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Thursday September 20th 2018

Travel – Los Angeles: San Fernando Valley 1


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Fox Fire Room, Magnolia Boulevard
Welcome to Paul Thomas Anderson's Valley – Fox Fire Room, Magnolia Boulevard

With due respect to all other valleys, the words ‘San Fernando’ are virtually redundant. This is The Valley – home of Valley Girls, Valley Speak and the strip mall – a vast flat plain laid out in a hypnotically orderly grid.

It is, of course, the centre of the suburban porn industry, as documented in Paul Thomas Anderson’s dynamic Boogie Nights, where seemingly every dwelling is home to a surgically enhanced housewife in a flimsy housecoat awaiting the arrival of a studly plumber (though few drains ever seem to get unblocked).

This is local boy PTA’s territory, with Magnolia named after one of its main east-west avenues, and Punch-Drunk Love’s office, up on Canoga Avenue in Chatsworth.

The Foxfire Room, 12516 Magnolia Boulevard, at Whitsett Avenue in Valley Village, north of Studio City, is the bar in which quiz kid Donnie (William H Macy) declares his love for Brad the Barman in – yes – Magnolia.

In Reseda, you can see the building which was transformed into ‘Hot Traxx’ disco, where Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) first spots the potential of Eddie Adams / Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) for Boogie Nights, at 18419 Sherman Way at Canby Avenue. It’s now used as a church.

A little to the west, it’s in front of another – though purpose-built – church, St Catherine of Siena, 18115 Sherman Way, that a down-on-his-luck Diggler gets beaten up; while a little to the west you’ll find Miss Donuts, 18231 Sherman Way, where Buck Swope (Don Cheadle) stumbles upon the botched robbery.

South Seas Apartments, Saticoy Street, Reseda
The Karate Kid's home – South Seas Apartments, Saticoy Street, Reseda

Further toward the west of the Valley, the South Seas Apartments, 19223 Saticoy Street, opposite Sylvia Avenue in Reseda, are still instantly recognisable as the home of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in the original The Karate Kid.

And even further west, you’ll find the Canoga Park branch of Carl’s Jr, 20105 Saticoy Street, at Winnetka Avenue, which was transformed into ‘Mr Smiley’, where Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) gets a job serving up burgers – “I think you’ll remember me this time!” – in Sam Mendes' American Beauty.

The Valley is a bit short on historic sites and breathtaking architecture, but with Universal, Warner Bros and Disney all having studios here, it’s something of a giant backlot, haphazardly dotted with numerous movie locations. Not to mention the studio tours.

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