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A last look back at some greatest hits

August 15, 2008

For 20 years, Times columnist Steve Harvey has chronicled the lighter side of Los Angeles with his Only in L.A. column. He has been assisted by hundreds of Times readers, who sent him amusing photos, newspaper clips and tips that appeared not only in the paper but in the 1996 book "The Best of Only in L.A.: A Chronicle of the Amazing, Amusing and Absurd."

"Only in L.A." has ended its run in the print editions of the Los Angeles Times. But Harvey will continue to contribute occasional articles to the California section, and he will file "Only in L.A." items to the L.A. Now blog on Go to to see dozens of classic photos and an appreciation of Harvey. Here is a selection of some of the best of "Only in L.A":


Arizonans hope for the Big One (1988)

Phoenix disc jockeys Glenn Beck and Tim Hattrick are mindful of the George Strait song lyric about a Los Angeles earthquake creating "oceanfront property in Arizona." And they're trying to do their part to increase land values in the Grand Canyon State.

Beck and Hattrick held a contest that will culminate today when the four winners -- all Arizonans weighing in excess of 250 pounds -- will perform jumping jacks on Venice Beach (where else?) to rile up those ol' tectonic forces. The earth-shaking attempt, which will be made between 6 and 10 a.m., will be broadcast back to Phoenix by the two visiting disc jockeys, whose show is known as the Y Morning Zoo.

Today is, of course, the day that 16th century French wiseguy Nostradamus allegedly predicted that the Big One could befall Los Angeles, according to some sources.

Tom Morgan, a Mesa, Ariz., security guard who is one of the Big Four, said he doesn't have a grudge against Los Angeles. But, he explained from his Marina del Rey hotel room, "I'd just like to get some of this ocean breeze back in Arizona."


Not quite L.A.'s song (1993)

L.A.'s identity problem: When singer Frank Black rocketed to No. 11 on France's Top 50 singles chart with "Los Angeles" recently, we dared hope that the City of Angels had finally found a winner in its long search for an official city song.

No more jokes about having to settle for such previous submissions as "I Lost My Liver in the L.A. River."

Alas, "Los Angeles" is not a paean to Los Angeles. Or, at least, our Los Angeles.

Black sings:

I wanna live in Los Angeles

Not the one in Los Angeles

No, not the one in South California

They got one in South Patagonia

I wanna live in Los Angeles

Not the one in Los Angeles. . . . .

Black is apparently referring to the town of Los Angeles in Chile, part of which is located in the Patagonia region. We don't know much about the South American city except that it has a population of more than 70,000. It may be a great place to live, free of many problems plaguing South California's L.A. But the Encyclopaedia Britannica notes one eerie similarity.

Chile's L.A., it says, "has suffered earthquake damage repeatedly."


Those Hollywood Freeway chickens (2000)

There's been enough talk about turkey this week. Let's move on to chickens. The San Fernando Valley Folklore Society, which investigates urban myths, declares that "the Freeway Chickens of Los Angeles" are for real and still exist along the Hollywood Freeway.

The feathered stragglers are believed to date back to a poultry truck crash near the Vineland Avenue offramp about three decades ago.

I had heard of them. But what I didn't know is that there is also a tribe of New Freeway Chickens, near the Burbank Boulevard onramp, about two miles away.

No one knows whether the two groups are related. Over the years, various individuals have given alternative versions of the origin of the chickens: They were chased to the area by a pit bull that lived near the freeway, in one version. In another, they were dumped along the freeway by children who had kept them as pets and were afraid they'd be taken away.

Whatever, Barbara Mikkelson of the Folklore Society -- -- points out that the birds were immortalized a while back in "Freeway," a video game "in which players were challenged to guide their chickens safely across a busy 10 lanes of freeway traffic."


Beach Boys feel the vibration (2005)

The Hawthorne address where Beach Boys Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson grew up has won recognition as a state historical landmark and will be honored with a small monument May 20.

The Beach Boys were a uniquely Southern California story -- and so is their monument. It will sit in front of a Century Freeway sound wall, which is where their since-demolished home, at 3701 W. 119th St., once stood.

The sound wall, of course, is supposed to help prevent residents from feeling bad vibrations.


Is that a gun in your pants? (2007)

Not everyone is born with the talent to make up plausible alibis on a moment's notice.

Take the gang member walking down an L.A. street with a handgun visible in his waistband. Before he donned a pair of handcuffs, he told officers John Banuelos and Manny Sierra that "the pants he was wearing were actually not his and he hadn't noticed that it [the gun] was in there," said the Thin Blue Line, an LAPD newspaper.

Further proof of the complications that can ensue if you get in someone else's pants.


Panhandling makeover (2007)

A while back, David Chan of L.A. observed a panhandler at the Wilshire Boulevard offramp to the Harbor Freeway holding a sign that said, "Homeless, Broke and Ugly." Believe it or not, that approach evidently didn't work out too well.

The other day Chan saw a new occupant of that area with a more positive sign. It said, "The Sexiest Bum."

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