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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...
Billy Joel, "Los Angelenos"

L.A., Los Angeles, City of Angels, Shaky Town -- by any of its nicknames, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciúncula [1] 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.

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. 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, and El Segundo. Don't worry, it can be rather confusing even for long time residents.

LA 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, full of sunshine and trade-winds and relatively insect-free.

Yeah, you wish you lived there, don't you? It comes with a side order of bad air quality, the worst traffic in America, 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.

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, In and 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 Mahoney, 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 good.

The film district is mostly in the San Fernando Valley. Disney, Universal, and Warner Brothers' studios are all in the Valley. Paramount is south of Hollywood Boulevard, and Fox and Sony are also on the Westside. The non-filming parts of The Industry may, of course, be done anywhere.

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 as an outpost for travellers, cattle ranchers and the Spanish military. The town at that time was medieval-style, radiating from a central marketplace. Despite a tiny population, the town was staggeringly diverse[2], 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 San Francisco. During reconstruction, the sheriff even built a gallows to mass lynch black people and Chinese. That's the nice little plaza you see Downtown.

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.[3] Despite many civic improvement projects, things didn't really pick up until the 1984 Olympics [4] 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.

Film

Comic Books

  • 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.
  • Marvel's Runaways, where one of the major plot points is the fact that the kids are in LA and not NYC.
  • DC Comic's series Manhunter follows Federal Prosecutor Kate Spencer, who is based out of LA.


Literature

Live Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • 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).


Video Games


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Animaniacs: the Warner sibs lived on the Warner Brothers lot, in Burbank; Slappy Squirrel also lived in Burbank.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: 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.


Music

  • Bad Religion: "Los Angeles is Burning" .
    • Indeed, their first studio album was called How Could Hell be Any Worse? (which receives a Call Back in the above song). The cover image was just a shot of L.A.
  • Billy Joel: "Los Angelinos".
  • The Briggs: "This is LA".
  • Cheech and Chong: "Born in East LA".
  • Concrete Blonde: about half of their songs, but "Still In Hollywood", "Roses Grow" and "God Is A Bullet" more than most.
  • Counting Crows: "Goodnight L.A", "Come Around".
  • The Doors: "LA Woman".
  • Eagles: "Life In The Fast Lane" and "Hotel California"
  • Eagles of Death Metal: "Wannabe in LA".
    • Frontman Jesse Hughes told The Sun January 30, 2009: "You know when you're some place and you want to be somewhere else. But when you're not in that place, you want to be there. That's LA. It has its skeletons but when you leave it, s--t, all you want to do is go back."
  • Guns N' Roses: "Welcome to the Jungle".
    • (from Songfacts) This song is about Los Angeles. It exposes the dark side of the city many people encounter when they go there to pursue fame. Guns N' Roses knew this side of the city well: in 1985, they lived in a place on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles that they called "Hell House." The house was often filled with drugs, alcohol and groupies.
  • My Chemical Romance: "Battery City" is a ridiculously thinly-veiled version of Los Angeles in the "Danger Days" universe.
  • Meat Loaf: "Los Angeloser".
  • Rancid: "L.A. River". It's about people coming to LA, not making it out and getting caught up in all sorts of bad stuff. The LA River is the backdrop.
  • Randy Newman: "I love LA".
    • Newman was asked to write a song about Los Angeles as a theme to the 1984 Olympics held there. Instead, he wrote a tongue-in-cheek "homage" to the car-cruising, sun-worshipping LA culture, complete with mentions of a "Big nasty redhead" and a "Bum down on his knees." LA officials didn't think this was the image they wanted, but Newman released the song anyway. For a while it was the adopted theme song for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. (from Songfacts)
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers make a lot of Los Angeles references in their songs, which may or may not be coded drug references.
  • X: "Los Angeles". This song is about a very racist person that feels compelled to leave the city for a less diverse environment.
  • Songs about how much Los Angeles sucks seems to be a popular theme for indie rockers from the Pacific Northwest.
    • Death Cab for Cutie has "Why You'd Want To Live Here" off of The Photo Album, asking the obvious question. Ironically, lead singer Ben Gibbard ended up moving to Los Angeles; apparently, marrying Zooey Deschanel is the reason why one might want to live in LA.
    • The Decemberists have "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," a delightfully snarky attack on the lifestyle of certain Angelinos. The song was penned while lead singer/songwriter/etc. Colin Meloy was visiting his sister, who lives there. Hmm....
  • LA, LA, Baby! by the Jonas Brothers for Jonas LA.
  • Tool's song "Ænema" is one giant Take That at the city which fantasizes about it being buried beneath an ocean. This song is an Homage and Shout-Out to Bill Hicks, as mentioned below.


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.

Be sure to try the taco trucks!

Notes

  1. The City of our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the River of Porciúncula, the little portion
  2. This would turn out to be a Characteristic Trope of the city
  3. Because of its vast land holdings, population nominally continued to increase, but even today there's a major distinction between the suburban West Side and Valley and the more traditional, landlocked "City."
  4. Los Angeles is the only American city to host the olympics twice; the first time being in 1932.
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