My heart went all aflutter a few weeks back after I read that a Van Nuys neighborhood not far from mine may soon be getting a historic neighborhood designation. It would be the first such recognition for a Valley neighborhood. To this, I say: Jesus. I guess we may be able to soon pull off those kick-me bulls-eyes that have forever been pinned to our collective asses.
To what do we owe this late-in-coming sign of respect? Did someone get a tip that the apocalypse is around the corner? Did it leak out somewhere that terrorists have decided to target Universal Citywalk and we’re getting a sympathy vote? I mean, the Valley’s been in business almost a hundred years, and finally the cultural elite in the anonymous Ivory Tower determine there’s more to this fine region than good sushi on Ventura Boulevard. What gives?
This got me to thinking. What other Valley locations deserved historic status? If I was on that committee, here’s who'd I’d nominate, although, alas, most are already long-gone dead.
Law Dogs, Van Nuys: We already had Cupid’s, but when this hot dog shack opened at the dawn of the eighties in Arleta and Van Nuys, its perks were worth far more than the price of a pup. At the time, many of my pals were stealing cars and car stereos for fun and profit. Before they got caught, perhaps they should have visited Law Dogs on a Wednesday night, when the stand offered free legal advice.
Continental Liquor, Northridge: All hail the merchants who scoff at age limits when selling products like alcohol and cigarettes. A buck’s a buck, right? I raise my glass to the first place I purchased booze (probably Barcardi 151 or a six-pack of Michelob) at the tender age of 16 back in 1980. Those were the days when a kid with a new driver’s license and 2.8 blood alcohol level were as common as a Winchell’s donut shop. There’s a reason we called it driving by “Braille.”
Buddy’s Bat-A-Way, Van Nuys: Helping Little Leaguers hone their hitting skills since 1967 (bonus points for being a stone’s throw from the landmark Fedco on Raymer Street), my palms swelled with blood-filled blisters on many occasions trying to hit the Don Sutton pitching machine in my quest for greatness. It didn’t work.
The Palomino, North Hollywood: My parents used to get gussied up to visit the Valley’s legendary cosmic cowboy bar and kick the shit with the likes of Jimmy Rabbit’s Renegade and Dennis Colt, King of the Elvis Impersonators. With cheesy blacklight posters on its walls, a long-ass bar for suckin’ down longnecks and an outdoor patio in the back, the Palomino was a flashpoint of the L.A. country rock scene back in the late ‘60s. A gig there changed my own life in 1979, when I snagged a scalped ticket for an Elvis Costello show for 20 bucks. It was torn down in 1995.
Country Club, Reseda (aka Chuck Landis’ Country Club aka Rismiller’s): It was the winter of my junior year in high school, and I had a hot date with Sue Elliott. Taking great pains to treat her right, I splurged on a fine meal at 450 Pub (RIP) in Northridge, followed by a rockin’ show at the Country Club: Rockpile with Moon Martin. I know, a fucking great double bill. Dinner went well -- once again, I scored booze with ease. (No doubt I impressed my date by ordering a fancy bottle of Lancer’s). The gig was a different story, however. Sue was not a Rockpile fan, and there never was a second date. But I returned to Country Club often. It offered Valley kids the chance to see cool local and touring bands without having to make the interminable drive to Hollywood. Over the years, the building’s gone through many incarnations, and it still stands (usually hosting weird religious events) but its last hurrah was as the club where Jack Horner first lays eyes on Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.
Fedco, Gemco, White Front, Zody’s, Two Guys, Valleywide: These stores died so that Target could live and prosper.
Slipped Disc / Adam’s Apple, Panorama City: There’s a moment in every record geek’s life -- for some, that moment never ends -- when you have to own all the weird shit and you have to have it the second it comes out. My money was well spent at Slipped Disc. The knowledgeable heshers behind the counter were Zappa freaks who could always be counted on to keep a healthy stock of Beatles Japanese vinyl and a secret stash of picture discs. Adam’s Apple was different. Tucked away on an industrial stretch of Lanark Avenue just south of Roscoe, it was a no-frills outpost for cutouts, rare and discontinued stuff. If you went there, you felt like you were in on the secret handshake.
Winnetka Drive-In, Chatsworth: At a time when most Valley drive-ins had met the wrecking ball, the Winnetka took the multiplex concept outdoors in 1976, with six drive-in screens, providing a safe haven for scores of teen makeout scenes. I thank the Winnetka for allowing me to experience a very, um, fulfilling evening with my high school girlfriend Carol Mancini in the back of my ’68 Camaro.