Opinion: Downtown L.A.: Good enough for the royals, but not for Zooey Deschanel?

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I can’t believe Zooey Deschanel is really the snobby cow she came off sounding like Saturday evening.


The actress was a guest at the black-tie Hollywood BAFTA gala in downtown Los Angeles for the royal Cambridges, William and Kate.

To my friend and former Times colleague Claudia Puig, now the USA Today critic and film writer, Ms. Deschanel worried aloud that the neighborhood around the fabulously restored Belasco Theatre might look shabby to the regal couple. ‘I just don’t want them to see the worst of L.A.,’ said Deschanel.

Excuse me? Downtown, the worst of L.A.?

What, Ms. Deschanel, you don’t have any homeless people there near your home? Or does that not count, because they’re on the beach, not the sidewalks?

Of course there are thousands of down-and-out folks in downtown L.A. I cannot apologize enough to Ms. Deschanel that in some places, the sidewalks do not smell like Jo Malone candles. There are also million-dollar lofts downtown -- like the ones in the Eastern Columbia building, not far from the Belasco theatre. There is the venerable Grand Central Market, the spectacular Central Library, the Oviatt Building, the jewelry district and the fashion district and MOCA. The royals might have marveled, ‘Oooh, what’s that?’ as they helicoptered into downtown above the splendid Disney Concert Hall.

Beyond the polo and the Hollywood glam events in California, in their less than 48-hours here, the royals may have seen more of ‘real L.A.’ than many Angelenos have. Just as William’s aunt, Princess Anne, the princess royal, visited Para Los Ninos on Skid Row a generation ago, and put that program on the map, the Cambridges went to an inner-city arts school downtown and to a jobs program for unemployed veterans on the Sony studios lot.

This was a working trip for William and Kate; it was, in the main, about good deeds, not good times.


And isn’t it possible the royals get tired of red carpets and roses? People naturally want to spiff up for a royal arrival -– there’s the story of an old English lady who got down on her hands and knees with a toothbrush and a bottle of ink to spiff up a carpet for the Queen Mother’s visit. Maybe these young royals probably actually want to get a look at real reality once in a while.

For decades, the royals have had to put in very public good-deed time to help to justify who they are and how they live. Queen Mary, the present queen’s grandmother, supposedly told her daughter, when the girl complained that she was so tired of visiting all those icky hospitals, ‘We are the British royal family. We all love hospitals, and we are never tired.’

Prince William has spent time at British charities for the luckless; a couple of years ago, he stayed out a night, ‘sleeping rough’ among London’s homeless, to get a taste, and a smell, of living on the street. Of course it was a staged event. Of course he had security, and of course he could walk right back into a luxurious life the next day, which his fellow street dossers could not. But he did it.

Ms. Deschanel’s remarks are all the more gob-smacking because the success of her 2009 film ‘[500] Days of Summer’ is chiefly thanks to … downtown L.A. The Times said the architecture is the star of the film, from the Music Center to the towering California Plaza and the haunting (and maybe haunted -– it was built on the advice of a Ouija board) Bradbury Building.

Did Ms. Deschanel not look any farther than her trailer door?

Maybe spending a little time at the inner-city arts school, or at the downtown women’s shelter, might do her even more good than it could do to help out those laudable places. I mean, if it’s not too hard for her to set foot once again in ‘the worst of L.A.’

[For the Record, added 4:43 p.m. July 12: The original post stated that Deschanel lived on the Westside. An update was added on July 11 to note that, ‘as it turns out, Zooey Deschanel does not live on the Westside.’ The current version removes the error and adds this explanation.]



Full coverage: Will and Kate’s L.A. visit

Takin’ a royal ride: William and Kate, floor it!

Making the most of Will and Kate’s skid row photo-op

L.A. Now: ‘There are, like, parking lots filled with trash all the way here’

-- Patt Morrison