Sundown on Sunset Blvd.
by Allison Scagliotti
I remember when Tower Records shuttered for good. Gen Xers wept openly, bemoaning the death of their community locus. Too young to have integrated into a scene of my own, I wondered what my version of this loss might be one day. My view from the minivan passenger seat was as much about deciphering the L.A. in which I’d eventually be turned loose as it was navigating from valley apartment to casting call, Thomas Guide open on my lap. Now, after twenty years as a certified Angeleno, the city of my youth fades from existence the way people fade from photographs in movies about time travel.
The first casualty was Meltdown Comics, at the intersection of nerd consumerism and alt-comedy culture, its one-eyed neon Martian beckoning from above the sidewalk. On the sales floor, huge stock of Hergé’s Tintin, Daniel Clowes exclusives, whole sections of art and horror content where I lost myself and my dollars on several occasions. Upstairs, a small podcast studio where I once recorded an undoubtably regrettable interview. In the back, a performance space where I saw future SNL cast members hone their sets, where I performed an acoustic show with one of several ill-fated bands. I affixed a Meltdown sticker to my guitar case years before I ever ventured inside, an aspirational promise from my thirteen-year-old self that one day I would breach the barrier between my cloistered childhood and the social fabric of hip L.A.
I perceived Amoeba Music as a sort of headquarters of that L.A., rising like a monolith at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga, mural of New Orleans music along the western wall, marquee of the month’s in-store performances and signings. Another neon palace of media and kitsch I couldn’t wait to explore. Eventually I would spend hours there, emerging after solo shopping trips or teenage dates blissed out and buzzed from the sensory overload, showing off my music taste before I had any. Overdosed on content, identity pulled in seventeen different directions, in need of a shower after digging through the grime of used CDs in their endlessly recycled plastic cases, big and noisy to deter theft. I bought my first vinyl there, during an in-store DJ set promoting a new Bauhaus record. Years later, my friend and I stood in line for two hours for David Lynch to sign his psycho blues album, Crazy Clown Time. When my friend boldly stated, “Mr. Lynch, I’m thirty years old and BOB still gives me nightmares,” David turned his floodlight blue eyes on him and barked, “Ha!! It is a strange. World.”
Lynch the prophet was right. Amoeba packed up and relocated to a brand-new space on Hollywood Boulevard, the ground floor of yet another condo complex, directly across the street from the Funko Emporium. The neon palace on Sunset now contains the influencer-baiting Van Gogh Exhibit. Empty, scrubbed clean of all the sweat and grime we put there with our hungry, searching fingers, not unlike the John Varvatos that absorbed CBGB on the Bowery. An L.A. institution reduced to another stop on a tourist’s crawl past a wax museum, theaters converted into Apple stores, and the endless real estate holdings of the Church of Scientology.
I, like the Gen Xers who mourned Tower Records and the boomers who bemoaned the changing Sunset Strip, am reminded of my own mortality with each new closure. They come faster every year: the Nick on Sunset soundstage, now condos and retail; the Cinerama Dome and ArcLight Cinemas, still silently awaiting their fate; the Viper Room, that mythic venue where I played my last show before lockdown, destined for demolition by next year; Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction gradually transforming into Abbott Kinney, the ancient army surplus now a Byredo perfumery; the Chateau Marmont going private when it was exclusive enough to begin with.
It’s easy to lose time in Los Angeles. A region without seasons helps us forget that we, too, are slouching toward our permanent closure. As the palm trees non-native to these environs creep up to the end of their life expectancy, I gaze into the smog from the top of Runyon Canyon and wonder what kind of condos they’ll build in Hell.
Allison Scagliotti is a multi-hyphenate artist with over 20 years of experience in Hollywood. She began her journey as a child actor at age 11 and directed 7 episodes of high-concept multi-cam for Disney and Nickelodeon before turning 30. Allison is also an accomplished musician, having been mentored by Cherie Currie (The Runaways) and Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf). She holds a degree in Interdisciplinary Music Studies from Berklee College of Music, and records original French horror ballads as La Femme Pendu. Also, she is a line dancing enthusiast, will play the theremin at your Halloween party.