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Seeing L.A. Through a 'Scenester's' Eyes


When out-of-town visitors come to visit and you don't want to show them Mann's Chinese, the Hollywood sign and Disneyland, then "The Underground Guide to Los Angeles" (Manic D. Press, 1999) may be the place to look for something new--hole-in-the-wall restaurants, flea markets and offbeat museums. But with chapters penned by 23 in-the-know denizens, the book isn't just for tourists. It includes tidbits even native Angelenos may not know, like where to find Charles Bukowski's grave.

Editor Pleasant Gehman is an author, a belly dancer and a self-proclaimed "scenester" who has long prided herself on being able to show friends wild stag shows, cool places to shop and neighborhoods with interesting architecture.

"I used to cut school to explore L.A.," she says.

We asked her for tips about getting the most out of the City of Angels.

Question: What makes the book underground?

Answer: It's half the actual places and half the attitude. Some places in the book are mainstream, but they are written with a take that no mainstream person would have noticed. And some places I guarantee you'll never find in any other guidebook.

Q: Where can I take my skate rat 16-year-old brother who is visiting for the weekend and has never been to L.A.?

A: First, take him to Venice Beach, because no doubt he's seen "Baywatch" or a show like it that has the Boardwalk in it. There are also good places to skateboard on the street down there. Then, take him to Electronic Cafe in Santa Monica or another cyber cafe. He'd probably be into the California Science Museum. It may seem kinda young at first, but there's good stuff in there. Or, check out the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is one step above a sideshow. For food, stick to neighborhood taco stands. There are two taco trucks in the parking lot of a muffler shop on Western Avenue between Fountain and Lexington in Hollywood. They have card tables set up in the parking lot, and their burritos are amazing.

Q: Silver Lake has been the "in" neighborhood for a while now. So what's next?

A: East L.A. is unappreciated, especially areas like Cypress Park and Huntington Park. You can see a lot of the neighborhoods in the movie "L.A. Confidential." When you walk down the street, you feel like you are in a Raymond Chandler novel. The area is great for finding quirky Chinese restaurants and mom-and-pop shops. That will be the next area people will start branching into and making hip.

Q: What can my girlfriend and I do for a rockin' night on the town?

A: Start by getting your nails airbrushed at CT Nails on Santa Monica Boulevard near Fairfax. They can do the Sistine Chapel on each nail. After you have sunsets and dolphins on your nails, go to Tiki Ti for blue drinks in a clam shell. For dinner, go to El Coy1869899054something going on. They have burlesque on Wednesday night with girls on trapezes and in aquariums, and I just saw a great magician there too.

Q: Why on earth did you want to give up your secret places?

A: I'm the kind of person who has to wreck someone's birthday present as soon as they get it. I guess I just want to share my love of L.A.

Booth Moore can be reached by e-mail at

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