"The cars are traveling so fast," reads the screenplay, "that they seem to almost float as they fly with psychotic speed down both lanes of Mulholland Drive."
No wonder before the "No Parking, 9 p.m. to 6 a.m." signs were posted at the overlooks, it was a make-out spot for teenagers, a destination for illicit rendezvous. A cool wind blows in from the Pacific. Crickets chirp above the drone of the city. Dogs bark in the canyon below.
Of course, it wasn't always like this. One developer spoke to The Times the day after the highway opened and described the view at night as "a gorgeous spectacle of illumination . The great vault above and the sea of sparkling gems below seem to reflect eternal harmony, and here, from your living room on Mulholland Highway, the Great Producer stages for you each night a glorious spectacle that cannot be described."
When Michael Stipe, lead singer for R.E.M., wanted to write a farewell to the 20th century, he set the song on Mulholland Drive because "nowhere seemed more perfect than the city that came into its own throughout the 20th century always looking forward and driven by greater ideas of a greater future at whatever the cost."
"Electrolite" is the final track on R.E.M.'s 1996 CD "New Adventures in Hi-Fi," a song distinguished for its lyricism on an album marked by a more rocking sound. Here are all the pop hooks: a whisk on the drums, a banjo and Stipe's familiar narrative style.
If you ever want to fly.
Up in the sky.
Stand on a cliff and look down there.
Don't be scared.
.You are alive.
Stipe says he associates the sight of the city from on high with "a blanket of stars or those bizarre sea creatures that light up when you stir up the water."
"Mulholland is the place in films where you get a distance and the awe, of the city built on dreams and fantasy," says Stipe, adding, "far away enough to not smell it but to marvel at its intensity and sheer audacity."
ALMOST two miles past the Sepulveda Pass, Mulholland hits Encino Hills Drive, makes a sharp left and turns to dirt. The clearance on the Corvette is low, so Guldstrand turns around, sheathing the car in a cloud of sweet smelling dust. Just as fast, it blows off.
As he passes the racer's landmarks on the way home, it becomes clear how easily Mulholland can enter the bloodstream of those who take the time to learn its grades, its goofiness and curves.
To get out of your car and to stand in the middle of the road on the double yellow line is to feel the heat of the pavement, the enticement of speed, and at the end of the day, as the sun pours its hazy beams through the canyons and tree-lined ridges to the west, you feel the sway of the road long after you've left it.
FOR THE RECORD:
Map error: A map of Mulholland Drive that accompanied the story showed a landmark called the S straight. It is called the S's. —