One of the most embarrassing details of my life is the fact that I went to Beverly High in the 90s, so long ago that the TV show was just starting to air when I was in high school. In fact, I said, in the LA Times on July 7, 1991, “I know people who don’t like the show because they think it’s morally wrong for us to support it because it makes fun of us.” But I’ve always had a sense of self-deprecation and I’ve never minded writing about it. “Write what you know,” I’ve always been told. I still don’t know much, but I know how to walk and eat my way around the city.
When I was in high school, I was the youngest in my grade and both my parents worked, so I had to figure out how to get around. I started to run for efficiency when I was 13 or so. First I ran alone, but it was always a little creepy in the late 80s, post-Night Stalker and all. In 10th grade, I joined the cross country team and this solidified my life long respect for endurance and admiration for those that train and for those that possess the stamina to remain.
I’ve been thinking about the subject of endurance lately, almost 2 years into the pandemic, 5 years into my daily art practice and a decade into my life hobby as contemporary art superfan. As another big art fair comes to town, I cleared my calendar and started thinking about all the things I wanted to see and experience in a short period of time. Then I realized as I started to map it out: it’s taking place in the middle of my old cross country training route at 9900 Wilshire, home of Frieze Los Angeles. The art fair has come home to me and is existing in Beverly Hills, a city that is really an neighborhood, that doesn’t have much public art besides a plop sculpture or two. There’s really no museums. So much of the best art in the city is hidden behind gates in people’s houses or in the plethora of leftover auction house catalogs I started to collect as a teenager from the used public library bookstore on Rexford because they were only a dollar or two each. I’ve always found these personal art stories of interest, because they’ve been forgotten and they’re often funny, like a private unveiling of a Pollock painting that was hung upside down or my friend’s Lichtenstein paper plate given as a gag gift, because it was too expensive to get a canvas one. There’s often been a feeling to me that a lot of art collecting not just in LA, but specifically Beverly Hills, has been decorative, something to fill large walls of too big European style houses lacking views on flat, tree-lined streets. The more interesting art in my imagination always lived in the hills or the fringes of the city. When I think specifically about art in Beverly Hills, I just naturally think of gates, of inaccessible houses, of surveillance, often the last places I want to ever have the work I love call home. So having Frieze in this city may be one of the rare times where for once you can actually see contemporary art in a somewhat public setting.
And while I should use this time to write about the art, in order to do that justice, I need to read about the art and process the plethora of information about it. And it’s really not one of those weeks where I feel in the headspace to do so. But thinking about the location, I felt like writing about other things nearby and around the space.
So here’s my few insider tips of things to explore near Frieze 2022. For those of you who need some respite from the fair, here’s some on-foot or nearby explores. I even made a map.
- The Witches House. (Spadena House) 516 North Walden.
Just a few blocks from Frieze is this bizarre Hansel and Gretel House that was the sight of mob scenes of children in my youth on Halloween. Built in the 1920s originally as a set for silent films, it was moved to its current location about a hundred years ago. On a street filled with modern mansions and other architecture of grandeur, it’s still the strangest architectural delight. Walk by it, drive by it. Gawk and marvel. (It’s a private residence now though, so don’t ring the doorbell.) On Google Maps, it’s referred to as “Spadena House.”
2. The Nosh of Beverly Hills, 9689 Santa Monica Blvd.
Recently I read somewhere, probably somewhere not locally that LA was becoming the bagel capital of the US and I’d like to argue we’ve always had the Bagel Factory (2 locations) and The Nosh. I’ve always been fond of The Nosh with its soft, airy bagels and light whipped cream cheese. It’s probably the most casual place in the whole city, where teens and the elderly all convene over breakfast. It was a high school meeting place, and is one of the last old town Beverly Hills spots, and recently I discovered from a receipt I saved, it was where I went on 911 when afraid the world was ending and we had nothing in the fridge, I went down the hill and bought a dozen bagels and a quart of whipped cream cheese for my family. During a time in history where the town I grew up in looks nothing like it did, The Nosh remains intact. I really am fond of their bagels, but they also have solid matzo ball soup. Order online here.
3. Da Pasquale, 9749 S. Santa Monica Blvd.
This other long time city staple, this casual family-owned and operated Naples restaurant has been a long-standing pleasure. It’s another slice of small town city, where everyone seems to have been there since I was much younger, and still seem jovial. I’m a big fan of their salads, pizzas and especially their lasagna. It’s a solid. Order online here.
4. Joss. 9919 Santa Monica Blvd,
It’s one of the smallest and delicious Chinese restaurants I’ve ever been to. If you asked me 1 restaurant in Beverly Hills, I could choose to go to at any time, I wouldn’t hesitate and say, “Joss.” I often dream of their eggplant chips and golden roasted Peking duck. I could be happy eating their Mu Shu Crepes plate with a different filling every day. Almost impossible to find, on a truly unglamorous stretch of Santa Monica Blvd across from The Peninsula, just writing these sentences makes my mouth water. Order online here.
5. Clementine, 1751 Ensley Avenue.
LA is not really a city of comfort food. We helped invent health food and this monstrosity of liquid consumption and pricey hocus pocus crazes. Clementine is the antithesis of that, discretely tucked away at the edge of a residential street in Century City, nearby the Westfield, but a world apart. A lunch at Clementine is a reminder to slow down and chew. You can only order directly from them, and they don’t do 3rd party apps. I am partial to their homemade tomato soups, build your own grilled cheeses and shephard’s pies. They also make excellent fruit pie.
6. Holmby Park, 601 Club View Dr.
You would never know just a block north of Wilshire is this gem of a private park, almost hidden from the world amongst mega-mansions. It was my favorite place for timed sprints, a gorgeous little haven where at the top stands a playground and usually one of the city’s rare ice cream trucks.
7. The Pedestrian Bridges of Century City. (Along the south side of Santa Monica Blvd)
LA has never been a walking city and as such, it doesn’t often feel like a publicly reflective place. I’ve always observed there aren’t many public places to stop and gaze at architecture as there are in other big cities around the world. Especially on the Westside, which lacks much shared large public space outside of the beaches. One of the more unlikely spots is in Century City, which I’ve always referred to as the Westside’s downtown, with its plethora of skyscrapers and the Die Hard building. There’s a number of pedestrian bridges that tie the streets together and I’ve always taken pleasure from them. Nearby the mall is one of them. Walk to the middle and stand suspended above the boulevard. Gaze in either direction at the hills or the skyscrapers, with traffic swirling around you and you’ll witness a different and perhaps functional vista of this place that is foreign to most, but remains for better or worse, my home.
Then go and have your mind blown from some great art.
Frieze LA runs February 17-20. Buy tickets here.