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Al Martinez

Leaders of Culver City are aware of the humdrum image and are trying to improve it. : Life Beyond Taco Bell

February 25, 1988|Al Martinez

When you think of Beverly Hills, you think of Rodeo Drive, Giorgio and the Bistro, right?

And when you think of Santa Monica, you think of the pier, Jane Fonda and the Beloved Homeless, true?

All good, solid areas of identification perpetuated by the cities as elements of an image they are trying to project.

Say Malibu and bikinis come to mind. Say Topanga and there goes another nudist macrobiotic vegetarian hippie shufflin' down the road.

But say Culver City, and you get what? Nothing.

Well, nothing much anyhow. Maybe a little yellow house with a family of plastic ducks on the lawn and an RV in the driveway.

Not exactly the kind of flashy image that has turned otherwise ordinary places into exciting tourist meccas.

Culver City, as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, has no there there.

Leaders of the town are aware of the humdrum image and are trying to improve it.

Last year the city hired a company to attract "quality-type" restaurants, which they defined as any eatery that does not serve food in paper buckets or Styrofoam shells.

No take-out chicken. No walk-away tacos. No back-seat burgers.

I'm not sure exactly how the whole thing is going to work out, however, for three reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the company hired to upgrade the city's restaurants owns a Shakey's Pizza Parlor.

Also, a spokesman for that very same company announced that the kind of high-grade restaurant he had in mind was not Chasen's or Chez Helene but the Sizzler.

And finally, the city councilman responsible for initiating the search for better restaurants defined his concept of a quality-type place as one "where you can take your family and get a good meal."

So.

What we have here, I fear, is the same kind of thinking that has elevated pepperoni pizza to the status of food.

Those involved in the quest for good restaurants don't have a solid idea of exactly where to go beyond Taco Bell and the Dairy Queen, or as they say around town, the DQ.

Al Martinez

While Sizzler may offer "good meals," world-class restaurants do not. You will get no mashed potatoes and gravy, for instance, at Prego. Nothing sticks to your ribs at the Ritz.

Quality has to be defined. Mom's pork pot pie may be very nice, but it is not cotelette de porc frais.

My skepticism, however, may be premature. Not everyone in Culver City eats in the kitchen. Not everyone in Culver City, in fact, eats in Culver City.

That's another thing.

The town's Visitors and Convention Bureau is under fire by the City Council for not doing enough to enhance tourism.

While the bureau has tripled the number of conventions in town, the conventioneers apparently go elsewhere for everything but sleeping.

They shop in Beverly Hills, eat in Santa Monica and God knows what in Hollywood.

The reason, said one bureau member, is lack of image and lack of any central attraction. Ergo, no tourists.

Building a Disneyland or a Knott's Berry Farm is obviously out of the question, but there is something Culver City can do. What sells soap can also sell cities.

Right. Sex.

Let me explain.

By sex, I do not mean the decent domestic kind that married couples practice in their bedrooms when the kids have gone to sleep and Paul Moyer has wrapped up the 11 o'clock news.

I mean crazy, screaming, jumping, paid-for sex. Hookers. SM queens. Call girls. Import 'em from Jersey. Ship 'em in from Vegas.

Invariably, you see, this will attract colorful pimps, panhandlers and pornographers, the three Big P's of urban development.

Their presence will be met by an outcry from neighborhood activists who will object to erotic behavior on their front lawns that knock over the plastic ducks and smash the border plants.

The outcry will precipitate action by squads of policemen (the fourth P) who want to rid the streets of the other P's and, so doing, naturally overreact.

This will cause a roar of protest from groups of noisy liberals who will demand that whole battalions of cops be tried en masse for brutality, assault and bad judgment.

Shouts of racism, sexism, communism and hedonism will rip into the peace of the community. The excitement will naturally attract crowds with their attendant madness.

Garbage will litter the streets and utilities will be overtaxed. Heavy traffic will create congestion and smog and ear-splitting noise.

New city commissions will be appointed to deal with the calamity. They will be empowered to award contracts, which in turn will create corruption and abuse of public trust.

But the lust for money will lure new industries, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and boutiques.

Someone will label the town Sin City and someone else will call it Little New York, and eventually the eyes of the world will turn west.

Gone will be the days, Culver City, of drab serenity and colorless quiet, but don't thank me for the new image. Thank sex, greed and corruption.

They always make a city great.

DR

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