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Joan Didion, her husband, John Gregory Dunne, daughter Quintana Roo Dunne, and John’s nephew Anthony Dunne walk along the Malibu beach.
Photo by Henry Clarke/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Mapping Joan Didion’s Los Angeles

Take a tour of the city as Didion knew it

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Joan Didion, her husband, John Gregory Dunne, daughter Quintana Roo Dunne, and John’s nephew Anthony Dunne walk along the Malibu beach.
| Photo by Henry Clarke/Condé Nast via Getty Images

More than half a century after publishing the collections that established her reputation as a gimlet-eyed cultural critic—Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album—Joan Didion continues to be an outsize influence and figure of fascination in the literary world.

In The White Album, Didion wrote that “a place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively… loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image.” As evidenced by the new book Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light, that notion goes both ways.

Edited by Steffie Nelson, Slouching Towards Los Angeles is an anthology of essays by 25 mostly LA-based writers, each of whom contributes a unique take on Didion’s canon and legacy. As Nelson writes in the book’s introduction, “Some meet Didion on the L.A. freeways or Franklin Avenue. Others are more connected through inner landscapes. Some gaze at a photograph—a fleeting instant captured in Hollywood or Malibu—until it speaks its truth.”

Assembled with the assistance of Slouching Towards Los Angeles and a few other sources, attached is a selective tour of the city as Didion knew it—put on a pair of big sunglasses, hop into a vintage Corvette, and slouch along.

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1. The Beverly Hills Hotel

Copy Link
9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-2251
Visit Website

On January 30, 1964, shortly after her 30th birthday, Joan Didion married fellow writer John Gregory Dunne in central California’s Mission San Juan Bautista. According to Tracy Daugherty’s Didion biography, The Last Love Song, the newlyweds began their honeymoon in a bungalow at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, but soon grew bored and “fled to the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.” The couple’s SoCal sojourn made a favorable impression, and a few months later, they made the decision to take a leave of absence from their lives in New York City and give LA a whirl.

The Beverly Hills Hotel.
Photo by Garnitz/ullstein bild via Getty Images

2. The Harden Gatehouse, Rancho Palos Verdes

Copy Link
5500 Palos Verdes Dr S
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, rented this 1926 farmhouse on the Vanderlip Estate in Portuguese Bend from June 1964 to 1966. According to The Last Love Song, the couple landed the 5,000-square-foot house when the wife of its owner responded to an ad Didion placed in the paper. Designed by the illustrious Gordon Kaufmann, the Tuscan-style residence sat on a two-acre lot where peacocks roamed freely.

Now known as the Palos Verdes Heritage Castle Museum, the estate is available for weddings and other events.

Didion in Portuguese Bend, 1964.
UC Berkeley Digital Collections

3. 7406 Franklin Avenue

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7406 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

In 1966, Didion and Dunne began renting this ramshackle 1920s mansion in the heart of Hollywood for $400 a month. Julian Wasser, who had taken the famous picture of Didion’s friend Eve Babitz playing chess with Marcel Duchamp, shot the now-iconic photos of the chain-smoking author with her Corvette Stingray in front of the house in 1968.

Says Didion in The White Album: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive travelled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled. In another sense the Sixties did not truly end for me until January of 1971, when I left the house on Franklin Avenue and moved to a house on the sea.”

Today, the estate is home to the Shumei America Hollywood Center, a spiritual organization “dedicated to advancing health, happiness, and harmony for all human kind.” The center hosts spiritual events and a “commune with nature” most Saturdays.

4. The Westlake School for Girls (now Harvard-Westlake)

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700 N Faring Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90077

Founded in 1904, this elite prep school moved from its original site in MacArthur Park to its current Holmby Hills location in 1927. Didion and Dunne’s daughter Quintana Roo was a student here for six years. Didion notes in The Year of Magical Thinking that the school merged with the Harvard prep school and became co-ed the year after Quintana left.

Westlake School for Girls.
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

5. 714 Walden Drive

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714 Walden Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

In their early days as Angelenos, Dunne and Didion spent many evenings at the home of Dunne’s brother, Dominick, then a television producer, and his socialite wife, Lenny. Here they would make industry connections and cross paths with numerous celebrities, some of whom would become friends of the literary it couple.

In The White Album, Didion writes: “On August 9, 1969 I was sitting in the shallow end of my sister-in-law’s swimming pool in Beverly Hills when she received a telephone call from a friend (Natalie Wood) who had just heard about the murders at Sharon Tate Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. The phone rang many times during the next hour. These early reports were garbled and contradictory. One caller would say hoods, the next would say chains. There were twenty dead, no, twelve, ten, eighteen. Black masses were imagined, and bad trips blamed. I remember all of the day’s misinformation very clearly, and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised.”

714 Walden Drive.
Via Google Maps

6. 33428 Pacific Coast Highway

Copy Link
33428 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265

In The White Album, Didion paints a vivid picture of the insular way of life in Malibu, where she lived from 1971 to 1978, in a house 132 steps from the ocean that had once been a gambling den.

“We all knew one another’s cars and watched for them on the highway and at the Trancas Market and at the Point Dume Gulf Station. We called one another in times of wind and fire and rain, we knew when one another’s septic tanks needed pumping. We watched for ambulances on the highway and helicopters on the beach and worried about one another’s dogs and horses and children and corral gates and Coastal Commission permits. An accident on the highway was likely to involve someone we knew. A rattlesnake in my driveway meant its mate in yours. A stranger’s campfire on your beach meant fire on both our slopes.”

The living room of Didion and Dunne’s Malibu home, 1972.
Henry Clarke/Conde Nast via Getty Image

7. Sunset Sound Recording Studio

Copy Link
6650 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Opened in 1958 by Walt Disney’s director of recording, Tutti Camarata, the studios of Sunset Sound have played a part in the making of countless classic record albums, as well as Didion’s classic book The White Album, in which the author describes the evening she spent there “sitting on the cold vinyl floor” waiting for Jim Morrison to turn up for a Doors recording session. When the singer finally deigns to arrive, it becomes clear the wait was not worth it:

“Morrison sits down on the leather couch again and leans back. He lights a match. He studies the flame awhile and then very slowly, very deliberately, lowers it to the fly of his black vinyl pants. Manzarek watches him. The girl who is rubbing Manzarek’s shoulders does not look at anyone. There is a sense that no one is going to leave this room, ever. It will be some weeks before The Doors finish recording this album. I do not see it through.”

Sunset Sound Recording Studio.
Pauline O’Connor

8. Former I. Magnin Department Store

Copy Link
9634 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

In The White Album’s title essay, Didion masterfully conveys the sinister atmosphere that pervaded Los Angeles in the wake of the Manson family murders. A key ingredient to the essay’s potency is Didion’s journalistic achievement of gaining the trust of Manson acolyte-turned-witness-for-the-prosecution Linda Kasabian, resulting in this particularly memorable passage:

“On July 27, 1970, I went to the Magnin-Hi Shop of I. Magnin in Beverly Hills and picked out, at Linda Kasabian’s request, the dress in which she began her testimony about the murders at Sharon Tate Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. ‘Size 9 Petite,’ her instructions read. ‘Mini but not extremely mini. In velvet if possible. Emerald green or gold. Or: A Mexican peasant-style dress, smocked or embroidered.’ She needed a dress that morning because the district attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, had expressed doubts about the dress she had planned to wear, a long white homespun shift. ‘Long is for evening,’ he had advised Linda. Long was for evening and white was for brides. At her own wedding in 1965 Linda Kasabian had worn a white brocade suit. Time passed, times change. Everything was to teach us something.”

The I. Magnin chain ceased to exist in 1992; two years later, Saks Fifth Avenue moved into the Timothy Pflueger-designed building.

I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Photo by Marc Wanamaker via LA Conservancy

9. Howard Hughes Corp.

Copy Link
7000 Romaine St
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Commissioned by Howard Hughes and constructed in 1930-31 for a reported cost of $2 million, the sprawling Deco Moderne-style building at 7000 Romaine Street in Hollywood served as the headquarters of Hughes’ business empire for more than four decades.

In Slouching Towards Bethlehem’s essay on the eccentric mogul, Didion observes, “That the Hughes ‘communication center’ should lie here in the dull sunlight of Hammett-Chandler country is one of those circumstances that satisfy one’s suspicion that life is indeed a scenario, for the Hughes empire has been in our time the only industrial complex in the world—involving, over the years, machinery manufacture, foreign oil-tool subsidiaries, a brewery, two airlines, immense real-estate holdings, a major motion-picture studio, and an electronics and missile operation—run by a man whose modus operandi most closely resembles that of a character in The Big Sleep.”

Space in the storied structure is currently being offered for lease on Loopnet.

Howard Hughes’ former headquarters.
Conde Nast via Getty Images

10. Providence Saint John's Health Center

Copy Link
2121 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 829-5511
Visit Website

In the summer of 1968, Didion checked herself into St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica (now Providence Saint John’s Health Center), and underwent a battery of psychiatric tests, the results of which would later become fodder for her landmark essay “The White Album.” According to her medical report, Didion’s test results “emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around her.”

On a happier note, St. John’s is also where Didion and Dunne’s adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, was born, on March 3, 1966.

Saint John’s.
Getty Images

11. Earl McGrath Art Gallery

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454 N Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048

After moving to Los Angeles, Didion and Dunne became close friends of Earl McGrath, a celebrated bon vivant who had worked his way up from screenwriter to head to production at 20th Century Fox, to president of Rolling Stones Records—Didion even dedicated The White Album to him.

In the mid-’80s, McGrath opened an art gallery in West Hollywood, where the couple regularly held court. One such occasion was depicted in a 1987 New York Times Magazine profile: “Didion sits at a table quietly. She is peaceful. An endless stream of people comes to her, bending down to kiss her. She asks after their children, remembering personal details about everyone. Anjelica Huston, all legs in a little black dress, Teri Garr, George Stevens Jr., Tony Richardson, Michelle Phillips, Jean Vanderbilt and George Segal come to pay respects to the tiny woman with a gardenia in her hair.”

McGrath died in 2016; the building that held his gallery now houses the 454 North hair salon.

The former Earl McGrath gallery.
Pauline O’Connor

12. 202 South Chadbourne Avenue

Copy Link
202 S Chadbourne Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90049

In June 1978, Didion and Dunne moved from Malibu to a two-story 1930s Colonial Revival in Brentwood Park. Here they would live and write and throw legendary parties for a decade, until decamping for Manhattan in 1988.

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion recounts driving with her daughter past their old house on a return visit to LA, only to find “nothing left standing except the one chimney that allowed a tax advantage. I remembered the real estate agent telling me how meaningful it would be to the buyers were we to give them suitably inscribed copies of the books we had written in the house. We had done this. Quintana and Friends, Dutch Shea, Jr., and The Red White and Blue for John, Salvador, Democracy, and Miami for me. When we saw the flattened lot from the car, Quintana, in the back seat, burst into tears. My first reaction was fury. I wanted the books back.”

Per the author, the house was replaced by a “marginally larger house a year after we sold it.”

202 South Chadbourne Avenue.
Via Google Maps

13. The Beverly Wilshire Hotel

Copy Link
9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

“For reasons that remain unclear to me the Beverly Wilshire itself only rarely triggered the vortex effect,” Didion recounts in The Year of Magical Thinking. “In theory its every corridor was permeated with the associations I was trying to avoid. When we were living in Malibu and had meetings in town we would bring Quintana and stay at the Beverly Wilshire. After we moved to New York and needed to be in Los Angeles for a picture we would stay there, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks at a time.... Yet the Beverly Wilshire seemed when Quintana was at UCLA the only safe place for me to be, the place where everything would be the same, the place where no one would know about or refer to the events of my recent life; the place where I would still be the person I had been before any of this had happened.”

The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Shutterstock

14. Hollywood Freeway

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LA’s highways and byways are a favorite subject for Didion, “the only secular communion” the city has, she asserts in The White Album.

For Maria Wyeth, the main character of her 1970 novel Play it as it Lays, “it was essential (to pause was to throw herself into unspeakable peril) that she be on the freeway by ten o’clock. Not somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard, not on her way to the freeway, but actually on the freeway. if she was not she lost the day’s rhythm, its precariously imposed momentum. Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove. She drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura. She drove it as a riverman runs a river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions, and just as a riverman feels the pull of the rapids in the lull between sleeping and waking, so Maria lay at night in the still of Beverly Hills and saw the great signs soar overhead at seventy miles an hour, Normandie ¼ Vermont ¾ Harbor Fwy 1. Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic. On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.”

101 Freeway.
Getty Images

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1. The Beverly Hills Hotel

9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The Beverly Hills Hotel.
Photo by Garnitz/ullstein bild via Getty Images

On January 30, 1964, shortly after her 30th birthday, Joan Didion married fellow writer John Gregory Dunne in central California’s Mission San Juan Bautista. According to Tracy Daugherty’s Didion biography, The Last Love Song, the newlyweds began their honeymoon in a bungalow at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, but soon grew bored and “fled to the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.” The couple’s SoCal sojourn made a favorable impression, and a few months later, they made the decision to take a leave of absence from their lives in New York City and give LA a whirl.

9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

2. The Harden Gatehouse, Rancho Palos Verdes

5500 Palos Verdes Dr S, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
Didion in Portuguese Bend, 1964.
UC Berkeley Digital Collections

Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, rented this 1926 farmhouse on the Vanderlip Estate in Portuguese Bend from June 1964 to 1966. According to The Last Love Song, the couple landed the 5,000-square-foot house when the wife of its owner responded to an ad Didion placed in the paper. Designed by the illustrious Gordon Kaufmann, the Tuscan-style residence sat on a two-acre lot where peacocks roamed freely.

Now known as the Palos Verdes Heritage Castle Museum, the estate is available for weddings and other events.

5500 Palos Verdes Dr S
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

3. 7406 Franklin Avenue

7406 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

In 1966, Didion and Dunne began renting this ramshackle 1920s mansion in the heart of Hollywood for $400 a month. Julian Wasser, who had taken the famous picture of Didion’s friend Eve Babitz playing chess with Marcel Duchamp, shot the now-iconic photos of the chain-smoking author with her Corvette Stingray in front of the house in 1968.

Says Didion in The White Album: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive travelled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled. In another sense the Sixties did not truly end for me until January of 1971, when I left the house on Franklin Avenue and moved to a house on the sea.”

Today, the estate is home to the Shumei America Hollywood Center, a spiritual organization “dedicated to advancing health, happiness, and harmony for all human kind.” The center hosts spiritual events and a “commune with nature” most Saturdays.

7406 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

4. The Westlake School for Girls (now Harvard-Westlake)

700 N Faring Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90077
Westlake School for Girls.
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Founded in 1904, this elite prep school moved from its original site in MacArthur Park to its current Holmby Hills location in 1927. Didion and Dunne’s daughter Quintana Roo was a student here for six years. Didion notes in The Year of Magical Thinking that the school merged with the Harvard prep school and became co-ed the year after Quintana left.

700 N Faring Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90077

5. 714 Walden Drive

714 Walden Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
714 Walden Drive.
Via Google Maps

In their early days as Angelenos, Dunne and Didion spent many evenings at the home of Dunne’s brother, Dominick, then a television producer, and his socialite wife, Lenny. Here they would make industry connections and cross paths with numerous celebrities, some of whom would become friends of the literary it couple.

In The White Album, Didion writes: “On August 9, 1969 I was sitting in the shallow end of my sister-in-law’s swimming pool in Beverly Hills when she received a telephone call from a friend (Natalie Wood) who had just heard about the murders at Sharon Tate Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. The phone rang many times during the next hour. These early reports were garbled and contradictory. One caller would say hoods, the next would say chains. There were twenty dead, no, twelve, ten, eighteen. Black masses were imagined, and bad trips blamed. I remember all of the day’s misinformation very clearly, and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised.”

714 Walden Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

6. 33428 Pacific Coast Highway

33428 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
The living room of Didion and Dunne’s Malibu home, 1972.
Henry Clarke/Conde Nast via Getty Image

In The White Album, Didion paints a vivid picture of the insular way of life in Malibu, where she lived from 1971 to 1978, in a house 132 steps from the ocean that had once been a gambling den.

“We all knew one another’s cars and watched for them on the highway and at the Trancas Market and at the Point Dume Gulf Station. We called one another in times of wind and fire and rain, we knew when one another’s septic tanks needed pumping. We watched for ambulances on the highway and helicopters on the beach and worried about one another’s dogs and horses and children and corral gates and Coastal Commission permits. An accident on the highway was likely to involve someone we knew. A rattlesnake in my driveway meant its mate in yours. A stranger’s campfire on your beach meant fire on both our slopes.”

33428 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265

7. Sunset Sound Recording Studio

6650 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Sunset Sound Recording Studio.
Pauline O’Connor

Opened in 1958 by Walt Disney’s director of recording, Tutti Camarata, the studios of Sunset Sound have played a part in the making of countless classic record albums, as well as Didion’s classic book The White Album, in which the author describes the evening she spent there “sitting on the cold vinyl floor” waiting for Jim Morrison to turn up for a Doors recording session. When the singer finally deigns to arrive, it becomes clear the wait was not worth it:

“Morrison sits down on the leather couch again and leans back. He lights a match. He studies the flame awhile and then very slowly, very deliberately, lowers it to the fly of his black vinyl pants. Manzarek watches him. The girl who is rubbing Manzarek’s shoulders does not look at anyone. There is a sense that no one is going to leave this room, ever. It will be some weeks before The Doors finish recording this album. I do not see it through.”

6650 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

8. Former I. Magnin Department Store

9634 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Photo by Marc Wanamaker via LA Conservancy

In The White Album’s title essay, Didion masterfully conveys the sinister atmosphere that pervaded Los Angeles in the wake of the Manson family murders. A key ingredient to the essay’s potency is Didion’s journalistic achievement of gaining the trust of Manson acolyte-turned-witness-for-the-prosecution Linda Kasabian, resulting in this particularly memorable passage:

“On July 27, 1970, I went to the Magnin-Hi Shop of I. Magnin in Beverly Hills and picked out, at Linda Kasabian’s request, the dress in which she began her testimony about the murders at Sharon Tate Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. ‘Size 9 Petite,’ her instructions read. ‘Mini but not extremely mini. In velvet if possible. Emerald green or gold. Or: A Mexican peasant-style dress, smocked or embroidered.’ She needed a dress that morning because the district attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, had expressed doubts about the dress she had planned to wear, a long white homespun shift. ‘Long is for evening,’ he had advised Linda. Long was for evening and white was for brides. At her own wedding in 1965 Linda Kasabian had worn a white brocade suit. Time passed, times change. Everything was to teach us something.”

The I. Magnin chain ceased to exist in 1992; two years later, Saks Fifth Avenue moved into the Timothy Pflueger-designed building.

9634 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

9. Howard Hughes Corp.

7000 Romaine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Howard Hughes’ former headquarters.
Conde Nast via Getty Images

Commissioned by Howard Hughes and constructed in 1930-31 for a reported cost of $2 million, the sprawling Deco Moderne-style building at 7000 Romaine Street in Hollywood served as the headquarters of Hughes’ business empire for more than four decades.

In Slouching Towards Bethlehem’s essay on the eccentric mogul, Didion observes, “That the Hughes ‘communication center’ should lie here in the dull sunlight of Hammett-Chandler country is one of those circumstances that satisfy one’s suspicion that life is indeed a scenario, for the Hughes empire has been in our time the only industrial complex in the world—involving, over the years, machinery manufacture, foreign oil-tool subsidiaries, a brewery, two airlines, immense real-estate holdings, a major motion-picture studio, and an electronics and missile operation—run by a man whose modus operandi most closely resembles that of a character in The Big Sleep.”

Space in the storied structure is currently being offered for lease on Loopnet.

7000 Romaine St
Los Angeles, CA 90038

10. Providence Saint John's Health Center

2121 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Saint John’s.
Getty Images

In the summer of 1968, Didion checked herself into St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica (now Providence Saint John’s Health Center), and underwent a battery of psychiatric tests, the results of which would later become fodder for her landmark essay “The White Album.” According to her medical report, Didion’s test results “emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around her.”

On a happier note, St. John’s is also where Didion and Dunne’s adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, was born, on March 3, 1966.

2121 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404

11. Earl McGrath Art Gallery

454 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048
The former Earl McGrath gallery.
Pauline O’Connor

After moving to Los Angeles, Didion and Dunne became close friends of Earl McGrath, a celebrated bon vivant who had worked his way up from screenwriter to head to production at 20th Century Fox, to president of Rolling Stones Records—Didion even dedicated The White Album to him.

In the mid-’80s, McGrath opened an art gallery in West Hollywood, where the couple regularly held court. One such occasion was depicted in a 1987 New York Times Magazine profile: “Didion sits at a table quietly. She is peaceful. An endless stream of people comes to her, bending down to kiss her. She asks after their children, remembering personal details about everyone. Anjelica Huston, all legs in a little black dress, Teri Garr, George Stevens Jr., Tony Richardson, Michelle Phillips, Jean Vanderbilt and George Segal come to pay respects to the tiny woman with a gardenia in her hair.”

McGrath died in 2016; the building that held his gallery now houses the 454 North hair salon.

454 N Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048

12. 202 South Chadbourne Avenue

202 S Chadbourne Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90049
202 South Chadbourne Avenue.
Via Google Maps

In June 1978, Didion and Dunne moved from Malibu to a two-story 1930s Colonial Revival in Brentwood Park. Here they would live and write and throw legendary parties for a decade, until decamping for Manhattan in 1988.

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion recounts driving with her daughter past their old house on a return visit to LA, only to find “nothing left standing except the one chimney that allowed a tax advantage. I remembered the real estate agent telling me how meaningful it would be to the buyers were we to give them suitably inscribed copies of the books we had written in the house. We had done this. Quintana and Friends, Dutch Shea, Jr., and The Red White and Blue for John, Salvador, Democracy, and Miami for me. When we saw the flattened lot from the car, Quintana, in the back seat, burst into tears. My first reaction was fury. I wanted the books back.”

Per the author, the house was replaced by a “marginally larger house a year after we sold it.”

202 S Chadbourne Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90049

13. The Beverly Wilshire Hotel

9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Shutterstock

“For reasons that remain unclear to me the Beverly Wilshire itself only rarely triggered the vortex effect,” Didion recounts in The Year of Magical Thinking. “In theory its every corridor was permeated with the associations I was trying to avoid. When we were living in Malibu and had meetings in town we would bring Quintana and stay at the Beverly Wilshire. After we moved to New York and needed to be in Los Angeles for a picture we would stay there, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks at a time.... Yet the Beverly Wilshire seemed when Quintana was at UCLA the only safe place for me to be, the place where everything would be the same, the place where no one would know about or refer to the events of my recent life; the place where I would still be the person I had been before any of this had happened.”

9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

14. Hollywood Freeway

Los Angeles, CA 90004
101 Freeway.
Getty Images

LA’s highways and byways are a favorite subject for Didion, “the only secular communion” the city has, she asserts in The White Album.

For Maria Wyeth, the main character of her 1970 novel Play it as it Lays, “it was essential (to pause was to throw herself into unspeakable peril) that she be on the freeway by ten o’clock. Not somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard, not on her way to the freeway, but actually on the freeway. if she was not she lost the day’s rhythm, its precariously imposed momentum. Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove. She drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura. She drove it as a riverman runs a river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions, and just as a riverman feels the pull of the rapids in the lull between sleeping and waking, so Maria lay at night in the still of Beverly Hills and saw the great signs soar overhead at seventy miles an hour, Normandie ¼ Vermont ¾ Harbor Fwy 1. Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic. On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.”