Mocking Los Angeles is a time-honored pastime for New Yorkers. We cling to the L.A. that Woody Allen imagined in Annie Hall: a culturally barren land of liposuction and libidos, a crass, one-industry town full of phonies. Sure, the weather is better on the West Coast, we tell ourselves as we trudge the city’s sidewalks for the ridiculous procession of slushy weeks from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day. But look at the trade-offs they make in sunny California: traffic, pollution, sub-par museums, second-rate theaters, no seasons.
Lately, the younger generation of Manhattanites seems to be rejecting the L.A. stereotypes perpetuated by their parents. Some plan to settle back in New York after their spells on the West Coast, but others have come to call L.A. home.
“The business” drew Ben Lyons to L.A. in September 2005. The E! movie critic and uptown native says he stills feels like a tourist in L.A. sometimes, though Mr. Lyons is clearly enjoying his stint living in Hollywood—or, more precisely, a neighborhood he describes as “20 minutes from the airport, west of West Hollywood, east of Beverly Hills, and south.”
Like the rest of the East Coasters who have transplanted themselves to L.A., Mr. Lyons lists the weather as one of the city’s biggest draws, followed by its proximity to sunny destinations like Mexico, Santa Barbara and Las Vegas, where he goes every Saturday night thanks to a deal with the Hard Rock Hotel.
“It’s a crazy town," Mr. Lyons said over the phone. "My second day here I saw Pat Sajak at the dry cleaner, and just yesterday I saw Dylan McKay eating lunch on the Warner Brothers lot.
“I am in my car right now. Can you get any more L.A. than that?”
For the record, Mr. Lyons drives a Volvo S40, but his lease is about to expire so he is shopping for “some kind of hybrid.”
Most of Mr. Lyon’s friends in L.A. are fellow East Coasters he went to high school or college with. About half of his social circle is in “the business.” He lives with his oldest friend from Collegiate, who is a manager at Spago. Another one of his close friends went to high school at Dalton and is now producing Kung Fu movies with Harvey Weinstein, Mr. Lyons said.
“I’ll be at a party and it will be like, ‘That dude went to Collegiate and I’ve known him since I was six. That dude went to Dalton. That girl is from Connecticut.’ There are a lot of people from the East Coast and it seems like more are coming every day,” he said.
The predominance of the entertainment industry is one of L.A.’s best attributes but also a drawback, Mr. Lyons said.
On the one hand, when you work in “the business” socializing is work.
“You always have to be on, even if you’re feeling off whether you’re at a movie premiere or a party,” he said.
But being a one-industry town means its detractors in New York may dismiss L.A. as essentially non-creative.
“Everyone says the people are so phony here," Mr. Lyons said. "Everyone is fake; they’re all in the business, which is true. But it’s also the city where real movies are made, real television shows are written, where actors accomplish their work. So it’s a ridiculous city, but it’s also a talented city.”
Kathleen Moore first came to L.A. in August 2004 to intern for the now defunct WB network during the last semester of a Boston University graduate program in TV management. Eventually that turned into a full-time job.
“I had in the back of my mind that I might stay, but I was just giving it a try,” Ms. Moore said of her decision to move to L.A. “I never expected to fall in love with the city, though. It was where my job prospects were at first.”
Nine months later, the network shut down. Ms. Moore went to New York for a job interview and had a “life-changing experience”: she realized that L.A. had become home. Since then, she “hardly ever contemplates going back” and just bought a one-bedroom condo in Melrose Heights.
“Part of my soul will always be in New York because I grew up there, but L.A. is just so easy for someone at my age and income level. I have more space and more disposable income than I would have in New York. Just getting in your car to go to work every morning feels easier than being faced with the concept of commuting in New York. It’s not living at my parents, when I walked to [Chapin] every morning.”
What Ms. Moore likes best about L.A. is the attitude.
“People here don’t take themselves so seriously," she said. "Not that everyone in New York does, but some people do.”
Disillusion with New York was one of the factors behind a 25-year-old Upper East Sider’s decision to move to L.A. She declined to use her name for fear of offending her friends and family in Manhattan.
“I always thought I’d live in New York, but midway through college I stopped thinking it was the be-all, end-all,” she explained. “It started to feel too sterile and predictable. When I was growing up, we had a dingy Gristedes and all the shops were mom-and-pop places, and this is on Lexington in the 70’s. There are no regular places there now. It’s all fancy jewelry and trinket stores for socialites.”
After a “refreshing” weekend of hiking and visiting the Getty in L.A., she decided to move there, but never expected to stay for three years and counting.
Her parents have started to “come around” to her living in L.A., but some people she grew up with still find it inconceivable.
“When I tell people in New York that I live in L.A., they just say, ‘Oh.’ It shuts them up immediately because it’s so foreign,” she said. “The L.A. that people think of definitely exists but it’s such a broad city. People think of it as a one-industry town, but it does have a pretty major art scene, too.”
She works at a publishing house known for its chic coffee-table books.
Nellie Abernathy, a press secretary for an L.A. city council member, is another New Yorker living in L.A., working outside the entertainment industry.
She was not immediately enamored of the city when she arrived there after a year in China, but has grown attached to the lifestyle.
“It took me a year to really like it. I missed walking at first and was in a bad mood for the first three weeks because I was always in the car,” the 25-year-old said.
The best part? “I love the weather; it’s a cliché but it’s just so true,” Ms. Abernathy said. Despite 24 years of living on the East Coast, after six months in L.A., she called her parents in New York in the middle of February and said, “I don’t understand how you can live like this.”
Living expenses are also lower in L.A.
“Friends visiting from Manhattan always want to kill me because I live in a house with a yard in the middle of West Hollywood and pay half the rent they do for a studio apartment,” Ms. Abernathy said.
Though Ms. Abernathy would be happy to settle in California if her friends and family were based there, she expects to eventually end up back on the East Coast to be closer to them. “I wasn’t there for my sister giving birth, and I haven’t been able to go home for funerals because I couldn’t leave work on Wednesday, so it does get hard.”
Mr. Lyons, the movie critic, plans to “maintain a presence” in L.A., but believes New York is a better place to raise a family.
“Sure, you can get a house with a backyard and kids can play outside, but L.A.’s very encapsulating; you don’t really get a sense of what’s going on outside of the city. Kids in New York have the potential to be more worldly.”
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