"Hiding up in the mountains
Laying low in the canyons
Goin' nowhere on the streets
With their Spanish names
Makin' love with the natives
In their Hollywood places..."
L.A., Los Angeles, City of Angels — by any of its names, El Pueblo de Nuestra Se˝ora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porci˙ncula note
is one of the world's most famous cities and home to much of the US film and television industry. Also gets bonus points for having one of the longest and
one of the smallest place names in the world, and being the largest metro area in the US contained entirely within a single state.note
It has been described as the biggest small town
in the country instead of its second-largest city. As with many cities in the American West, it experienced an explosive growth in the years after World War II
. With the rise of car culture at the same time, Los Angeles raced outwards in all directions, blanketing the land with Suburbia
. To cope with the sheer vastness of the place, the local lexicon splits the megalopolis into a patchwork of neighborhoods and cities that don't legally exist. Of these, Hollywood is the most well known, but other examples are: Venice Beach, Century City, Encino, Sherman Oaks.note
Generally, the city is divided into the following areas: Downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles and Northeast Los Angeles, South Los Angeles (formerly and infamously known as South Central), the Harbor Area (the area surrounding Long Beach, including San Pedro and Carson), Greater Hollywood, Wilshire (including the Miracle Mile and La Brea tar pits), the Westside (including Venice, Century City and Bel Air), and the San Fernando and Crescenta Valleys (Sunland and Tujunga). There are also many independent cities and towns that both surround and are surrounded by Los Angeles, such as Compton, Santa Monica, East Los Angeles, West Hollywood
, Culver City, and El Segundo. And the entire vast region of neighboring cities is often referred to as "Greater Los Angeles."note
Don't worry, it can be rather confusing even for long time residents.
L.A. is sometimes called the "City on Wheels" — nobody walks anywhere in Los Angeles. A nice advantage to this sprawl is that most houses will have at least a small backyard, and the climate lends itself well to gardening. Bordered by Pacific Ocean on one side, LA has glorious weather for most of the year, is full of sunshine and trade-winds and is also relatively insect-free.
But before you pack your bags and move, take into account that this package comes with a side order of mediocre air quality, bad traffic, expensive real estate, and all the headaches that come with sharing 4000 square miles (~10,000 square kilometers) with over four million of your fellow human beings, all of whom want your parking spot. Because of the decentralized nature of the sprawl, long work commutes of 50 miles or more are common.
Owing to the postwar boom and its unique automobile culture, Los Angeles can be described as the home of the drive-thru. Name a fast-food chain subjected to Burger Fool
style parody, and odds are it was founded in the greater L.A.-O.C.-San Diego area. A handful
of such chains include McDonalds, Taco Bell, Del Taco, Jack in the Box, Wienerschnitzel, Fatburger, In-n-Out, Rubio's, El Pollo Loco, Tommy's, and Carl's Jr.
When you visit, be sure to look for the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Bowl (no relation), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (sometimes called the Taj Mahony
, after a bishop purported to have an inflated sense of self-worth
), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (don't call it The Gehry Hall, no one will know what you're talking about), as well as the archetypal Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach
, and the fantastic shopping in the Fashion District of Downtown LA—which is polluted, noisy, and a concrete jungle, but the prices are so
The film district
is mostly in the San Fernando Valley
nowadays; the neighborhood of Hollywood itself is mostly tourist attractions and below-the-line parts of the industry (editing, effects, props, lighting, post-production). Disney
, and Warner Bros.
' studios are all in the Valley, with Paramount
the only studio still physically based in Hollywood (though 20th Century Fox
are also on the Westside). The Valley is also the center of the American adult entertainment industry (the HBO
estimated that 90% of all American porn is produced or shot there), leading to monikers like "Porn Valley" and "Silicone Valley". The non-filming parts of The Industry may, of course, be done anywhere, but Kirk's Rock
is conveniently located just a half hour's drive away to the north.
Los Angeles has its own electric power company, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is separate and distinct from the power company used by every other city in Southern California. The link between water and power is due to the fact that nearly all
of LA's water has to be pumped in from the other side of a mountain range. Pumping all that the water uphill takes an enormous amount of electric power, and the water rushing downhill on the LA side runs hydroelectric generators to get most of that power back. This allowed LA to build reservoirs at the top of the hill, run the uphill pumps during the night hours (when power is cheaper), and send the water downhill during the daytime hours (where the same power could be sold back at a profit). This setup played a crucial role in the movie Chinatown
Every July, the Los Angeles Convention Center hosts Anime Expo, aka AX, the largest anime-themed Fan Convention
in North America, with an attendence of 81,000 in 2014. Because of the convention's ties with the anime and video game industries, many anime localization announcements, as well as some video game announcements, are made at the various industry panels held at AX.
Also held at the LACC is the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3. A trade show rather than a convention, with only those in the game and game journalism industries allowed to attend, E3 is where many video game companies demonstrate and showcase their upcoming games and game systems.
If you want to confuse a local, ask about the Los Angeles River
. You've probably seen it. If you watched Terminator II
you may remember the scene where the T-1000's semi truck crashes off of the road and chases John Connor down a concrete drainage channel with an inch of water of in it. El Rio de Los Angeles. It was also the location of the big race scene in Grease
, and an emergency space shuttle landing in The Core
A Quick History
Los Angeles was first built in 1781 by Felipe de Neve as an outpost for travelers, cattle ranchers and the Spanish military, but mainly as a city for the Tongva people. In fact, Downtown Los Angeles had the site of the Tongva capital, Yangna, for centuries. Although planned on a grid, the massive hills nearby forced the streets to radiate out medieval-style from a central marketplace. Despite a tiny population, the town was staggeringly diversenote
, and by the time of the Mexican-American War
, it housed as many Italians, Chinese and Americans as native Mexicans.
Los Angeles was the site of a single battle, which lasted 45 days and was an American defeat. New, square city blocks were laid out alongside awkwardly shaped farmland that was to be maintained right downtown. This plan failed spectacularly. Either way, LA essentially became Dixie
-west, with a mostly southern, pro-slavery population. This was so pervasive that in the Civil War, fortresses were built to keep people from trying to invade (culturally very Northern) San Francisco.
The Southern Pacific railroad managed to change all this. In 1869, a railway was built to the harbor at San Pedro and the population exploded. The city finally came of age in 1917. That year, many local institutions were formed, Los Angeles became the largest city in California and the 10th largest in the United States. It boasted a vast metropolitan rail system (today's Metro Rail taken Up to Eleven
) as well as a finely tuned municipal system, which together gave LA the biggest, best public transit system in the world. For what happened there, see Who Framed Roger Rabbit
. LA's golden age was at the end of this era, which many people know from Film Noir
Los Angeles began to decline in The Fifties
as crime increased, inner-city neighborhoods fell into disrepair, and huge numbers of people fled to the suburbs.note
Despite many civic improvement projects, things didn't really pick up until the 1984 Olympics. note
The old rail system began rebuilding in The Nineties
(construction has sped up significantly
since the Great Recession) and people no longer needed cars in the inner city. Having possibly hit the hard limits of urban sprawl, the outer suburbs are now in significant decline following the subprime mortgage bust while Los Angeles and nearby cities like Pasadena continue re-building-up.
Los Angeles in Fiction
Los Angeles itself is often a metaphor for change
, as both a positive and a negative force. People come to Los Angeles, in reality as well as in fiction, to reinvent themselves.
Like New York City
, LA has appeared in thousands of works of fiction and every reader here has probably had or has an LA-based show on their regular watch-list.
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- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! often featured Los Antelopes, Califurnia, Earth-C's Los Angeles. Los Antelopes' various neighborhoods and suburbs were often featured in stories, including Saint Bernardino (San Bernadino), Bel-Airedale (Bel-Air), Beaverly Hills (Beverly Hills) and Follywood (Hollywood), the latter where the Zoo Crew's headquarters were located.
- The West Coast Avengers from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, as well as Iron Man and Wonder Man in that period, as both title characters were members of the team, though Iron Man had moved to California before the formation of the "Wackos", with Tony Stark building a new company from scratch in LA.
- A Running Gag early on in Wonder Man had Simon's showbiz and civilian friends asking him how he could survive in LA without a car. He could just use his jet belt to fly anywhere, of course, but the thought of being able to drive others around town had never occurred to him.
- Marvel's Runaways, where one of the major plot points is the fact that the kids are in LA and not NYC.
- Avengers Academy is likewise based out of LA, and sees a crossover with the Runaways.
- DC Comic's series Manhunter follows Federal Prosecutor Kate Spencer, who is based out of LA.
- The Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Chandler was a poet before diving into hard-boiled detective fiction, and it shows in his narrative descriptions of the City of Angels.
- Michael Connelly has written a long series of mystery and detective fiction novels in the Raymond Chandler spirit, most of which are set in Los Angeles and which display a deep familiarity with the city's history and culture.
- The Alex Delaware novels of Johnathan Kellerman and the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novels of Faye Kellerman. Since the Kellermans are husband and wife, their characters have had at least one Cross Over.
- Many of LA-native Harry Turtledove's short stories and novels. In particular, The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, and "Counting Up/Counting Down" are full of references to San Fernando Valley landmarks.
- The majority of Snow Crash is set in Los Angeles. (Geographically, at least. Politically, it's mostly set in Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong, Cita di Cosa Nostra, The Farms of Cloverdell, The Clink, and, very occasionally, the United States of America.)
- The main charaters of A Wind Named Amnesia visit L.A early in the story.
- In Shanghai Girls, sisters Pearl and May Chin move to Chinatown in 1938.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy and his friends travel to L.A—- which is the current location of the Underworld. The narrator further describes the city in the most negative terms imaginable, which makes one wonder whatever happened to Rick Riordan in Los Angeles to make him hate it so.
- In They Thirst by Robert Mc Cammon, a group of hostile vampires takes over the city via sandstorm.
- Los Angeles is posited as a sort of Casablanca for every conspiracy, cult, and secret society on the planet in the comedy neo-noir Mr Blank and its sequel.
- City of Devils takes place in L.A. Granted, it's an alternate 1955 Los Angeles where nearly everyone is a b-movie monster, but the city is recognizable.
- The Elvis Cole series of detective novels by Robert Crais feature L.A. heavily in most of the books, and with highly detailed scenery descriptions constant throughout the books.
- The Ahriman Trilogy takes place largely in San Pedro, the suburb of L.A. down by the port.
Live Action TV
- 24: The first six seasons were based out of LA.
- Angel the series, plus the occasional episode of its parent series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Baywatch and Baywatch Nights
- The setting of The Big Bang Theory is nearby Pasadena
- The Closer
- Dollhouse is based in LA as well. Native New Yorker Joss Whedon likes his adopted city as a setting.
- "This is the city: Los Angeles, California."
- Naturally, The Movie and radio show were set here too.
- Jonas LA
- Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
- The LA Complex has fun with this; after Abby's Alleged Car is towed in the pilot, she becomes possibly the first major character in a set-in-LA series to use public transportation regularly. Note that the show is made by people who live elsewhere.
- L.A. Law.
- Law & Order: LA
- Men of a Certain Age is set and filmed in Granada Hills, out in The Valley.
- NCIS: Los Angeles
- New Girl is possibly the only television show set in Downtown Los Angeles (the Arts District, to be exact) that isn't about cops or lawyers.
- Noah's Arc
- Most episodes of Perry Mason
- Power Rangers with the city of Angel Grove, explained by California being founded by the British Empire.
- The Rockford Files.
- Six Feet Under
- Some Zorro series took place here. At the time, Spanish was the de facto language.
- Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was filmed in "Beautiful Downtown Burbank".
- Three's Company took place in Santa Monica, which is surrounded on three sides by Los Angeles.
Stand Up Comedy
- Bill Hicks, born in Texas, spent several years in Los Angeles and never tired of reminding his audience how much he hated it. Arizona Bay is a borderline Concept Album which repeatedly comes back to the subject of how much better off the country and the world would be if Southern California sank into the Pacific.
- Los Angeles is an important spot in the Demon The Fallen fluff, being the city where the ex-Archangel Lucifer himself has resided since its foundation (the city name is the clue).
- Los Angeles is depicted as a haven for demonic influence in In Nomine, with no angelic tethers and few (if any) angels stationed there. (The angelic equivalent is San Francisco.)
- Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is set in and around LA.
- Midnight Club LA
- In Fallout, the city was devastated by nukes during the Great War, and is known as the "Boneyard" among the survivors.
- Future Cop: LAPD gives the LAPD a Transforming Mecha and a whacked-out crime wave in the future.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, one of the game's three cities is a Fictional Counterpart called Los Santos, mostly consisting of Downtown, the beaches, and the violent ghettos that protagonist Carl "CJ" Johnson calls home. It's pretty accurate as most of the major landmarks are there and accounted for, even if they are under a different name.
- True Crime: Streets of LA
- Police Quest IV: Open Season along with SWAT 1-3
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 has a level set in downtown Los Angeles (recreated for Underground 2), while American Wasteland is ENTIRELY set in L.A.
- L.A. Noire is, logically, set here. The map's pretty realistic, too (One of the first things Team Bondi had to do was remove the freeways.) They used over 180,000 photographs to map out the entire city.
- Although they added the anachronistic palm trees (they would have been saplings at the time of the game, just planted) for aesthetics sake.
- Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever (first half) take place in Los Angeles during an Alien Invasion.
- The expansion to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (Yuri's Revenge) has the second Allied mission in Los Angeles, where the player has to stop Yuri from using the airwaves to mind control civilians and feed them to his Grinders.
- Red Alert 3 has an Imperial mission based in nearby Santa Monica, also with the objective of utilizing media presence.
- L.A. appears have been converted into some sort of space colony in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and is now known as Neo Los Angeles.
- Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA features the Los Angeles track. Unlike the other courses, which have a "Fog" setting, L.A. replaces the fog with smog.
- In Police 911, the Japanese version begins in Tokyo and ends in Los Angeles. In the North American version, it's the other way around.
- The setting of 2014's Battlefield Hardline
- Animaniacs: the Warner sibs lived on the Warner Brothers lot, in Burbank; Slappy and Skippy Squirrel also lived in Burbank.
- When Rita and Runt go to Poland in "Puttin on the Blitz", Rita sings that it doesn't look like Burbank, more like Van Nuys.
- Slappy also does a parody of the song, "Little Old Lady from Pasadena," called "Little Old Slappy From Pasadena."
- Sponge Bob Square Pants: Patchy the Pirate lives in the LA suburb of Encino.
- Dan Vs. takes place in the Van Nuys neighborhood.
- The Flintstones often features "Hollyrock," the prehistoric version of Hollywood. The adult Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm live there in several 90s TV-movies.
- Garfield and Friends: When Garfield narrated a tale about barbarians, he described the place where they lived as a Los Angeles without Mexican stores.
- Like the film it follows, Turbo: F.A.S.T.
Be sure to try the taco trucks!