My L.A. in Four Locations is a running feature in which Angelenos share the story of their city through four specific places. This week, Sloane Tanen returns to the Los Angeles of her girlhood.
My parents’ divorce meant endless hours in the car shuttling between their homes in Benedict Canyon and Santa Monica. I tried to be the daughter I thought each of them wanted but my preoccupation with pleasing them led to a broader fixation that I was being judged and always coming up short. My Los Angeles happened between 1970 and 1989, a girl’s perspective of a bygone world where I both belonged and felt totally mislaid.
11645 San Vicente Boulevard — Regular Jon’s Pizza — Before Brentwood was a high-end strip mall, everyone came to Regular Jon’s for its cracker-thin pizza and pitchers of icy soda served on long red and white-checkered tablecloths. This was my happy place, the floors were covered in sawdust, there was a fire engine outside for kids to play on, and my father’s glamorous new wife could drown her sorrows in dark beer and wonder how the hell she’d gone from Saturday evenings at Le Cirque to grease-stained paper napkins and screaming children on what was the not-so chic side of L.A.
1000 North Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills — Lucille Ball’s House — My mom, in one of her occasional rages, would drop my sister and I off in front of Lucy’s white colonial house in Beverly Hills and make us walk the three miles home. I envied Little Ricky, who of course didn’t exist, and wished Lucy and Desi Arnaz were my parents. I didn’t know then that Lucy was already divorced and re-married to Gary Morton.
Photograph by Alan Light.
201 Palisades Beach Road — The Beach Club — We were not members at this exclusive, WASP-y private club on the beach but I spent many middle school weekends tagging along with friends and working hard to look like I belonged on a striped towel under those blue umbrellas. I lathered my pasty complexion with baby-oil beseeching my freckles to join forces so that I too might be one of the tan girls who played beach volleyball while cabana boys looked on in admiration.
7463 Melrose Avenue — Caffé Luna — I was on the menu, literally, at this low-key but popular Italian eatery on Melrose Avenue. A picture of me waiting tables the summer of 1986 adorned that menu for years. I hated the photo, a grainy black and white image of a gawky girl in a vintage sack dress, giant socks and white Keds serving coffee. That image, along with the memories of celebrities simultaneously yelling at me for bringing lukewarm lattes while leaving fifty dollar tips on twenty-dollar checks spoke to my confusion about who I was and what it meant to be a regular kid on one of the coolest strips of real-estate in the 1980s.
By permission of Arco Images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo.
Sloane Tanen is the author of nine illustrated and YA books, including the bestseller Bitter With Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Time of Some Chickens and Hatched: The Big Push from Pregnancy to Motherhood. Her first adult novel, There’s a Word for That, appeared from Little, Brown in April 2019. Tanen graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and holds Masters degrees from both NYU and Columbia University. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, the writer Gary Taubes, and their two sons.