Metropolis / Addressed to the Nines


It may not have the cachet of the Viper Room next door, but Sun Bee Liquor Mart has a great name. But Sun Bee, it turns out, has nothing to do with sun or bees and everything to do with the store’s location: near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Larrabee Street. Likewise, Col-Bee Liquor, at the corner of Cole and Willoughby avenues, and the countless establishments around L.A. whose names are combinations of nearby streets. I call them hybrids, and they are everywhere once you look for them.

I take my car to the Hollymont Car Wash (Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont Avenue), rent my movies at Holly Hills Video (a hybrid of Hollywood Hills) and for years belonged to a league at the long-deceased Picwood Bowl (Pico and Westwood boulevards). Perhaps you live in the Fountainwood or Tama-lin apartments (Fountain Avenue and Beachwood Drive; Tamarind Avenue, just north of Franklin Avenue, respectively), buy your groceries at the Norwood Market (Normandie Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard) or work in the Rox San building in Beverly Hills (Roxbury Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard). Indeed, Santa Monica combines particularly nicely with other street names, giving us Santa Glen Market (at Beverly Glen Boulevard) and Santa Fair Pharmacy (at Fairfax Avenue). Even Hollywood’s most storied intersection has a hybrid: Holly-Vine Wigs. Then there is the crown jewel of hybrids, the gorgeous Art Deco Wiltern Theatre, whose towering crimson letters pay tribute to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue.

A rusty sign is all that remains of La Pico Plaza, which burned during the 1992 riots, but to Spanish speakers the name remains an egregious mismatch of masculine and feminine until you realize La Pico was located at La Brea Avenue and Pico Boulevard. Likewise the fractured French of Le Gower Apartments (Lexington Avenue and Gower Street).


Alas, the hybrid seems to be a dying art. Newer establishments brandish names as austere as a country club menu: Brentwood Gardens, Beverly Connection, La Cienega Square. Where is the playfulness? The wink that lets us know we’re in on a terrible pun? Is the Westside Pavilion, which replaced the old Westland shopping center, named any better? Not only did Westland tell us the shopping center was in West L.A., but also that it was bound by Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue.

I long for an L.A. where a Woodworth Plaza beckons at Chatsworth Street and Woodley Avenue. I dream of a San Nuys shopping center at San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard. A Hazelheart florist at Hazeltine Avenue and Valleyheart Drive. Imagine the spiritual uplift of visiting Winner Plaza (Winnetka Avenue and Plummer Street) or the gastronomic triumph of a Sherbur Burger at Sherman Way and Wilbur Avenue. Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Terra Bella Street just scream for a Laurel Bella Plaza.

And that’s just the Valley.