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Anthony Lovett dies at 52; humorist wrote 'L.A. Bizarro' guidebook

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Anthony "Tony" Lovett, a ribald humorist and de facto Los Angeles historian who co-wrote "L.A. Bizarro: The Insider's Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los Angeles," has died. He was 52.

Lovett died in his sleep at home in Simi Valley on Sunday, his wife, Randi, confirmed. The cause has not been determined.

A freelance writer whose articles appeared in Rolling Stone, Playboy and other publications, Lovett was also the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Adult Video News.

His tastes were broad and varied, but he had a keen eye for places and areas of his adopted hometown of Los Angeles that possessed a pleasing patina of strangeness: The concrete fishing pond called Troutdale in Agoura Hills; the old Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown L.A. with its dusty animatronic animals and musty mini-chapel; the Safari Room in Mission Hills with its fantastic vintage neon sign and earnest jungle theme; and the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, where the gravestones honor all kinds of animals, including Blinky the Friendly Hen.

It was these places and more that he and Matt Maranian wrote about with humor and loving reverence in "L.A. Bizarro."

"Don't let the stench of the garbage dumpster near the front door scare you off, Maria's really is one of the best Mexican restaurants in town," they wrote of Maria's Ramada on Kingsley Drive in Hollywood in the first edition of the book, which was published in 1997 by St. Martin's Press. "It's also proof that Christmas lights, plastic vegetables, and crudely woven God's eyes go a long way in dressin' up a place if you know what you're doing. We're unsure whether the decorator — perhaps Maria herself — got what they were aiming for or simply made the most of a minimal design budget, but in either case it's dazzling."

The offbeat guidebook was warmly embraced by camp-loving Angelenos, spending 18 weeks on the Los Angeles Times' bestseller list and selling nearly 40,000 copies.

An update, "L.A. Bizarro: The All-New Insider's Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los Angeles," was published by Chronicle Books in 2009 and spent 14 weeks on The Times' best-seller list.

The new edition featured 80% new material in about 350 entries over 368 pages, organized by chapters on food, drink, shopping, sex, death and more.

"Grit and decay has real appeal if you come from the plastic of suburbia, where there are only malls," Lovett told The Times in 2007.

However, when he began working on the new edition of the book, he discovered that many of the places he had once loved — places that time had blissfully passed by — were now being discovered by developers eager to exploit modern pop culture's love of all things retro.

Lovett took this kind of reinvention of his beloved arcana almost personally, and he moved from L.A. to Simi Valley.

"When I come to L.A., I get really uncomfortable," Lovett told The Times in 2009. "Part of it is that crotchety 'get off my lawn' old-man syndrome. I'm just not acclimated to the change."

He fell in love with the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles — its endless strip malls, grimy dive bars and crusty curiosity shops — after moving downtown from the Dallas suburbs in 1979.

Lovett was born May 13, 1961, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, spent much of his youth in Dallas and graduated with honors from USC's film school in 1983.

Besides his wife, Randi, he is survived by his mother, Mary, and daughter, Ivy Jade Lovett.

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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