Melrose: From Punk to Punked in Twenty YearsSpeaking of Melrose, check out this picture of Heather Locklear of Melrose Place fame and tell me that's not a shirt. Seriously.
When I moved into a house half a block away from Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles it was 1989, and Melrose was a whole different world. Growing up I saw it all: hair of every color in the crayon box teased into mohawks; tattooed flames around the ankles like the skateboarder was riding through Hell; spiked chin piercings that made me wonder how uncomfortable it must have been to kiss. At first I stared, but it wasn't long before the sights became normal, expected even. When you grow up in a neighborhood with two condom shops within spitting distance, it takes a lot to really shock you.
My Melrose was a strange and fantastic place. A place of tattoo parlours and terrible Mexican food, gaggles of Japanese tourists fresh off the bus, leather vests and heavy chain jewelry. There was a Double Rainbow ice cream parlor next to the Wound & Wound Toy Company, and with my cone of Double Mint Chocolate Chip in one hand, I'd peer at the wind-up toys, and turn the cranks on minature music players, filling the store with the sounds of 'It's a Small World' and 'Fur Elise.' Down the block was the Soap Plant, which sold Dios de los Muertos figurines next to scented bath products, and Wacko, hidden away down a narrow alley, a room full of fake vomit, snow globes, Mardi Gras masks, and plush toys.
When my favorite toy store across the street turned into an LA Eyeworks, it was the beginning of the end. Then the Soap Plant was divided into a boot store and a manicurist, and Wacko was taken over by Harley Davidson. An Urban Outfitters opened across the street from what had once been The Hamburger That Ate L.A., but was now a Starbucks. Every store that had once catered to the unusual was taken over by ugly boutiques and over-priced shoe stores featuring platforms and stilettos favored by drag queens.
Unique has been supplanted by trendy. Melrose is trying to remake itself as a restaurant destination, and west of Fairfax an Argentinian restaurant and a carpet store (est. 1963), battle for the soul of the street against Fred Segal, Paul Frank, Johnny Cupcakes, and Max Azaria. They're losing. Even Aardvarks, the 'pre-owned' thrift store once considered a staple of the Melrose (Neil Gaiman has shopped there), was forced out completely after a brief stint in a smaller lot that had belonged to an infamous erotica shop.
Now as I walk my dogs down Melrose, I turn my face away from American Apparel, irritated by the mannequins flaunting neon lycra leggings and other eighties' fashion faux pas. I miss the men in pleather cut-offs with five-inch green spikes protruding from their heads. I miss the goth girls in all black with pasty makeup and a taste for the Victorian. The mini-mini-skirt has taken most of the women who walk the street hostage, and the others are slaves to the shirts-or-dresses that barely cover their butts.
The last hold out from 1989 is Maya, a jewelry store that also sells fake African crafts, a small storefront painted with a pair of giant eyes like something out of The Great Gatsby. Inside Maya I can remember my childhood, remember the tongue piercings and the skull rings, heavy neck chains and costume bling. I can remember what it was like to live somewhere special, and think that it might be weird, even scary, but there was nowhere else like it in the world.
Tomorrow it'll probably be a Forever 21.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
20sb Blog Swap
Megan from over at Adventures of Hollywood Jane was my partner for today's Twenty Something Bloggers Blog Swap. Here's her interesting take on how Melrose Avenue has changed over the years.