Wherever you are is the place to be
– Mike Damone, "Fast Times At Ridgemont High"
Lennon Roxie’s birthday party was a rager. David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust blasted through his Valley Village home as scores of guests squeezed into the backyard. The vibe was pure trashy decadence, circa 1985: a glittery globe of light flickered and swayed like a psychedelic porcupine, a patch of old white shag covered a coffee table, and a bubble machine sent twisted soap balls slowly adrift into the still summer air. Guests sipped spiked punch and munched on chicken wings. A good time was held by all, and the bash lingered well into the early morning hours.
By that time, the guest of honor had been asleep for several hours. When you’ve just turned one, you have only so much stamina. It was equally tough for his dad. Though Ryan Roxie is accustomed to late nights -- he’s toiled as an L.A. guitarist (remember Candy? Electric Angels?) since the birth of hair metal – the early kickoff time was at odds with his body clock. His son’s party started at 4 in the afternoon, in order to accommodate the rockers-with-kids crowd.
A lot of heavy cats are kicking it in the Valley these days. Dave Grohl’s place in Tarzana was the scene of a killer barbecue on July 4th, while a virtual Guns N Roses alumni crew (Slash, Gilby Clarke, Duff McKagen, Izzy Stradlin) straddle the south of Ventura Boulevard in well-appointed manses from Sherman Oaks to Woodland Hills.
What gives? Why are teeming masses of heshers coming home to roost a canyon away from the scene of their amped-up glory? According to Roxie, even the most debauched of bad asses need to escape the eye of the hurricane. Before he bought his Valley Village abode two years ago, the 37-year-old guitarist -- who has a regular Thursday night gig at Hollywood’s Cat Club and also tours with Alice Cooper – perceived the 818 as precisely the sort of SoCal Siberia that must be avoided. “It’s the biggest 180 reversal I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “To me, L.A. always stopped on Laurel Canyon; the Country Store, that was the Berlin Wall.”
His decision to scale the wall came down to economics. Roxie and his wife Viktoria were looking to buy a home, and buck bang took precedence over the cool quotient of a particular zip code. “We couldn’t wait for five years for Echo Park to become a chic place to live,” says the spiky-headed rocker. “There’s nothing chic about gunshots at ten in the morning.”
Instead, the man who said he’d never live in the Valley is reveling in the region’s most enduring assets – wide streets, clear sidewalks, a plethora of parking, and cops when you need them. It may not sound like much, but when you’ve lived most of your adult life in the permit parking hell that is L.A., the Valley is a veritable paved paradise.
The truth is that Roxie and his axe-wielding brethren are merely returning to their middle-class tract home womb. “You look in the mirror and say, ‘oh my God, I am becoming my parents,’” he says. “But it’s not always a bad thing to become your parents, to have some of the great qualities your parents had. For a lot of us, we had some pretty great parents.”
These parents might include the sort of pipe-smoking aerospace dads who spawned the founding generation of baby heshers when the Valley was a quaint but culturally bereft landscape in which the opening of Don Drysdale’s Dugout was occasion enough to get seriously stoked.
The San Fernando Valley frozen in my mind is the capitol of the Hesher Nation. As upwardly mobile kids turned preppy and listened to Styx, heshers remained hopelessly oblivious to trends. They would not be swayed by the operatic majesty of Dennis DeYoung on Paradise Theatre. That was wine cooler shit. It was “Jamie’s Crying” and Jack all the way, baby. Van Halen at the Forum was a virtual school holiday. The death of rock station KMET-FM was a day of mourning, cause to pour a symbolic drop of Bud onto the street in protest.
And you can’t beat the look: baby blue Levi cords; hair -- preferably greasy -- parted in the middle, no matter how long or short; T-shirts offering “Mustache rides five cents” ; and puffy blue down jackets . Flannel shirts as formal wear.
Hesherdom meant effortless cool. And we can’t deny that the Valley could use a bit more of that. Down with Aahs! and vente caramel macchiatos! Give me black light posters at Spencer’s Gifts at the mall and a dime bag of paraquat. Triple cheese with extra chili at Tommy’s at 3:30 in the morning. ’66 Mustangs that won’t start.
The heshers are taking back the Valley, and I say whoo-ya! Rage on, Slash, Duff, and Lennon Roxie. Welcome home.