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Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard.
Musso & Frank Grill.
AP

Literary Los Angeles

A map guide the LA places favored (and tolerated) by famous authors, from Joan Didion to William Faulkner

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Musso & Frank Grill.
| AP

Los Angeles may be known for its movie stars, but over the decades, artists of all stripes have called LA home. Many of the most famous writers of the 20th century spent time in Los Angeles. Some were native born, many were lured by the big paychecks from movie studios, and a good deal were just looking for a sunny place to get soused.

Join us, as we take a tour of a few of the most notable literary hangouts in Los Angeles, where you can still dream up your very own great California novel, or a just enjoy a really good dry martini.

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1. Joan Didion House

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7406 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

In 1966, author Joan Didion moved into this 1920s Greek Revival home. In her classic book of essays, The White Album, she recalled:

In the years I’m talking about I was living in a large house in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintances as a ‘senseless killing neighborhood.’ This house on Franklin Avenue was a rental and paint peeled inside and out, and pipes broke and window sashes crumbled, and the tennis court had not been rolled since 1933, but the rooms were many and high ceilinged and, during the five years I lived there, even the rather sinistral inertia of the neighborhood tended to suggest that I live in the house indefinitely

In this rambling house, Didion and her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, threw wild parties, living through the increasing paranoia of the late 1960s. “At the time,” LA Magazine’s Ethan Varian writes, “Didion began her days with a cold bottle of Coca-Cola and a can of salted almonds. She awoke late each morning and, donning a pair of oversized black glasses, made her way down the L-shaped staircase to the kitchen of the seven-room Hollywood estate she shared with her husband and daughter.”

For Didion, the house began to embody the creepy unease of post-Manson Hollywood. “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,” she wrote. 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.”

How to visit: The Shumei America Hollywood Center offers spiritual events and a “commune with nature” most Saturdays. Those interested in attending are encouraged to email hollywood@shumei.us.

The exterior of the Joan Didion House in Los Angeles. The facade is white with columns on both sides of the front door.
Didion’s former home on Franklin Avenue.
Jenna Chandler

2. Frolic Room

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6245 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-5890

So associated is this cozy Hollywood Boulevard bar with LA’s own Charles Bukowski, readings of his work have often been held here on Monday evenings, and his portrait hangs over the register. In operation since the 1930s, and first known as Bob’s Frolic Room, the bar’s position next to the Pantages Theater has dusted the small watering hole with Hollywood glamour—it was owned by Howard Hughes for a time in the 1950s, and features a vibrant 1963 mural of golden age celebrities by famed artist Al Hirschfeld. According to Bukowski biographer Howard Sounes, the Frolic Room was a  favorite haunt of the writer during the early 1970s, the era he wrote gritty works like Post Office, Fire Station, and Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.

How to visit: How can’t you hang, when the Frolic is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily?

A neon sign that reads: Frolic Room cocktails.
The Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, a Bukowski haunt.
UIG via Getty Images

3. Musso & Frank Grill

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6667 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 467-7788
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The most famous hangout in literary Los Angeles history, this restaurant and bar on Hollywood Boulevard opened in 1919. Over the decades, it has served as a watering hole, office, and occasional bedroom for hard-drinking authors including Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, John O’Hara, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Bertolt Brecht, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Budd Schulberg, Nathaniel West, and Gore Vidal, who claimed entering Musso’s was like “stepping into a warm bath.” It is said Faulkner would often play bartender, mixing mint juleps for himself, just like they made back home in Mississippi.

Musso’s became a writer’s haven partially due to timing and location—many novelists were lured by big paychecks to Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s, and the Screen Writers Guild was right across the street. The legendary bookstore owned by literary agent and book seller Stanley Rose was a few doors down. “The bookshop and the bar [at Musso & Frank] operated together with superb synergy, creating a welcomed sense of community for screenwriters suffering from an understandable sense of displacement,” historian Kevin Starr writes.

The faces have changed, but the vibe  remains the same. So next time you’re on the boulevard of broken dreams, take a load off in one of Musso’s leather clad booths: You may be sitting in the very one where Nathaniel West supposedly wrote portions of his Hollywood takedown, Day of the Locust.

How to visit: Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and dinner only on Sunday. Walk-in’s welcome for a drink at the bar, but reservations are recommended for dining in.

4. The Hollywood Roosevelt

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7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 856-1970
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William Faulkner hated Los Angeles. “They worship death here,” he once said, to a friend during a dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “They don’t worship money, they worship death.” Although he hated Hollywood, the brilliant author was enticed by big studio checks periodically during his writing career. During these miserable stints, he often stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt, where he could occasionally be found at the bar reciting Shakespeare, perhaps before stumbling down the road to Musso & Frank.

How to hang: There are endless ways to hang out at the Roosevelt, a perpetually popular place for Hollywood hanger-ons and high-rollers to stumble out of.

The exterior of the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, California. The facade is tan and there are yellow fire escapes.
Faulkner often stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt.
travelview / Shutterstock.com

5. Chateau Marmont

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8221 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 656-1010
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It was 1947, and Dorothy Parker needed a place to escape. The married Parker went to temporarily live in the spot where generations of artists, writers, and rockers have gone to check in—and check out—the Chateau Marmont. Her roommate was not her husband, but her much younger boyfriend Ross Evans, a handsome, struggling writer. Directly across the street was the Garden of Allah, where she had lived, loved, and partied with fellow writing legends including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Benchley.

Two decades later, writer Eve Babitz, another brilliant literary light who burned the candle at both ends, would reflect on the shared sinful spirit of the Garden of Allah (torn down in the 1950s) and the Chateau Marmont, believing that the Garden’s “ghosts and furies” had “wafted across Sunset” to the Chateau.

Babitz spent many drug enhanced hours at the Chateau, laughing at the pool, shacking up with a boyfriend during the Watts riots, and hooking up with musician Gram Parsons. “Who knows, when you go into the Chateau, in what condition you’ll leave,” she recalled her friend Mary saying. The statement holds true to this day.

How to visit: Though rooms and bungalows are probably out of price range for most of us, a great way to experience the Chateau’s grimy magic is to dine and drink at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. Reservations are advised.

The exterior of the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California. The facade is white with a grey roof and multiple towers.
Chateau Marmont.
By Alex Millauer / Shutterstock

6. Charles Bukowski Bungalow

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5124 De Longpre Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Here, according to Time Magazine, Bukowski “went from blue-collar postman to full-time writer, eventually becoming world famous for his bawdy tales of lust, liquor, and love.” Perfectly positioned near the Pink Elephant, his preferred liquor store, the home was filled with stacks of his perverse, perceptive writings. “He had a whole closet full of unpublished poems,” his publisher John Martin recalled. “Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high. So, I went through and picked out ones I thought were especially good, and I began, one way or another, to publish Bukowski.”

In February 2008, the bungalow was designated as a protected Historic-Cultural Monument, saving it from demolition. Not that Bukowski, who died in 1994, would have been impressed. “He was not the kind of person whose ego needed a large edifice in his memoriam,” his widow Linda Lee scoffed. And what about the scrapped idea that the bungalow be turned into a writers’ commune? “That would be repulsive to Hank. It would be against all his natural human ways to have little writers and poets in bungalows together, little Bukowskis running around.”

How to visit: Take a picture in front of the historic marker, then scram. Bukowski wouldn’t have wanted you there.

The exterior of the Charles Bukowski bungalow in Los Angeles. The facade is tan and there is a driveway with a white car.
This Bukowski Court historic marker.
Jenna Chandler

7. El Alisal

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200 E Ave 43
Los Angeles, CA 90031
(323) 226-1620
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Writer, editor, and librarian Charles F. Lummis believed in many things. He believed in California, and he boosted it constantly in his writings and his magazine, The Land of Sunshine. He believed in himself—his large ego was legendary. And he believed in the Arts and Crafts movement, and in finding joy in creating your own universe.

In 1894, he bought a parcel of land by the Arroyo Seco, on which he planned to create a home “built to last 1000 years.” Over the next two decades, Lummis and his family would build, by hand, a rustic castle, made from locally sourced stones, every feature handmade and unique.  “A man’s home should be part of himself,” Lummis wrote. “Something of the owner’s individuality should inform it...Everyone knows that the thing he has made is more genuinely his than the thing he has bought. The creative thrill is so fine and keen, it is pitiful for a man to get a home off the bargain counter and miss all the joy he might just as well have had in building it.”

Known as “El Alisal,” the Lummis home would become a center of the burgeoning artistic and bohemian community in early Los Angeles. Today, the castle and grounds are a lovely, secluded public park, often dotted with Angelenos at their easel, or taking pen to paper, perhaps writing about the wonders of Southern California. If so, Lummis would be pleased.

How to visit: The park is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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8. The Beverly Hills Hotel

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9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-2251
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Fran Lebowitz once said, “Los Angeles is a large city-like area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.” The writer and notorious snob Gore Vidal once quipped: “Nobody is allowed to fail within a two mile radius of the Beverly Hills Hotel.” Vidal loved the glamorous pink palace—he was great friends with the piano player in the Polo Lounge—as have generations of the glitterati and those aspiring to be so.

Eve Babitz, LA chronicler and jet-set it girl of the ’60s and ’70s, adored lounging by the pool, drinking Bloody Mary’s with her latest boyfriend, watching the stuck up guests flutter and the hotel’s famed tabby cats climbing on the hotel roof. In the 1980s, future it-boy Bret Easton Ellis would take underage college friends to the Polo Lounge in his mother’s white Mercedes. So enamored was he of the legendary hotel’s swank decadence, he included it in his brat pack masterpiece, Less Than Zero.

How to visit: You can always just go to the bar and get a drink. For dining there are three options: the legendary Polo Lounge, the poolside Cabana Café, and the charming Fountain Coffee Room. Reservations for Polo Lounge and Cabana Cafe are strongly suggested.

9. Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant

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704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 483-8050
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Writer, wit, and Beverly Hills native Nora Ephron loved the legendary Langer’s Delicatessen. She loved it so much, she wrote an ode to it, “A Sandwich,” in the New Yorker. “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world,” she gushed. “This is not just my opinion, although most people who know about Langer’s will simply say it’s the finest hot pastrami sandwich in Los Angeles because they don’t dare to claim that something like a hot pastrami sandwich could possibly be the best version of itself in a city where until recently you couldn’t get anything resembling a New York bagel.”

Ephron’s description of Langer’s—open since 1947—rings perpetually true, even though it was written in 2002.  Langer’s is a medium-sized place—it seats 135 people—and it is decorated, although “decorated” is probably not the word that applies, in tufted brown vinyl. The view out the windows is of the intersection of Seventh and Alvarado and the bright-red-and-yellow signage of a Hispanic neighborhood—bodegas, check-cashing storefronts, and pawnshops,” she wrote. “But Langer’s always seems to be just barely hanging on. If it were in New York, it would be a shrine, with lines around the block and tour buses standing double-parked outside… in Los Angeles a surprising number of people don’t even know about Langer’s, and many of those who do wouldn’t be caught dead at the corner of Seventh and Alvarado, even though it’s not a particularly dangerous intersection during daytime hours.”

How to visit: Langer’s is still hanging on, serving its famous pastrami sandwich 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.   

The exterior of Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, California. The facade is brick with windows and a green metal sign that reads: Langer’s.
Langer’s Delicatessen, beloved by Ephron.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

10. Bank of Italy Building

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505 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

From the early 1920s to 1932, a suave, married executive for the Dabney Oil Syndicate named Raymond Chandler worked in this ornate, 12-story neoclassical office tower in the bustling center of Downtown Los Angeles. As the high flying ’20s turned to the desperate ’30s, Chandler’s already cynical disposition turned sour.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Chandler’s “origin story [as an author] begins in the cracks of his marriage, when as an oil executive his drinking went from congenial to remarked upon. There were girls, secretaries in the office. Weekends would be spent carousing, and Chandler started skipping work, sometimes not appearing at the office until Wednesday. In 1932, at the blistering midpoint of the Depression, the 44-year-old Chandler was fired.”

After he was kicked out of the corporate world he had long despised, Chandler turned to his long dormant love—writing. His years spent in the high-flying business world and seedy entertainment quarter of Downtown Los Angeles were not for naught. They informed many of his LA-based noir classics including The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye; and Farewell, My Lovely.

How to visit: The building is now home to the hip and happening Nomad Hotel. Don’t miss the glorious rooftop bar and café, open to non-guests with reservations.

The exterior of the Bank of Italy building in Los Angeles. The facade is tan with columns on the front of the building.
Chandler worked for an oil syndicate in the Bank of Italy building, now home to Nomad Hotel.
Courtesy of Killefer Flammang Architects

11. The King Eddy

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131 E 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 629-2023
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The quintessential Skid Row dive bar, the current incarnation of the King Eddy opened in 1933. Its lack of pretension and ornamentation and its ample supply of cheap booze has drawn barflies and bad men for generations, including hard-boiled, hard-drinking writers James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice) and-allegedly-Charles Bukowski. “I’d come in and he was sitting over there, writing on his little scrap pad, making a poem,” bar manager Bill Roller told journalist Aaron Gilbreath. “I still have one of the original ones that he threw away.”

The King Eddy was also the haunt of a young John Fante, who immortalized it as the “King Edward Cellar” in his classic 1939 Los Angeles roman à clef Ask the Dust:

So down to Main Street a nd to Fifth Street, to the long dark bars, to the King Edward Cellar, and there a girl with yellow hair and sickness in her smile. Her name was Jean, she was thin and tubercular, but she was hard too, so anxious to get my money, her languid mouth for my lips, her long fingers at my trousers, her sickly lovely eyes watching every dollar bill.

Today, the King Eddy, is as grungy and great as ever, with regulars worthy of the next great novel about LA.

How to visit: No need for reservations. Just sidle up to the bar, order a drink, and enjoy the most perverse version of Cheers you’ve ever encountered.  

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12. Clifton's Cafeteria

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648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 627-1673
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During the 1930s, members of the legendary Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, including editor Forrest Ackerman, a blowhard pulp fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard, and a young sci-fi enthusiast named Ray Bradbury, met at this fantastical cafeteria in the heart of Los Angeles. “Their meetings in the so-called ‘Brown Room’ on the third floor would include big plates of roast turkey and cornbread dressing covered in gravy, meatloaf sandwiches, or plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes,” writes LA Weekly’s Garret Snyder. “Clifton’s policy of pay-what-you-want vibed well with many struggling writers—you’d tip well when times were good and help yourself to pitchers of free limeade when they weren’t.”

Long after he became the world-famous author of classics including Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury continued to patronize Clifton’s. On his 89th birthday, he celebrated at the restaurant and received a cafeteria tray and cake from Clifton’s management. Today, his favorite corner booth on the third floor has been restored, and his family has donated Bradbury-related memorabilia.

How to visit: Eat and drink like its still pay-what-you-can Wednesday through Sunday! Check out this link for specific times, the hours are tricky.

The exterior of Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles. The facade is brown and red and there is a sign that reads: living history, Clifton’s, established 1932, cabinet of curiosities.
“Clifton’s policy of pay-what-you-want vibed well with many struggling writers.”
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

13. Norma Shearer Beach House

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707 Palisades Beach Rd
Santa Monica, CA 90402

This grand Santa Monica vacation home of movie star Norma Shearer and her powerful producer husband, Irving Thalberg, was designed in the French Provincial style by architect John Byers. Here they hosted the cream of Hollywood society in the 1930s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was attempting to launch a second career as a screenwriter.

Fitzgerald was fascinated by the couple and their homes, which he claimed were “built for great emotional moments.” In his unfinished masterpiece The Love of the Last Tycoon, inspired by the tragic, brief life of Thalberg (he died of heart disease in 1936 at the age of 37), Fitzgerald’s main characters take a drive to the “Gold Coast,” the stretch of Santa Monica beach where Shearer and many other celebrities had their second homes:

They reached Santa Monica where there were the stately houses of dozens of picture stars, penned in the middle of a crawling Coney Island. They turned down the hill into the wide blue sky and sea and went on along the sea till the beach slid out again from under the bathers in a widening and narrowing yellow strand.

“I’m building a house out here,” Stahr said. “Much further on. I don’t know why I’m building it.”

“Perhaps it’s for me,” she said.

Although heavily remodeled, the house that inspired Fitzgerald still stands, and is a lovely relic to view on a Sunday Santa Monica stroll.

How to visit: The house is a private residence, but the beach in front of it is not. Throw your own 1930s themed beach day, and enjoy a day soused in the sun, like the many authors, actors, and musicians who whiled away their youth on what was once know as the “American Rivera.”

In the foreground is a sandy beach. In the distance is a large beach house and palm trees.
Norma Shearer’s beach house, as seen from the bike path.
Google Maps

14. Dunbar Hotel

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4225 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011
(323) 238-7501
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The center of Central Avenue life, the Hotel Sommerville was built by Doctors Vada and John Sommerville in 1928, as a place where well-to-do black travelers could stay in comfort and style. It was soon bought by Central Avenue fixture Lucius Lomax, who renamed it the Dunbar in honor the tragic African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who penned the immortal words: “Because I had loved so deeply, because I had loved so long, God in his great compassion gave me the gift of song.”

During the next three decades, dozens of black celebrities stayed at the Dunbar—including historian, writer and activist W.E.B. Dubois and legendary poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes, a great friend of the influential LA lawyer and journalist Loren Miller. At the Dunbar, writers and intellectuals could sop up the jubilant atmosphere supplied by musicians like Duke Ellington and his band, who often held impromptu jazz sessions in the lobby and, once, in the Dunbar Diner.

How to visit: It’s now a private senior citizens residence, but the manager and residents are usually more than happy to let you in to take a walk around the Dunbar’s beautiful lobby. For a longer stay, go across the street to the Central Avenue Jazz Park, where you can soak up all the cultural history of this historic hotbed of black intellectual life.

The exterior of the Dunbar hotel in Los Angeles. The facade is red brick.
Dozens of black celebrities stayed at the Dunbar—including W.E.B. Dubois and Langston Hughes.
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

15. Watts Coffee House

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1827 E 103rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90002
(323) 249-4343

This eclectic restaurant was originally a community center recreation room, an artistic hub built in 1966, the year after the Watts Uprising devastated the neighborhoods infrastructure. In the late 1960s and ’70s, the community center and places like the legendary nearby Watts Happening Coffee House were home to an artistic and literary renaissance which rose from the ashes of the Watts Uprising. “In the years afterwards, artists and activists transformed the Watts Happening Coffee House into base camp for civil rights efforts,” writes LA Weekly’s Katherine Davis-Young. “Donations flowed into Watts from government agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Hollywood names like Budd Schulberg and Roger Mosley, giving rise to organizations like the Watts Writers Workshop, Studio Watts and the Mafundi Institute.” Today, the Watts Coffee Shop, opened in 1997, pays homage to the areas rich creative history and serves a mean hearty breakfast.

How to visit: The coffee house is open 8 a.m. to mid-afternoon Tuesday through Sunday.

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1. Joan Didion House

7406 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
The exterior of the Joan Didion House in Los Angeles. The facade is white with columns on both sides of the front door.
Didion’s former home on Franklin Avenue.
Jenna Chandler

In 1966, author Joan Didion moved into this 1920s Greek Revival home. In her classic book of essays, The White Album, she recalled:

In the years I’m talking about I was living in a large house in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintances as a ‘senseless killing neighborhood.’ This house on Franklin Avenue was a rental and paint peeled inside and out, and pipes broke and window sashes crumbled, and the tennis court had not been rolled since 1933, but the rooms were many and high ceilinged and, during the five years I lived there, even the rather sinistral inertia of the neighborhood tended to suggest that I live in the house indefinitely

In this rambling house, Didion and her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, threw wild parties, living through the increasing paranoia of the late 1960s. “At the time,” LA Magazine’s Ethan Varian writes, “Didion began her days with a cold bottle of Coca-Cola and a can of salted almonds. She awoke late each morning and, donning a pair of oversized black glasses, made her way down the L-shaped staircase to the kitchen of the seven-room Hollywood estate she shared with her husband and daughter.”

For Didion, the house began to embody the creepy unease of post-Manson Hollywood. “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,” she wrote. 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.”

How to visit: The Shumei America Hollywood Center offers spiritual events and a “commune with nature” most Saturdays. Those interested in attending are encouraged to email hollywood@shumei.us.

7406 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

2. Frolic Room

6245 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
A neon sign that reads: Frolic Room cocktails.
The Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, a Bukowski haunt.
UIG via Getty Images

So associated is this cozy Hollywood Boulevard bar with LA’s own Charles Bukowski, readings of his work have often been held here on Monday evenings, and his portrait hangs over the register. In operation since the 1930s, and first known as Bob’s Frolic Room, the bar’s position next to the Pantages Theater has dusted the small watering hole with Hollywood glamour—it was owned by Howard Hughes for a time in the 1950s, and features a vibrant 1963 mural of golden age celebrities by famed artist Al Hirschfeld. According to Bukowski biographer Howard Sounes, the Frolic Room was a  favorite haunt of the writer during the early 1970s, the era he wrote gritty works like Post Office, Fire Station, and Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.

How to visit: How can’t you hang, when the Frolic is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily?

6245 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

3. Musso & Frank Grill

6667 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

The most famous hangout in literary Los Angeles history, this restaurant and bar on Hollywood Boulevard opened in 1919. Over the decades, it has served as a watering hole, office, and occasional bedroom for hard-drinking authors including Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, John O’Hara, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Bertolt Brecht, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Budd Schulberg, Nathaniel West, and Gore Vidal, who claimed entering Musso’s was like “stepping into a warm bath.” It is said Faulkner would often play bartender, mixing mint juleps for himself, just like they made back home in Mississippi.

Musso’s became a writer’s haven partially due to timing and location—many novelists were lured by big paychecks to Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s, and the Screen Writers Guild was right across the street. The legendary bookstore owned by literary agent and book seller Stanley Rose was a few doors down. “The bookshop and the bar [at Musso & Frank] operated together with superb synergy, creating a welcomed sense of community for screenwriters suffering from an understandable sense of displacement,” historian Kevin Starr writes.

The faces have changed, but the vibe  remains the same. So next time you’re on the boulevard of broken dreams, take a load off in one of Musso’s leather clad booths: You may be sitting in the very one where Nathaniel West supposedly wrote portions of his Hollywood takedown, Day of the Locust.

How to visit: Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and dinner only on Sunday. Walk-in’s welcome for a drink at the bar, but reservations are recommended for dining in.

6667 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

4. The Hollywood Roosevelt

7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
The exterior of the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, California. The facade is tan and there are yellow fire escapes.
Faulkner often stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt.
travelview / Shutterstock.com

William Faulkner hated Los Angeles. “They worship death here,” he once said, to a friend during a dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. “They don’t worship money, they worship death.” Although he hated Hollywood, the brilliant author was enticed by big studio checks periodically during his writing career. During these miserable stints, he often stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt, where he could occasionally be found at the bar reciting Shakespeare, perhaps before stumbling down the road to Musso & Frank.

How to hang: There are endless ways to hang out at the Roosevelt, a perpetually popular place for Hollywood hanger-ons and high-rollers to stumble out of.

7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

5. Chateau Marmont

8221 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046
The exterior of the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California. The facade is white with a grey roof and multiple towers.
Chateau Marmont.
By Alex Millauer / Shutterstock

It was 1947, and Dorothy Parker needed a place to escape. The married Parker went to temporarily live in the spot where generations of artists, writers, and rockers have gone to check in—and check out—the Chateau Marmont. Her roommate was not her husband, but her much younger boyfriend Ross Evans, a handsome, struggling writer. Directly across the street was the Garden of Allah, where she had lived, loved, and partied with fellow writing legends including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Benchley.

Two decades later, writer Eve Babitz, another brilliant literary light who burned the candle at both ends, would reflect on the shared sinful spirit of the Garden of Allah (torn down in the 1950s) and the Chateau Marmont, believing that the Garden’s “ghosts and furies” had “wafted across Sunset” to the Chateau.

Babitz spent many drug enhanced hours at the Chateau, laughing at the pool, shacking up with a boyfriend during the Watts riots, and hooking up with musician Gram Parsons. “Who knows, when you go into the Chateau, in what condition you’ll leave,” she recalled her friend Mary saying. The statement holds true to this day.

How to visit: Though rooms and bungalows are probably out of price range for most of us, a great way to experience the Chateau’s grimy magic is to dine and drink at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. Reservations are advised.

8221 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046

6. Charles Bukowski Bungalow

5124 De Longpre Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
The exterior of the Charles Bukowski bungalow in Los Angeles. The facade is tan and there is a driveway with a white car.
This Bukowski Court historic marker.
Jenna Chandler

Here, according to Time Magazine, Bukowski “went from blue-collar postman to full-time writer, eventually becoming world famous for his bawdy tales of lust, liquor, and love.” Perfectly positioned near the Pink Elephant, his preferred liquor store, the home was filled with stacks of his perverse, perceptive writings. “He had a whole closet full of unpublished poems,” his publisher John Martin recalled. “Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high. So, I went through and picked out ones I thought were especially good, and I began, one way or another, to publish Bukowski.”

In February 2008, the bungalow was designated as a protected Historic-Cultural Monument, saving it from demolition. Not that Bukowski, who died in 1994, would have been impressed. “He was not the kind of person whose ego needed a large edifice in his memoriam,” his widow Linda Lee scoffed. And what about the scrapped idea that the bungalow be turned into a writers’ commune? “That would be repulsive to Hank. It would be against all his natural human ways to have little writers and poets in bungalows together, little Bukowskis running around.”

How to visit: Take a picture in front of the historic marker, then scram. Bukowski wouldn’t have wanted you there.

5124 De Longpre Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

7. El Alisal

200 E Ave 43, Los Angeles, CA 90031

Writer, editor, and librarian Charles F. Lummis believed in many things. He believed in California, and he boosted it constantly in his writings and his magazine, The Land of Sunshine. He believed in himself—his large ego was legendary. And he believed in the Arts and Crafts movement, and in finding joy in creating your own universe.

In 1894, he bought a parcel of land by the Arroyo Seco, on which he planned to create a home “built to last 1000 years.” Over the next two decades, Lummis and his family would build, by hand, a rustic castle, made from locally sourced stones, every feature handmade and unique.  “A man’s home should be part of himself,” Lummis wrote. “Something of the owner’s individuality should inform it...Everyone knows that the thing he has made is more genuinely his than the thing he has bought. The creative thrill is so fine and keen, it is pitiful for a man to get a home off the bargain counter and miss all the joy he might just as well have had in building it.”

Known as “El Alisal,” the Lummis home would become a center of the burgeoning artistic and bohemian community in early Los Angeles. Today, the castle and grounds are a lovely, secluded public park, often dotted with Angelenos at their easel, or taking pen to paper, perhaps writing about the wonders of Southern California. If so, Lummis would be pleased.

How to visit: The park is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

200 E Ave 43
Los Angeles, CA 90031

8. The Beverly Hills Hotel

9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Fran Lebowitz once said, “Los Angeles is a large city-like area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.” The writer and notorious snob Gore Vidal once quipped: “Nobody is allowed to fail within a two mile radius of the Beverly Hills Hotel.” Vidal loved the glamorous pink palace—he was great friends with the piano player in the Polo Lounge—as have generations of the glitterati and those aspiring to be so.

Eve Babitz, LA chronicler and jet-set it girl of the ’60s and ’70s, adored lounging by the pool, drinking Bloody Mary’s with her latest boyfriend, watching the stuck up guests flutter and the hotel’s famed tabby cats climbing on the hotel roof. In the 1980s, future it-boy Bret Easton Ellis would take underage college friends to the Polo Lounge in his mother’s white Mercedes. So enamored was he of the legendary hotel’s swank decadence, he included it in his brat pack masterpiece, Less Than Zero.

How to visit: You can always just go to the bar and get a drink. For dining there are three options: the legendary Polo Lounge, the poolside Cabana Café, and the charming Fountain Coffee Room. Reservations for Polo Lounge and Cabana Cafe are strongly suggested.

9641 Sunset Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

9. Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant

704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
The exterior of Langer’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, California. The facade is brick with windows and a green metal sign that reads: Langer’s.
Langer’s Delicatessen, beloved by Ephron.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Writer, wit, and Beverly Hills native Nora Ephron loved the legendary Langer’s Delicatessen. She loved it so much, she wrote an ode to it, “A Sandwich,” in the New Yorker. “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world,” she gushed. “This is not just my opinion, although most people who know about Langer’s will simply say it’s the finest hot pastrami sandwich in Los Angeles because they don’t dare to claim that something like a hot pastrami sandwich could possibly be the best version of itself in a city where until recently you couldn’t get anything resembling a New York bagel.”

Ephron’s description of Langer’s—open since 1947—rings perpetually true, even though it was written in 2002.  Langer’s is a medium-sized place—it seats 135 people—and it is decorated, although “decorated” is probably not the word that applies, in tufted brown vinyl. The view out the windows is of the intersection of Seventh and Alvarado and the bright-red-and-yellow signage of a Hispanic neighborhood—bodegas, check-cashing storefronts, and pawnshops,” she wrote. “But Langer’s always seems to be just barely hanging on. If it were in New York, it would be a shrine, with lines around the block and tour buses standing double-parked outside… in Los Angeles a surprising number of people don’t even know about Langer’s, and many of those who do wouldn’t be caught dead at the corner of Seventh and Alvarado, even though it’s not a particularly dangerous intersection during daytime hours.”

How to visit: Langer’s is still hanging on, serving its famous pastrami sandwich 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.   

704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057

10. Bank of Italy Building

505 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
The exterior of the Bank of Italy building in Los Angeles. The facade is tan with columns on the front of the building.
Chandler worked for an oil syndicate in the Bank of Italy building, now home to Nomad Hotel.
Courtesy of Killefer Flammang Architects

From the early 1920s to 1932, a suave, married executive for the Dabney Oil Syndicate named Raymond Chandler worked in this ornate, 12-story neoclassical office tower in the bustling center of Downtown Los Angeles. As the high flying ’20s turned to the desperate ’30s, Chandler’s already cynical disposition turned sour.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Chandler’s “origin story [as an author] begins in the cracks of his marriage, when as an oil executive his drinking went from congenial to remarked upon. There were girls, secretaries in the office. Weekends would be spent carousing, and Chandler started skipping work, sometimes not appearing at the office until Wednesday. In 1932, at the blistering midpoint of the Depression, the 44-year-old Chandler was fired.”

After he was kicked out of the corporate world he had long despised, Chandler turned to his long dormant love—writing. His years spent in the high-flying business world and seedy entertainment quarter of Downtown Los Angeles were not for naught. They informed many of his LA-based noir classics including The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye; and Farewell, My Lovely.

How to visit: The building is now home to the hip and happening Nomad Hotel. Don’t miss the glorious rooftop bar and café, open to non-guests with reservations.

505 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

11. The King Eddy

131 E 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

The quintessential Skid Row dive bar, the current incarnation of the King Eddy opened in 1933. Its lack of pretension and ornamentation and its ample supply of cheap booze has drawn barflies and bad men for generations, including hard-boiled, hard-drinking writers James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice) and-allegedly-Charles Bukowski. “I’d come in and he was sitting over there, writing on his little scrap pad, making a poem,” bar manager Bill Roller told journalist Aaron Gilbreath. “I still have one of the original ones that he threw away.”

The King Eddy was also the haunt of a young John Fante, who immortalized it as the “King Edward Cellar” in his classic 1939 Los Angeles roman à clef Ask the Dust:

So down to Main Street a nd to Fifth Street, to the long dark bars, to the King Edward Cellar, and there a girl with yellow hair and sickness in her smile. Her name was Jean, she was thin and tubercular, but she was hard too, so anxious to get my money, her languid mouth for my lips, her long fingers at my trousers, her sickly lovely eyes watching every dollar bill.

Today, the King Eddy, is as grungy and great as ever, with regulars worthy of the next great novel about LA.

How to visit: No need for reservations. Just sidle up to the bar, order a drink, and enjoy the most perverse version of Cheers you’ve ever encountered.  

131 E 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

12. Clifton's Cafeteria

648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014
The exterior of Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles. The facade is brown and red and there is a sign that reads: living history, Clifton’s, established 1932, cabinet of curiosities.
“Clifton’s policy of pay-what-you-want vibed well with many struggling writers.”
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

During the 1930s, members of the legendary Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, including editor Forrest Ackerman, a blowhard pulp fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard, and a young sci-fi enthusiast named Ray Bradbury, met at this fantastical cafeteria in the heart of Los Angeles. “Their meetings in the so-called ‘Brown Room’ on the third floor would include big plates of roast turkey and cornbread dressing covered in gravy, meatloaf sandwiches, or plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes,” writes LA Weekly’s Garret Snyder. “Clifton’s policy of pay-what-you-want vibed well with many struggling writers—you’d tip well when times were good and help yourself to pitchers of free limeade when they weren’t.”

Long after he became the world-famous author of classics including Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury continued to patronize Clifton’s. On his 89th birthday, he celebrated at the restaurant and received a cafeteria tray and cake from Clifton’s management. Today, his favorite corner booth on the third floor has been restored, and his family has donated Bradbury-related memorabilia.

How to visit: Eat and drink like its still pay-what-you-can Wednesday through Sunday! Check out this link for specific times, the hours are tricky.

648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

13. Norma Shearer Beach House

707 Palisades Beach Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90402
In the foreground is a sandy beach. In the distance is a large beach house and palm trees.
Norma Shearer’s beach house, as seen from the bike path.
Google Maps

This grand Santa Monica vacation home of movie star Norma Shearer and her powerful producer husband, Irving Thalberg, was designed in the French Provincial style by architect John Byers. Here they hosted the cream of Hollywood society in the 1930s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was attempting to launch a second career as a screenwriter.

Fitzgerald was fascinated by the couple and their homes, which he claimed were “built for great emotional moments.” In his unfinished masterpiece The Love of the Last Tycoon, inspired by the tragic, brief life of Thalberg (he died of heart disease in 1936 at the age of 37), Fitzgerald’s main characters take a drive to the “Gold Coast,” the stretch of Santa Monica beach where Shearer and many other celebrities had their second homes:

They reached Santa Monica where there were the stately houses of dozens of picture stars, penned in the middle of a crawling Coney Island. They turned down the hill into the wide blue sky and sea and went on along the sea till the beach slid out again from under the bathers in a widening and narrowing yellow strand.

“I’m building a house out here,” Stahr said. “Much further on. I don’t know why I’m building it.”

“Perhaps it’s for me,” she said.

Although heavily remodeled, the house that inspired Fitzgerald still stands, and is a lovely relic to view on a Sunday Santa Monica stroll.

How to visit: The house is a private residence, but the beach in front of it is not. Throw your own 1930s themed beach day, and enjoy a day soused in the sun, like the many authors, actors, and musicians who whiled away their youth on what was once know as the “American Rivera.”

707 Palisades Beach Rd
Santa Monica, CA 90402

14. Dunbar Hotel

4225 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011
The exterior of the Dunbar hotel in Los Angeles. The facade is red brick.
Dozens of black celebrities stayed at the Dunbar—including W.E.B. Dubois and Langston Hughes.
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

The center of Central Avenue life, the Hotel Sommerville was built by Doctors Vada and John Sommerville in 1928, as a place where well-to-do black travelers could stay in comfort and style. It was soon bought by Central Avenue fixture Lucius Lomax, who renamed it the Dunbar in honor the tragic African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who penned the immortal words: “Because I had loved so deeply, because I had loved so long, God in his great compassion gave me the gift of song.”

During the next three decades, dozens of black celebrities stayed at the Dunbar—including historian, writer and activist W.E.B. Dubois and legendary poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes, a great friend of the influential LA lawyer and journalist Loren Miller. At the Dunbar, writers and intellectuals could sop up the jubilant atmosphere supplied by musicians like Duke Ellington and his band, who often held impromptu jazz sessions in the lobby and, once, in the Dunbar Diner.

How to visit: It’s now a private senior citizens residence, but the manager and residents are usually more than happy to let you in to take a walk around the Dunbar’s beautiful lobby. For a longer stay, go across the street to the Central Avenue Jazz Park, where you can soak up all the cultural history of this historic hotbed of black intellectual life.

4225 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011

15. Watts Coffee House

1827 E 103rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90002

This eclectic restaurant was originally a community center recreation room, an artistic hub built in 1966, the year after the Watts Uprising devastated the neighborhoods infrastructure. In the late 1960s and ’70s, the community center and places like the legendary nearby Watts Happening Coffee House were home to an artistic and literary renaissance which rose from the ashes of the Watts Uprising. “In the years afterwards, artists and activists transformed the Watts Happening Coffee House into base camp for civil rights efforts,” writes LA Weekly’s Katherine Davis-Young. “Donations flowed into Watts from government agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Hollywood names like Budd Schulberg and Roger Mosley, giving rise to organizations like the Watts Writers Workshop, Studio Watts and the Mafundi Institute.” Today, the Watts Coffee Shop, opened in 1997, pays homage to the areas rich creative history and serves a mean hearty breakfast.

How to visit: The coffee house is open 8 a.m. to mid-afternoon Tuesday through Sunday.

1827 E 103rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90002