A car is the most important appliance, a basic Southern California fact. I always ride with the Beach Boys and Jim Rockford and Robin Leach, cutting through this endless real-life movie set, marveling at the signs for Sepulveda and Century boulevards, for El Segundo and Torrance and Pasadena. What names! Every block another one! A $5 official "Map of the Stars" is on the seat of the rental car, always sitting next to a sports section from the
Los Angeles Times
that is folded to the page that contains "The Day in Sports." All the choices. I know where to find the home of the divorced Sonny and Cher Bono. I know what time the Dodgers play the Cardinals, what time the races begin at Hollywood Park and what time the women play tennis at Manhattan Beach.
Where to go first? What to do? I see everything, but at the same time I see nothing. I always am on the move. Surf is up. Packed powder is in the mountains. I am sure all the women are headed for screen tests. I also am sure all the men lift weights and run every day and have second jobs at Chippendales. The only people not outdoors are locked in their rooms with Jane Fonda workout videos, dancing alone until they have the courage to dance in public. The first televised National Football League game of the day begins at 10 o'clock in the morning.
"You know, you're a pretty good guy," a bartender in Los Angeles told me one night during the 1984 Olympics.
"Thank you," I replied.
"You just gotta do something about those clothes," the bartender added.
Southern California is not a banquet, but an outdoor barbecue. I am the one who is not wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
. The vendors have arrived to sell Top Gun baseball hats and three-for-$10 (plus tax) T-shirts and windup toys and skateboards and fashion accessories and fake noses and perfume. The fire-eater and the man who juggles chain saws and the rest of the daily beach carnival will be here momentarily. Ten o'clock in the morning on a Thursday. Not a great beach day, maybe 7 on a scale of 10. Not the worst beach day.
I see what I can see.
"Here he is, ladies and gentlemen," a guy announces on the paddle-tennis courts. "That world-famous athlete, that future Hall of Famer, that all-around good guy...Irwin."