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Health Food! Crop Tops! Reagans! In 1988, Spy Loved Los Angeles

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Spy magazine, which is pretty much always cited as a major influence by smart-set aspirants of a certain age, has just been completely digitized and republished on Google Books. Spy was founded in 1986 by Graydon Carter, now the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and a restaurateur; Kurt Andersen, now a novelist and the host of "Studio 360"; and Tom Phillips, an internet money guy. Though it was of course very New York, the magazine had a soft spot for Los Angeles, and its entire September 1988 issue was dedicated to the city. We flipped through and found that back in the eighties, rich Malibuites tried to convince people they lived in Malibu because they were back-to-nature iconoclasts (see quotes from "Malibu apologists" Bruce Jenner, Barbra Streisand, Stacy Keach, and Ali MacGraw, among others); a restaurant called Mason's was "Everything you hate about L.A. in a nutshell" ("It's in Brentwood...The menu offers stir-fried eggplant with broccoli and tofu, as well as potatoes prepared seven different ways...The pianist plays selections from Godspell.); and there was an "improbable new art craze" sweeping SoCal. (Oh God, does that mean Malibu mythologizing and stir-fried eggplant are coming back too?)

Also of interest are a gawk at the turn-key trend ("The turn-key entrepreneur might buy a modest Bel Air house for, say, $3 million, then spend six months and $1 million filling it with furniture and supertasteful Erte prints and jamming the nightstands with alarm clocks, remote controls and a Bible (optional). The whole package will then be sold to a superimportant rich person for $7 million.") and brief histories of several celebrity-magnet houses (Larry Flynt bought Sonny and Cher's 1929 house in Bel Air, which they bought from Tony Curtis, and so on). And if you read the recent New Yorker article on Scientology, you should have no problem solving the blind item about the writer who's bad at charades.

The issue also tackles Los Angeles' British invasion, the Reagans' then-upcoming return, and of course the Playboy Mansion (and more--see the gallery). One feature is more or less a variation on "LA Story"'s themes by Paul Rudnick, who writes that "California is the land of shamelessness. People migrate to Los Angeles for a single reason: they want to do everything they're too embarrassed to do in Manhattan." And: "People in L.A. actually have sex, because there's nothing else to do; in New York we have ballet tickets."

And: "The inescapable truth: if you move to Los Angeles, you will ultimately become Joan Collins."

And there's even more, in Spy's February 1994 California issue, with confirms that Los Angeles is better than San Francisco (but San Diego certainly has a nice zoo).
· Spy Sep 1988 [Google Books]