Finding Buffy, Los Angeles
When I mention that during a trip to Los Angeles I visited some of the locations featured in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer the majority of people curl their top lip, flex out one nostril, and utter the word ‘why?’ in such a way that their tone of voice refines the meaning of incredulity to a new level of purity. To a certain extent I guess they are right, most people pack a pair of shorts to enjoy the Californian weather rather than an anorak. Yet despite the inherent geek factor in this expedition we, I was accompanied by my friend and fellow devotee Sebastian, had enormous fun paying homage to officially ‘the best’ TV show of all time. Of course you don’t have to a fan of Buffy to enjoy LA (although it does help) but television and film provides a fascinating vehicle to explore a city which often proves difficult to love.
Roman Polanski quipped that “Los Angeles is the most beautiful city in the world...provided it’s seen by night and from a distance.” It’s difficult to disagree with this assessment. Even if you haven’t witnessed the magical glow of the illuminated street plan in person, you’ve seen the beguiling nocturnal view from the hills a hundred times on the big and small screens. Yet, as Polanski suggests, up close and personal the town appears less appealing. Los Angeles is a sprawling mass, dissected by massive freeways which offer the promise of connection but only serve to isolate and confuse. Frustratingly these rivers of asphalt seem continually congested with cars liable to log jam at any time. The homage to the automobile has allowed the city to seep out over southern California like the contents of leaky paint tin. The resulting lack of density means that LA is one of the least visitor friendly cities in the world.
Despite, or perhaps because of this, Los Angeles remains among my favourite destinations. It possesses an illusive allure and a seedy glamour best described in the works of Raymond Chandler. Indeed, getting to grips with LA requires detective work and there is no better way to play the sleuth than becoming a character in your own tourist screenplay. After all the most recognizable landmark in the city is an old real estate sign which acts as the emblem not only for the multi billion dollar film industry but also the city itself. Away from the self important Hollywood letters there are surprisingly few iconic structures to denote the low rise surroundings. A strange architectural anomaly given that, with over one thousand movies made there annually, LA is the most filmed place on the planet.