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LAist Interview II: Domenic Priore

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Editor's Note: Here is the second part of our Interview with author Domenic Priore. Since he's such an expert on SoCal in the 60s, we've asked him to answer our questionnaire as a resident of the Sunset Strip in 1966. Domenic will be discussing "Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece" at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena next Saturday, July 23, 2005 at. 3:00 PM. He'll be joined by Van Dyke Parks, Danny Hutton & Wilson collaborator Tony Asher at the reading. Go early, the reading at Book Soup last week attracted a large crowd.

Today we've reached into the past to interview Rudy Gomez who works at David Wolper Productions, producing documentary segments. Here's his take on what's happening in LA in 1966.

Where are you from and what neighborhood do you live in?

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Greenwich Village, Laurel Canyon

Where is the best place to relax in Los Angeles?

Pacific Ocean Park, on the banana boat ride at the end of the (Venice) peir... love the Exotica music in there.

Where is the worst place in Los Angeles? Where is the saddest place in LA?

The Hollywood Police Station on Wilcox is the worst... I'd say the saddest place is the Lytton Savings parking lot, which only a few years ago was the Garden of Allah.

Where is the best place in LA for romance?

The veranda in the back of the Sea Witch, on Sunset Strip, with The Sound Machine's "Spanish Flash" playing in the background...

What's your preferred mode of transportation? How often do you ride the light rail?

My navy blue '65 Mustang is fine by me. There's only a couple of Red Car lines left, on Alameda and then in front of P.J.'s on Santa Monica Boulevard, but its hard to tell when they're running.

What's your favorite movie(s) that take place in LA and why?

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IT'S A BIKINI WORLD, because it's cool to see the Animals, the Castaways, Pat & Lolly Vegas and the Toys playing inside the Haunted House (near Hollywood & Vine). The Gentrys are cool in that film too, playing at someone's house party with Pop art paintings on the wall.

Best LA-themed book(s) and why?

I've always like Carey McWilliams' book SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: AN ISLAND ON THE LAND, because it really understands what's good, and what's bad, about this place. We've got some things to work on, but for the most part, this place is pretty special.

Share your best celebrity sighting experience.

Probably a toss up between that "Teen" magazine model Cheryl Tiegs, and then the co-host of GROOVY, Kam Nelson. Really sweet people, and they just embody the stock look of L.A. Now if I could only meet Mary Hughes and Sharon Tate, that'd be definitive.

In your opinion, what's the best way to get to the beach and/or the San Fernando Valley?

I prefer getting to the 605 Freeway and heading out to Huntington or Newport Beach. It's just so rural out there, and it smells like jasmine everywhere you go. They've got good Folk-Rock clubs in Orange County like the Golden Bear, the Mecca, Sid's Blue Beet, Prison of Socrates... and that Psychedelic club Merlin's Music Box in Orange. I've seen so many cool Garage bands at the Anaheim Bowl, you wouldn't believe this Modern bowling alley, its so cool! Plus, the kelp beds are lighter South of Long Beach, you're in a different hemisphere, it seems. I rarely go to the Valley, unless it's a trip to Busch Gardens or Jungleland. It's too damn hot up there!

What's the best place to walk in LA?

No question, Sunset Strip, between 9 p.m. and 2 p.m. any night. You can see the Byrds, Love, the Mothers of Invention, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, the Seeds, the Chambers Brothers, Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band, the Leaves, the Music Machine, the Electric Prunes, the Merry Go Round, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, the Standells, hell, all on the same night if you go from place to place. Great visiting groups too, like Them, the Temptations or the Velvet Underground, always turning up.

It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you

Usually we go to either the Blue Grotto coffee house on Fairfax, or the Bizzare Bazzar on Selma, then up to The Trip or Pandora's Box on Sunset Strip to see what's going on. Sometimes we'll just chill out at the Fifth Estate Coffee House (near the Rocky & Bullwinkle statue) and watch Bunel films projected onto a sheet.

What's your beach of choice?

Newport. Funky brick buildings there, with cool food all around inside. Good surf, too, and a cool pier to fish from.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

Probably the early 1930s, right around the time the Trocadero opened up. I'd dig to hang with Jean Harlow and Thelma Todd people. F. Scott Fitzgerald hangin' at the Garden of Allah, you know... and some good Jazz and Blues out in Culver City and out on Central Avenue, too.

What is the "center" of LA to you?

The block just West of La Cienega and Sunset... you get the Fred C. Dobbs Coffeehouse, the Sea Witch, Dino's Lodge, the Playboy Club, Ben Franks, The Trip, the deVoss clothing shop (with all the Mod gear), and Wil Wright's Ice Cream Parlor... once in a while you see Duke Ellington or Brian Wilson in there. I work right in the middle of all that, at David Wolper Productions, producing segments for their documentaries.

If you were forced to live in a neighboring county, which would you choose? Ventura County is a wussy answer.

Orange County, for all the above-mentioned beaches and clubs.

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?

Probably Case Study House #22, right above the Strip. The lady who owns the place tells me that she calls it her "little glass shack"... wow!

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal
connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?

Oh, no, no way! The people here are so friendly, and groovy, are you kidding? You can meet anyone on the Strip, the Teen Age Fair, or P.O.P., spend the best day of your life with them, and never see them again, and its cool. It's like, with the flower people, and the people in the new move, everybody gets along, it's like this huge club with everyone in it. When you see someone with, you know, long, Beatle-length hair, it's almost like you're part of the same environmental community.

What is the city's greatest secret?

Well, one weekend at Bizzare Bazzar, they did actually serve L.S.D. Coffee, as advertised!

Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

Well, lets just put it this way; we've all found a different agent of intoxication. Have you ever tried a marijuana cigarette? We do a lot of walking, anyway... everything is so close, if you think about it, from the Haunted House near Hollywood & Vine, all the way West to the Cock 'n' Bull Restaurant on the Strip. Fairfax is right in the middle of that... it's all walking distance.

Describe your best LA dining experience.

Probably that time we all went down to the Islander Restaurant on La Cienega after Andy Warhol's Silver Pillows show at Ferus Gallery. We had a good group with us, and the atmosphere was complete exotic South Seas jungle.

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?

Well, these days, there's really no contest. The Lovin' Spoonful are out here all the time, hangin' with their old Greenwich Village pals like the Mamas & the Papas and the Buffalo Springfield, who've done pretty well since they got here.

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of
hurricanes and long winters?

Well, we haven't had a really bad earthquake in a while, so it's no big deal.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

Inside Canter's, preferably with the Matzo Ball soup done. At least we'll all go out together, and the suede will be clean.