Eastbound and Rundown: Come Tour the ‘Boulevard of Broken Eastern Promises’

Movietown PlazaAs our city council election speeds to March 5, with growth and development, tourism and entertainment major issues, WeHo’s blighted lower eastside has opened yet another massage parlor and a new pawn shop — all within a block of one another. Now that’s growth!

Coupled with the eight or more pharmacies that thrive on dubiously legal Medicare prescriptions and home health care devices, this should make for a vital and vibrant urban experience for tourists.

But there’s more. The ideal tour of the “Boulevard of Broken Eastern Promises” starts at its Maginot Line (Fairfax Avenue), heading east. How the streetscape shines!

Need a mattress? Right on the corner there’s a bleak looking new mattress store. Irresistible isn’t it?

Directly across the street is Whole Foods, perhaps best known for awarding employees discounts for weight loss and for its CEO’s condemnation of Barack Obama as a “fascist.”

Kung Pao Chicken is next, but it’s much too soon for a snack, so let’s head on.

After a slew of nail parlors (two in one block, a bonus?) and a bakery that offers up delicious Caucasus goods, we see on the south side of the street the Chevra Kadisha; discreet, but nonetheless a funereal parlor.

Next, deli-cum-grocery stores and numerous storefronts with “for lease” signs.

Then, we approach Elliott Salter’s long established pawn shop and also spot our new massage facility. It’s cheek by jowl with our newest corner pawn shop. There’s a cafe and, across the street, the wonderful Tashman’s Hardware.

Then another grocery store, a smoke shop and… what? Again? Another pawn shop? Looking good! Are tourists enchanted by these hot spots?

Well, none seem to have asked a tour bus to make a stop. Golden Rule, the liquor store, ends the northern side of that block, an established spot for what ails you.

And speaking of what ails you, there are the “aptekas,” pharmacies on just about every block, rather small ones that make one wonder how they compete with giants like Rite Aid, CVS and Target.

Oh, right! Medicare!

Our tour pauses for a stop light then proceeds on past Funtasia (What do they sell? How do they survive?) before arriving at the Pleasure Chest, a source for personal entertainment equipment for decades. Parking is discreet and free.

The Pleasure Chest sits catty corner from the fabulous former Pussycat Theatre, now called Studs, showing the latest big screen male XXX “art” films; indie productions from our own San Fernando Valley. It’s open until 3 a.m., gawkers take note.

Voda Spa looms large on the next corner (A quick schvitz? And fond memories of Viggo Mortensen — naked!). And a short crosswalk away is the local Chabad shul, which needs some TLC in the paint department.

As we continue this route, the north side of the street boasts a very beautiful art deco-esque fire station next to our Googie car wash. The strip mall at Curson has the requisite doctors, a 7/11, a hair salon, another nail parlor and a dry cleaners.

But do we stop here? Not yet.

On the next corner is another pharmacy; always crowded with supplicants, usually aging immigrants. I see little money changing hands at the counter.

There is one, lone gas station and wait … another pawn shop, a small grocery and Paris Nude — “Girls. Girls. Girls.” (Huh? Huh? Huh?)

Further down is Tinto, a lovely tapas bar, another nail salon and “Salt’s Cure,” the Eastside’s claim to culinary fame, where diners line up for the food (It’s worth the wait). Not to worry if it’s too upscale because we have dueling burger stands on the next block, a block that also houses — ahem — another pawn shop.

And then for a moment of sanity, and maybe a stop to stretch the legs, there’s the “Jewel in the Eastside Crown” — Plummer Park. Small, sweet and sublime; suddenly and beautifully quiet.

Pop across the street to a very divine museum-quality framing facility for your art, and then toddle down to Smart & Final — wholesale-to-the-public groceries — and Trader Joe’s, still doing a brisk business in the decrepit Movietown (empty) Plaza.

At the rearing silver horse across the street is a luxe design shop (did you see it on “Flipping Out”?), and the Crown Bar is next door.

A little further down you can see what’s left of Pickfair, the old movie studio, then The Food Lab, more mysterious office space, tattoo parlors, an herbal “farmacy” (mandatory stop if you have “the Card”), Jones Cafe (yummy) and at last the historic and beloved Formosa Cafe for Tiki drinks and Chinese American delicacies.

Tired, hungry and probably very disappointed, we end our tour a block later at the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica for a spot of crawfish, a Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Daphne’s, pretty nails and some serious shopping at Target. Those interested in urban architecture will note the building boom is alive and well in this area.

Is this a tour you would recommend?

You notice some spots are not mentioned. Well, everyone likes to make a discovery on his or her own, and so it is.

This is the Eastside. People live here, nice people, people with a few bucks, people with good jobs and careers. Families, dog lovers and cat cuddlers. We even have a pygmy goat on one block.

You won’t see Lenny Bruce’s former digs, nor Gloria Swanson’s. Or the Charlie Chaplin (and Jay Leno) Tudor, but it is there, along with dozens of exquisite Craftsman bungalows. There’s the building on Hampton where the lovely Angela Bowie served true Brit Sunday dinner in the late 70’s.

Locals hardly know the history of the area. And truly, in my opinion, neither does the “city,” and it doesn’t care.

As a lagniappe, you can find another perspective on WeHo’s Eastside in an episode of the Simpson’s when Lisa was lost looking for the Springfield Museum of Art. They nailed it. As always.

Don’t forget to vote on March 5, 2013.