More From The LA Past, Circa 1970 (Kodachrome, too)

From about 1969-71, I lived just off Sunset Boulevard high up a ridge or cliff overlooking the street, and at the southern edge of the Silverlake district.

My house, on Hamilton Way, would have been one of my favorites, ever, if it hadn’t been for my very unpleasant landlady (what did we call her? “Bertha Brittle” or something like that), but she was an infrequent annoyance as she was mostly out of sight and rarely visited from the west side of L.A.

The place looked tiny from streetside, but plunged down the cliff on the opposite side for three levels into a clearing surrounded by dense brush, with Sunset Blvd. level shops far below that, feeling quite remote from any neighbors. It had been converted for duplex use, and the bottom floor was occupied by a couple who would become fast friends. My portion consisted in part of a top floor at street level which had suffered structural damage in an earthquake* — said to have occurred in the late 30s — resulting in a sloping floor that made normal use almost impossible. I turned it into a slanted, furniture-free gallery, with a small darkroom at one side equipped with tables of unequal length legs to create a level working surface. The second level, entered from steps behind heavy foliage going down the hillside, consisted of a sizable entry hall with the kitchen to the left/east (which had an internal short staircase to the slanting top level), a bedroom to the right/west, a narrow bathroom alongside at the right but deeper inside, and a central opening to a large living room the width of the entire place (similar in aspect ratio, but a bit larger, to the 1005 drop-level living space, if you have visited us in this century) that had full-height windows and doors to a deck on the south, and full-width windows on the east end.

In this “sunroom” (of course, I really wanted a northlit space, but those were hard to find), I set up a shooting studio, my stereo system, some bookshelves and little else. Outside the south-facing doors was a nearly-full-width deck which hung over the cliff and allowed everything from Sunset Blvd. traffic watching to nude sunbathing to sunset/sunrise and night cityscape viewing. Wood floors throughout were in fairly good condition, but the exterior stucco was crumbling. I considered buying the house at one point, but the costs to repair the upper foundation were alarming.

(*I memorably experienced the 6.7 or whatever it was 1971 San Fernando earthquake early one pre-dawn morning there and also lived there as I quit smoking, cold-turkey, in one of the most difficult ordeals I can recall. And during that period I encountered a number of extraordinary people who figured in my life for some time to come, and who will probably be present in photos yet to be unearthed.)

Some other views from that neighborhood, and at least one from the deck:

Many hours were spent walking along Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, not to mention driving around the hills of Silverlake. (I recall timed runs around the Silverlake Reservoir, and driving up hills so steep that the steering of my rearward-weight-biased Porsche became very light and little more than the sky could be seen through the windshield.  Pretty scary.) In the 60s, both before and after my VietNam stint, I lived in Hollywood, often walking and photographing and watching films on Hollywood Blvd. After I moved to the hills above Sunset, I continued to return to that area as well, frequenting jazz clubs, movie theatres and bookstores, but also exploring eastward into the Armenian and Latino areas, and into downtown. Some photos from the streets …

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