Entire generations of baby boomers grew up listening to the authoritative voice of Jack Webb opening of the popular 1960s police drama Dragnet. In a 1968 episode, he said, “Man has an instinct to create, or to build, or to improve.”
In typical LA fashion, Dragnet reinvented itself several times; from radio show to black and white network TV to and into glorious color on NBC to a feature film in 1987 starring the ever bankable Tom Hanks as Joe Friday.
From the beaches of Malibu to the Santa Catalina Mountains, from the barrios of Boyle Heights to the mansions in Beverley Hills, LA County houses over ten million people across 4,000 square miles. Though the early Spanish settlers imbued it with religious meaning—the City of Angels—Los Angeles is more accurately the city of change. It’s the westward shore, where people come for a new start in life, to hopefully thrive in a magical, golden light that ends each day with the promise of a better tomorrow. The canyons, coastline and mountains figure prominently, matched only perhaps by the city’s fabulous Art Deco buildings; true landmarks celebrating a bygone era.
Living amidst such natural splendor imbues the citizenry with a sense of urgency and unleashes a creative spirit. Far from being laid-back sun seekers, (though leisure is perhaps more highly prized here than any place on earth), Angelenos manufacture wild, imaginary worlds—the Star Wars of LucasFilm and the darkly interior mental landscape called film noir—exporting these visions to a world that hungry for meaning, or merely a break from the banalities of modern life.
Los Angeles is an experiential city, where the sum is truly greater than its parts. Its vibrant neighbourhoods teem with immigrants from all over the world wearing brand new Dodger baseball caps, who sit in traffic with everyone else and silently seethe “will this road construction ever end?”
And the answer is: “Probably not.” Every generation has its Golden Age, for some it was Dragnet, for others it was Clark Gable and Lana Turner at the Café Trocadero, while surfers long for when waves rolled empty at the Malibu Pier and HB—Huntington Beach.
That’s all in the past. On Venice Beach patios, Sony Pictures CGI studios and Art Deco lofts in a newly-revitalized Downtown, Los Angeles is thriving. As Dragnet’s detective Joe Friday would say, “The story that you are about to see is true.”