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Take Three | Patt Morrison

Let's Hear a Big Bronx Cheer for the New Yorkization of L.A.

June 27, 1997|Patt Morrison

It's inevitable. Let's just end the suspense. Cut to the last reel.

Strike the banner over City Hall, the one bearing the symbols of Spain, of Mexico and of the California Republic. Run up in its place the flag of the city of New York, that so-attractive Dutch colonial tricolor with a sailor and an Indian and two beavers on it. (Somehow I expected the Guggenheim Museum quartered with a mound of frozen garbage, over a chain of linked bagels gules.)

Then change the name to "3rd Rock From Times Square." L.A., the eighth wonder of the world, the sixth borough of New York.

This must be how Hong Kong is feeling. At least Hong Kong has known for years the approaching moment of transfiguration: 9 o'clock Pacific time next Monday morning, when the Union Jack comes down the flagstaff, and the Chinese flag flies up.

This New York takeover has come gradually, like frostbite, which at its worst moment can feel so warm and tingly you think nothing is amiss until you go to count your toes and suddenly you're operating in Base 8.

L.A. has been falling piecemeal into the hands of outlanders for years. Northern California banks take over Southern California banks. Seattle sends down aerospace firms, department stores and coffee bars. Frederick's of Hollywood just went to some Chicago investment firm probably embarrassed by 50 years of ubercamp underwear, purple satin bras with more substructure than the nosecone of a Titan missile.

But the Big Apple colonizing the Big Orange? Everything you need to know and fear about New York is in this: It is a city where the businessmen and the ballplayers wear pinstripes.

*

In the 1930s and '40s, "real" writers deigned to leave Manhattan for Hollywood and condescended to cash lavish paychecks while flagellating themselves for prostituting their art and longing to return to their little $24 island.

In later years we thrilled when they bestowed Bloomingdale's on us, entrusted us with our own Barneys and honored us with the accolade of Macy's. Our local marques vanished--Bullocks Wilshire, Magnin freres, Buffums--and it troubled us as little as the boarding-up of a dry-goods store.

It felt so cosmopolitan, being snubbed in our very own city by sales clerks of minimum wage and maximum attitude who lowered themselves to sell us a bottle of scent, and we thanked them as if they had sold us a cure for cancer.

We were accorded that hallmark of urbanity, a subway.

And at last we got their finest export, Joey Buttafuoco. I gather this man had a teenage girlfriend who shot and wounded Joey's wife. In New York, it was top of the tabloids for months. They call that crime? We have Manson. We have O.J. We have standards.

Joey actually hails from a New York suburb called Long Guyland, which sounds like an X-rated products factory. In L.A., he was arrested for soliciting an undercover female cop and is, predictably, working as a bartender-slash-actor until he gets a break in an avenger-slash-slasher movie.

This was every New Yorker's duty and motive, Robert Benchley or Joey Buttafuoco: having lost movies, the art form and cash crop of the 20th century--and to L.A., a carnival with street signs--they intended to take them back.

Unsuspecting, we welcomed them courteously, the way the Incas welcomed Pizarro--not knowing we would be thanked the same way the Incas were, with the business end of a halberd.

They don't want to befriend or civilize us; they want us out. They have established their beachhead in Santa Monica, scouts sent ahead to make sure the place is habitable for the millions to follow.

And I am Kevin McCarthy in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," warning you that they look like us but they aren't, and they're coming, they're coming, they're here!

*

Suit up the LAPD in those double-breasted NYPD vaudeville police uniforms that make every cop look like William Bendix.

Weekend drives? Fahgeddaboudit. When a New Yorker says, "Sure, I can drive," it means, "Sure, I can make right turns at 10 mph around my apartment building looking for a parking space." They'll convert our freeways to taxi lanes. (I will miss watching some gullible New Yorker stand for hours, arm upraised, to flag a cab from one of L.A.'s painted curbs hilariously designated TAXI ZONE.)

Enjoy a Manhattan weekend instead. Leave a tiny apartment for a coffee and a well-reviewed museum show of objets d'art woven from yak hair and the plastic yokes from six-packs of Mountain Dew: "Cargo Cult Art of the Hindu Kush."

Substitute "Hispanic" for "Latino," until Gloria Allred sues to make it "Herspanic" too.

Bid adios to Dodger dogs, and surrender the Pink's. It's Nathan's for you and me, pal.

And Joey Buttafuoco will trow out da first ball of da West Brooklyn Dodgers' season.

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