hello, hearters :)

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As all travel (unless essential) is pretty much grounded this summer, I've created a solo writer's retreat-slash-staycation, here in L.A., instead. - some of which I'm spending in glorious hotels - just for the night, to get away, talk to some new people and get inspiration.

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Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip.

On Thursday, I checked into the Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip - and it was divine.

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You see, I have some remote (ghostwriting) assignments stretching into autumn, which I'll complete on schedule, but, in between those, I'm writing madly so I can finish MANHATTAN MOXIE, my novel set in 1935.

And the Sunset Tower is a PERFECT place to get "background" or "colo(u)r" on the 1930s.

Here's a little history from their site:

Designed in 1929 by architect Leland A. Bryant, the Sunset Tower (as it was originally called) was a trendsetter from the moment it opened. Its dramatic setting on the Sunset Strip and elegant Art Deco styling, together with its proximity to famous restaurants and nightclubs of the 1930s & ’40s, contributed to its landmark status.

But your book's called MANHATTAN MOXIE - and you're in Los Angeles, CA

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A most excellent point.

Although I did live in Manhattan for many years so I have plenty of material ;)

But our hero (LOTTIE LYONS, 23) is originally from Pasadena*, CA....

* If you're not familiar with Pasadena, it's 17.7 miles from West Hollywood as the freeway extends eastwards - or there's a very pleasant trip via the Gold Line light rail from Union Station.

...and the center/centre section of the novel is set back in Los Angeles, in June 1935. So I'm deep into research about the language, the decor, the sequins, satin, twinkly night views and general excitement of that era.

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general excitement, satin, and sequins - like I said ;)

Checking In

Life under COVID-19 has changed us all (for those of us that manage to survive it - for the better, one hopes). It's definitely changed hotels. But they have risen to the occasion.

I wrote about my (totally unplanned) stay at the DREAM Hotel a few weeks ago - and getting used to face shields on lobby staff, sanitizers everywhere, elevator usage restrictions and CDC-regulated room cleaning schedules.

The Sunset Tower had all the right restrictions in place, but, as the hotel has a certain faded glamour and charm, one (almost) didn't notice, as the decor is so very beautiful.

Even their "we-have-sealed-this-room-post-bacteria-vanquishing" stickers were on brand and in-style:

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chic, non?

Hotels - or those re-imagined from within former apartment buildings - established in the late 1920s tend to have tiny rooms. But my deluxe king was very well-appointed that I didn't notice.

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soothing shades of caramel and cream.

I went straight to the window - which opened (not all do, these days, often sealed shut for safety and/or high-rise air conditioning skyscraper situations) - and I looked out over a delicious panorama view of L.A.

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the view stretches all the way round to Century City (the towers in the distance on the right)

There were lovely Hollywood details in the decor.

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I got into my robe and into bed immediately - I always do.
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I like to read everything, including the room service menu and history.

More backstory please

The funny thing about the Sunset Tower is people always tell the same stories about its famous residents:

for example: Marilyn Monroe lived there at one point.

Temporarily removed

as did Billie Burke:

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the good witch from the Wizard of Oz

and Elizabeth Taylor:

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Frank Sinatra....

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Ava Gardner...

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and a handful of gangsters...

Now, for the purposes of my research, these are all wonderful names.

But the strangest thing happened to me when I checked into the Sunset Tower. I was EXPECTING to get a "flash" of Art Deco/Hollywood heyday glam vibes.

But, instead - and maybe this is because of the Times We Live In (the global financial meltdown, sudden emergence of pandemics and panic), I got a totally SEVENTIES feel.

Which isn't surprising, because the Sunset Tower has gone through many incarnations - and, during the 1970s, its faded glamour engendered a very different source of creativity.

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You see, Diana Ross moved her music industry empire into the penthouse suite and used it as an office (it was occupied during my stay, but I did ask to see the view - another time - I only live down the street after all).

But the biggest THRILL (for me) is that a certain Mr. Tim Curry leased an apartment there in March 1974

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- for the initial run of ROCKY HORROR (yes, before they made a movie of it, it was a stage show and ran at The Roxy theatre, down the street).

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Which just goes to say, you never know what checking into a hotel will feel like, until you do it.

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I can just imagine Tim Curry and Iggy Pop running down these stairs when they both lived here circa 1974 - 5

Did you have a nice time?

I really did.

Mostly writing and thinking and then taking a long walk down Sunset Strip.

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welcome home

Watching sunset fall from my window:

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And the twinkling lights of Los Angeles sparkle below.

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It wasn't busy during my stay, but there were a few people hanging out by the pool, enjoying their post-supper conversations.

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Maya Deren Interlude

I just need to tell you something else I'd not expected from my trip - another creative being lived not at the Sunset Tower, but very nearby.

This is Maya Deren - the American avant-garde filmmaker and film theorist of the 1940s and 1950s. Her most famous film was called "Meshes of the Afternoon" and, as this is my story, I have a personal anecdote for you.

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Maya Deren, "Meshes of the Afternoon" (1947)

When I was at London University I was studying film and theatre - and decided to do my undergraduate thesis on the work of Maya Deren with regard to the essay on the "Female Gaze" by Dr. Laura Mulvey (don't judge - it was the late 80s).

Then, I did "work experience" (what the British call an internship) at a film collective/distribution company - which distributed the work of Maya Deren. It was amazing to sit there, in the office in Bethnal Green, and go through the original footage and contracts concerning Deren's UK film rights and see her signature on the pages.

The reason for telling you this is that Maya Deren lived right near Sunset Tower in the 1940s - and shot her most famous film in her house at 1466 N. Kings Road.

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1466 N Kings Road

So, while staying at Sunset Tower, I took a walk up the hill, north of the Sunset Strip, and took the photo above. The gates were open and, checking for security cameras, and ready with a good tale about working for Deren's UK distributor circa 1989, I just stood and paid homage.

I love moments like that.

When the past seems to come to visit the present, just for a brief second.

As I walked back down the hill, I said a metaphorical goodbye (and thank you) to Maya Deren - then felt (almost) as if Tim Curry might be waiting for the middle elevator when I got back to the lobby - and Diana Ross twiddling a pencil while looking out at the view and practicing her melodic scales. Maybe Marilyn Monroe was sighing in her apartment and hoping for an audition before picking up a copy of Proust. Perhaps Sinatra was about to call down to Ava Gardner to see if she was ready for supper and then a knock on my door could herald - well, any of them

(actually that was just someone kind from the Tower Bar bringing me up hot water for my tea but we can but dream).

Because when you live in Los Angeles, it feels as if anything is possible.

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breakfast on the terrace

isn't life delicious?