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Pave Tower Records, put up a Pinkberry

February 08, 2008|Rob Long | Rob Long is a contributing editor to Opinion. His weekly commentary, "Martini Shot," airs on KCRW-FM (89.9).

"Tower Records to be scratched from Strip; Shuttered landmark has a date with the wrecking ball, angering preservationists."

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 30

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When they tore down the old Bob Burns Restaurant on Wilshire, I said nothing, for I never really went to Bob Burns.

When they tore down the El Patio Burrito Burger in West L.A., I said nothing, for I mostly went to La Salsa. Also, they replaced it with a UPS Store, which I find convenient.

When they tore down the Nickodell's restaurant on Melrose to make a larger parking lot for Paramount Studios, I said nothing, for I worked at Paramount at the time and wanted a parking space closer to my office.

And when they came for the http://Tower Records on Sunset, I said nothing, for I use iTunes.

You heard me right: They're going to tear down the Tower Records on Sunset. What are you going to do about it?

Bright yellow stucco box, "Tower Records" in red paint, surly fireplug of a guy standing by the door making sure you don't "inadvertently" dash across the street to Book Soup after parking in the Tower lot -- it all comes back, doesn't it? This is the spot that has been the beating heart of Los Angeles rock 'n' roll since 1971.

1971! That's, like, ancient history. And that's what they're trying to do: Destroy our ancient history.

I remember way back in the early '90s, when I first had a little spending money, having Chinese chicken salad at Chin Chin, then heading to Tower, buying fistfuls of CDs -- Spin Doctors! Alice in Chains! The Nirvana album cover with the naked baby! -- and sitting in the parking lot like a junkie, ripping open the jewel boxes and loading them into my Jeep's CD changer, and taking the long way home.

And now it's going to be, what? A retail/office/residence development? The Homes of Tower Pointe? Paseo Tower? The Tower Tower?

It's going to be a gym. With some high-end retail and offices, according to the developers. They're going to pave paradise and put up a Pinkberry, probably. That's what it's come to, here in the Southland: working, shopping and physical fitness. Out with the old, in with the YogaWorks.

There are people right now, apparently, trying to preserve Tower Records. People who are charmed by its squat and windowless pizazz. People who, like me, remember those chipped concrete steps, the intoxicating smell of shrink wrap and drunkenness (with a waft of cheap weed thrown in) that clouded around you when you walked in the door. We remember, and we want to preserve.

Just the building, though. Tower Records the company went bankrupt in 2006, a victim of the Internet thing that the kids are so into. Downloading with abandon, they've forgotten the simpler joys of yesteryear, when we'd slice the tender skin just beneath the thumbnail while opening the soundtrack to the hit film "Singles."

There's no way, of course, to bring back the splendid frustration of trying to open a new CD -- the wrapping, the adhesive-tape label, the metallic sticker sealing it -- and there's no way to re-create the hipster sneer behind the counter when you trundled up with your purchases: The Ani diFranco is for my girlfriend, OK? But surely there's a way to preserve the drab box that contained those experiences?

Yes, yes, of course, L.A. is dotted with thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of depressing stucco sheds, and I know that we can't possibly preserve them all, but this is the one where I bought Mariah Carey's first album (on a whim, OK?) and where I saw my very first celebrity (consumer reporter David Horowitz, I think). And now they're going to tear it down?

When they came for the Pioneer Chicken on Barrington, I said nothing, for I preferred Koo Koo Roo. When they came for Chasen's, I said nothing, for I thought, "Bristol Farms? I'll give it a try." And now they're coming for the Tower Records on Sunset. And there's nothing we can do about it.

But to the developers of the retail/office/gym complex that will eventually occupy that magical corner, I offer a warning: Someday they'll come for you. And there will be no one left to speak up. We'll all be at Pinkberry.

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