On Sunday we joined the LACBC for the latest ride in its great Sunday Funday series: the ‘Beverly Thrills’ 13-mile ride though the streets of Beverly Hills. This easy ride brought over fifty riders to our well-tended blacktop. Short of the Gran Fondo or Amgen rides, it’s a record. (For the record those rides kept riders out of the hills.) For this ride we traversed the boulevards and stop signed sidestreets to visit Greystone mansion. But was a thrill was in the offing, it was the steep descent back down. We worked up a sweat and wicked it away. Here’s the recap!
Think about Beverly Hills and what comes to mind? Rodeo Drive’s boutiques. Celebrities like the all-American Will Rogers. Landmark estates like Pickfair (left), the famous home of silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. And the hotels like the Beverly Wilshire & Beverly Hills Hotel.
Beverly Hills has its darker side too. Though we’re too banal to lay claim to the savory history of noir, we’re on the ‘death tour’ for a few untimely departures at the Hilton recently. And on this ride we breezed past the Menendez home, where a notorious double-murder kept Court TV in business for years. Beyond notoriety, though, no tour would be complete without a nod to celebrity. We’ve had our share, but recently they are regarded less for their civic duty than for cracking up cars and simply being famous. Celebrity ain’t what it used to be.
The city has changed in other ways too, and not always for the better. For one thing, Pickfair is long gone, of course, replaced by a newer version (right). Done in by collusion between officials disinclined to protect historic properties and property owners eager to remodel, Pickfair suffered the ‘scrape’ rather than the scalpel. C-list crooner Pia Zadora felt that Pickfair needed a rehab and, well, like so many TV renovations, it just made more sense to start anew.
And then there’s the bread & butter: how City hall earns its keep. The city once staked growth on resource extraction; oil and cultural production were a rich vein to tap, so to speak. Today, however, we depend on tapping people to pay for our outsourced services, and to plug our forecast $20-40 million public parking garage deficit. Sales and occupancy taxes are king today. We’ve exiled our high-profile oil rig to pasture.
You heard that right: our famously insular city so insensitive to external concerns depends on out-of-town money to keep us afloat. And rather than invest in facilitating new modes of mobility, instead we invest in accommodating the motorist’s choice by furnishing a rather expensive place for them to park. Often for free. Why? Our thoroughfares are more congested than ever. It’s like a civic heart disease where vehicular slogging hobbles the circulatory system of the central Westside. Beverly Hills is the coronary that every day sends our region to a trauma center.
Perhaps it was appropriate then to make the pinnacle (literally) of our journey the Edward Doheny’s Greystone mansion, nestled into the foothills above Beverly Hills. For one thing, the mansion is huge, and was simply a gift from the oil tycoon to his son. So it is a testament to the remunerative opportunity that is big oil. Proof positive that wealth trickles up through the class strata in American society (we could say “gushes” in this case). But it also shows that privilege courses down through the bloodline – a gift that keeps on giving.
But here too the picture is complicated: Greystone itself has its historical baggage: Doheney’s son was reportedly killed in the house by his secretary, both of whom were implicated in the Teapot Dome scandaltrail later that year. The city bought the grounds in 1965. Greystone, here we come!