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Southern California Close-up: Westside of Los Angeles

Even away from the beach, there is plenty to see.

September 25, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

You're an outsider heading to the Westside of Los Angeles — not the beach cities, but Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Westwood and the nearby well-heeled neighborhoods south of the Santa Monica Mountains. This means you'll be well-fed, well-rested and perhaps more closely watched by the issuers of your credit cards. And while the dollars fly, you may learn a little about wealth, fame, geography and Persian desserts.

For instance, you'll realize that Beverly Hills, like the "Mona Lisa" and certain leading men, is smaller than you might expect (5.7 square miles). You'll recognize Culver City's connections to Oz and the old Soviet space program. You'll be reminded that there's a big Santa Monica Boulevard and a little one (a.k.a. South Santa Monica Boulevard), which perplex the uninitiated by running parallel for more than a mile. In Westwood, you'll see how death has united Marilyn Monroe and Rodney Dangerfield, among others.

Photos: Westside of Los Angeles

For more on these revelations, here are some Westside stories — 12 micro-itineraries to get a stranger started. This is the ninth installment of our yearlong series of Southern California Close-ups, each piece covering a different region of Los Angeles and Orange counties. You can find the first eight at

1. Big screen, small wonders

Sony Studios (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

If Judy Garland or Alex Trebek makes you swoon, you'll want to check out Sony Studios (10202 W. Washington Blvd.) in Culver City. Its two-hour guided walking tour costs $33 (no children younger than 12) and includes soundstages where "The Wizard of Oz" was filmed in 1938 and where "Jeopardy!" has been shot since 1984. (On the tour, you may learn that Merv Griffin, who wrote the "Jeopardy!" theme song in less than half an hour, reaped from it an estimated $70 million to $80 million in royalties.) If neither Judy nor Alex makes your world go 'round, think twice about this tour. It costs more and delivers less than the Warner Bros. tour in Burbank. For a more engrossing (and affordable) experience in the same neighborhood, get thee to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Blvd.). This odd little spot is all about the joy of weird stuff, presented with great museological pomp. Shuffle through the tiny dark rooms, your jaw slackening at the sight of the trailer-park dioramas, Soviet space-dog oil portraits, a tiny sculpted pope in a needle's eye and two dead mice on toast (the consumption of which is described as an old bed-wetting cure). Don't miss the tearoom upstairs. Next door stands the Center for Land Use Interpretation (9331 Venice Blvd.), whose exhibits and publications have probed the underwater towns of America, the traffic barricades of Washington, D.C., the helipads of downtown L.A. and other notable human interactions with the landscape. Also nearby, you'll find live drama at the Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City).

2. Beloved burgers and newfangled photos

Annenberg Space for Photography (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Since 1947 — long before the Westside Pavilion shopping center rose on Pico Boulevard — the Apple Pan (10801 W. Pico Blvd.) has been offering Angelenos burgers and desserts. No reservations, no alcohol, no air conditioning. The only dining area is a U-shaped counter, the wallpaper is red plaid and the sign says, "QUALITY FOREVER." Order the Hickory burger ($6.75) and maybe a big slice of apple pie ($5.50) for dessert. Or, to cut down on calories and red meat, follow the example of 31-year counterman Roberto Velasco, who has switched to the tuna melt. Then head two miles northeast to Century City, where you'll park beneath the soaring cold metal and glass of the Creative Artists Agency building. You have not scored a meeting with CAA's deal makers, but they will let you in next door, at the Annenberg Space for Photography (2000 Avenue of the Stars, No. 10), a nonprofit exhibition space that opened in 2009 with a video-friendly layout and sophisticated digital technology. It's free. If you show up in time to see the multimedia "Beauty Culture" exhibition through Nov. 27, you'll be wowed by its thoughtful, provocative and visually rich examination of the business that beauty has become.

3. Shopping on Rodeo

Rodeo Drive (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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