucci shoots up and looks at Clare and screams at her, “This is all your fault!” and storms off.

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Bernardo Bertolucci and Clare Peploe, ca. 2010s (Tao Ruspoli)

What is the current view out your window or a view that you see on a daily basis?

I had no money but with the help of friends I was lucky to move into a small but beautiful house with this little side patio where I can smoke. It’s on Hayes Drive, in Carthay Square. There used to be a beautiful theater, the Carthay Circle Theater, right around the corner, that was demolished in the ‘60s.

It’s interesting because my very first glimpse of L.A., before I moved here, was in 1957, when my parents took me on a cross-country trip. The trip was a nightmare for me. My parents announced to me that my father was going to die. We drove across the country and there was so much bickering and anger through the whole trip. I had no context for what was happening. I was really the prisoner of Zenda.

I don't remember one thing about that trip except the house where we stayed. We had some distant cousins who lived in a house on Pico that was “Beverly Hills adjacent.” It was the classic Beverly Hills adjacent house. And that's basically what I'm surrounded by now. The area around Pico and La Brea, and Venice and La Brea, and Fairfax, it just hasn't changed at all from my very first memory of the city.

Can you describe a personal memento of Los Angeles—a token of the city you’ve kept in the form of an image or an object? A photo of this artifact will be posted with your interview.

This is a framed photo of Mega at my house at 6680 Whitley Terrace. The top floor was at street level. Because the houses in Whitley were built into the steep hillsides, there were no yards. So that window was Mega’s entertainment, to see the street life and the other dogs going by and sometimes a transvestite hooker. When I was living there in the ‘90s, Whitley Heights was a spot where a lot of men took hookers they picked up on Hollywood Boulevard. We only saw them a few times. Usually you would see the expensive cars parked and then find the detritus in the morning. ◆