Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to Be a New York Sports Fan at the Staples Center -- 2016 Edition

This time, I'm pushing my luck, and doing a trip guide for the 1 current building in North America that is home to 3 teams at once, 1 of 10 to host teams in both the NBA and the NHL: The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Why? Because 4 area teams are all about to go out there. The Brooklyn Nets will visit to play the Los Angeles Clippers on this coming Monday night, Leap Year Day, February 29. They will then play the Los Angeles Lakers the next night, Tuesday, March 1. The New York Knicks will visit to play the Clippers on Friday night, March 11. The New Jersey Devils will visit to play the Los Angeles Kings the next night, Saturday, March 12. The Knicks stay over to play the Lakers the next night, Sunday, March 13.

The Devils play the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, March 14. The New York Rangers will visit to play the Ducks on Wednesday night, March 16, and the Kings on Thursday night, March 17.

The only local team whose meeting away to L.A. is not coming up is the New York Islanders. They already made their L.A. trip for this season on November 12 and 13, losing 2-1 to the Kings but beating the Ducks 4-1.


Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, the Los Angeles area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit. If you don’t mind earthquakes. And mudslides. And wildfires. And smog.

Check the weather forecast on the Los Angeles Times' website before you, so you'll know what to bring. For the moment, the next several days are projected to be in the mid-70s, and the nights in the mid-50s. In other words, unseasonably warm for us, but normal for them. So you might want to not bring a winter coat to Newark/JFK/LaGuardia Airport/Penn Station/Port Authority. If you're driving in, leave the winter coat in the back seat once you get past the Rocky Mountains.

Los Angeles is in the Pacific Time Zone, which is 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

If you want to take a side trip into Mexico, it's about 140 miles from downtown L.A. to the Tijuana border station. You will need a passport. GoToBus runs buses from Los Angeles to Tijuana, $30 and 4 hours, 45 minutes each way. If you drive in, you will need Mexican driving insurance, which you can probably buy at the Mexican consulate, either in New York or Los Angeles. For the moment, $1.00 = 18.14 pesos, while 1 peso = 5 1/2 cents.

Tickets.  For some reason, even though they play the same sport in the same building, the basketball teams have different official seating capacities. For the Lakers, it's 18,997. For the Clippers, it's 19,060.

Why the Clippers thought they could sell 63 more seats than the Lakers, I don't know. But, for the moment, they're right: The Lakers are, indeed, averaging 18,997 fans per home game this season, a sellout every game (as has been the case, even in bad times, pretty much since they arrived in L.A. in 1960), but the Clippers are averaging 19,163, 100.5 percent of capacity.

Given the fact that Los Angeles is an expensive city, that the Staples Center was designed to be a showplace for rich Laker fans, that the Lakers are the Western U.S.' most successful sports team (only the Yankees, the Boston Celtics and the Green Bay Packers in the Eastern half of the country surpass them), and that this is Kobe Bryant's final season, and prices for Laker games could be expected to shock you. Especially if you wait until the day of the game, and have to rely on a scalper. So order now.

In the lower level, the 100 sections, seats that are currently still available are $274 between the baskets and $132 behind them. In the 200 sections, seats between the baskets are club seats for season-ticket holders only, while behind them, they're $94. In the 300 level, they'd be $63 between the baskets and $49 behind them, except that they're already sold out.

As you might guess, with their lack of success (until recently), Clippers tickets have a much lower demand, and thus have much lower prices. Seats in the 100 level are $119 between the baskets and $33 behind them. They're $59 in the ends of the 200 level. In the 300 level, they're $86 between the baskets, and behind them, just about a major league sports low of $10.

Capacity for Kings games is listed as 18,230, and they're also averaging a sellout per game. Their 2 recent Stanley Cup wins have put them heavily in demand, as L.A. loves a winner and hates a loser (as evidenced by the Clippers drawing badly until 2013 and fans forgetting the Kings existed between Wayne Gretzky getting traded away in February 1996 and the Playoffs starting in April 2012). Seats in the 100 level are $225 between the goals and $135 behind them. They're $130 in the 200 level. In the 300 level, they're $125 between the goals and $62 behind them.

Getting There. It’s 2,791 miles from Times Square in New York to City Hall in downtown Los Angeles. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to drive... Take Interstate 80 West across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Just before leaving Nebraska for Colorado you’ll get on Interstate 76, and shortly before reaching Denver you’ll get on Interstate 70 West. You’ll take that all the way to its end in Utah, where you’ll take Interstate 15 South. You’ll go through a short strip of Arizona before getting into Nevada (where you’ll see THE Strip, Las Vegas), before getting into California.

Assuming you're not going to a hotel first (and you really should), you’ll get off I-15 at Exit 109A, and get on Interstate 10 West, and almost immediately onto U.S. Route 101 North, the San Bernardino Freeway.  Take that road's Exit 3 to State Route 110, the Pasadena Freeway, and that will get you into downtown L.A.

Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you’ll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, Nevada for 2 hours, and California for 3 and a half hours hours; for a total of 46 hours and 30 minutes. Factor in rest stops, you’ll need more like 3 full days. And, remember, that’s just one way. And if you end up using Las Vegas as a rest stop, well, you might end up missing the game and end up, yourself, as as one of those things that “stays in Vegas.”

If you take Amtrak, in order to make the Monday night game, you'll have to leave New York's Penn Station on Friday afternoon, on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40. You'd reach Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Saturday, then leave at 3:00 PM on the Southwest Chief, reaching Union Station in Los Angeles at 8:15 AM Pacific Time on Monday. The Southwest Chief leaves L.A. at 6:10 PM Pacific Time every day, and reaches Chicago at 3:15 PM Central Time 2 days later. The Lake Shore Limited leaves Chicago at 9:30 PM, and arrives back in New York at 6:23 PM the next day. Round-trip fare is $584, so it really doesn't pay to take the train for 64 1/2 hours, as opposed to a plane for 7. Union Station is at 800 N. Alameda Street, at Arcadia Street. Union Station on Metro.
Los Angeles' Union Station

Greyhound takes even longer, about 68 hours, changing buses twice, $614 round-trip, but it could drop to as little as $482 with advanced purchase. The station is at 1716 E. 7th Street, at Lawrence Street. Metro doesn't go anywhere near it, but the Number 60 bus will get you downtown. 

Flights to L.A. will be relatively cheap this time of year, and you might even get a round-trip flight for under $600, if you don't mind changing planes in Chicago or Dallas. The LAX2US bus will take you, as its name suggests, from Los Angeles International Airport to Union Station, taking 45 minutes and costing $8.00; from there, bus and subway connections can be made to downtown. 

Once In the City. Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Spain as a Catholic mission, and means "The Angels" -- hence that was the name of the Pacific Coast League team, and the subsequent American League team: The Los Angeles Angels. The city continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and is now just under 4 million people, making it the 2nd-largest city in North America, behind New York. (Unless you count Mexico, and thus Mexico City, as "North America" instead of "Central America.")
The metro area has about 18.3 million people, and may soon end up passing New York and all others in that regard. The streets aren't quite north-south and east-west, as, like on the islands of Manhattan and Montreal, they're kind of on a diagonal. The "centerpoint" of the city, where east-west and north-south addresses begin, is 1st Street and Main Street, at the northwestern corner of which is the iconic City Hall. Numbered streets have east-west addresses.

I call the Art Deco, marble-fronted City Hall, at 200 N. Spring Street, and at 453 feet the city's tallest building between 1928 and 1964, "iconic" because it's been used in popular culture many times: You've seen it, even if you couldn't identify it before now.

Its image is embossed on Los Angeles Police Department badges, as seen on the 1951-59 TV series (and its 1967-70 revival) Dragnet. (I can't prove it, but I suspect that show star-creator Jack Webb chose 714 as the badge number for Detective Sergeant Joe Friday in honor of Babe Ruth and his career home run total.) It stood in for the Metropolis Daily Planet building on the 1952-59 TV series The Adventures of Superman. Many other L.A.-set TV series and movies have included shots of it.
The Los Angeles Times is the leading (most-circulated) newspaper in the Western United States, and has long been known for a great sports section. The legendary columnist Jim Murray has been dead for some time now, but if you watch ESPN's Around the Horn, you'll recognize the names of Bill Plaschke and J.A. Adande.

The sales tax in the State of California is 7.5 percent, in the City of Los Angeles 9 percent.

A single ride on a bus or subway is $1.75. A bag of 10 tokens (yes, like Philly and Toronto, L.A. uses tokens, although they also use TAP farecards) is $17.50 (no savings). A 1-day pass is $7.00, and if you're going for more than 1 game, a 7-day pass might help, at $25.

Yes, since 1990, L.A., that most car-designed of American cities, has had a subway. They call it Metro Rail, and it has Red, Blue, Green, Gold, Purple and Expo lines. (Expo? It goes from Los Angeles all the way to Montreal? No.)
Going In. The Staples Center is part of the L.A. Live complex, 2 miles south (well, southwest) of downtown, which also includes, among other buildings, the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Microsoft Theater, and a movie theater. The arena's mailing address is 1111 S. Figueroa Street. (If that address sounds familiar, it's because the L.A. Coliseum is at 3911 S. Figueroa, about 2 1/2 miles south.) It is accessible by Pico Station on Metro Rail's Blue and Expo Lines.
Lakers setup

If you drive in, parking is $10 for most events. You're most likely to enter the arena via Figueroa Street, on the arena's east side. The court and rink are laid out east-to-west -- or, more precisely, southwest-to-northeast. The Kings shoot twice toward the (north)east goal.
Clippers setup

The arena opened in 1999, and the Lakers, Clippers and Kings moved in immediately. The WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks did not do so until 2001. It's hosted 7 NBA Finals, 4 WNBA Finals, 2 Stanley Cup Finals, 2 NBA All-Star Games (each team acting as the host once), an NHL All-Star Game, the Pacific-10/12 Basketball Tournament, boxing, "professional wrestling," "ultimate fighting," figure skating, the Grammy Awards and the Latin Grammys on multiple occasions, Michael Jackson's memorial service in 2009 (he had been rehearsing there for his tour that his death canceled it), and the 2000 Democratic Convention, which nominated Al Gore for President and Joe Lieberman for Vice President.
Kings setup

Just as Yankees-Mets is called the Subway Series (even though a true Subway Series can only happen in a World Series), and Dodgers-Angels is called the Freeway Series, a Lakers-Clippers game is called the Hallway Series, since the Staples Center is the only building in NBA history where 2 teams have groundshared.

Food.  Los Angeles is an international city, and the concession stands at the Staples Center reflect this. But L.A. is also a city where individuality clashes with conformity, and this can be seen in the chain restaurants serving the place:

* California Pizza Kitchen, outside Section 109.

* Camacho's Cantina (Mexican), 117.

* Dave's Dog House (as if there really was such a thing as a "gourmet hot dog"), 102.

* Deli & Dash, 115.

* Goose Island (Chicago-style hot dogs by Hebrew National, and Fritos chips), 108.

* Ludo Bird (a French theme), 119.

* McDonald's (you know what they serve), 114.

* Outtakes (sandwiches), 104.

* Tap Haus (German-style beer & bratwurst), 113 and 118.

* Wetzel's Pretzels (including hot dogs with pretzel buns), 103.

Team History Displays. Despite the Kings' 2 recent Cups, the Lakers are still way ahead here, even if you don't count the 5 NBA Championships they won in Minneapolis. (And you shouldn't, since they had nothing to do with Los Angeles -- but since Minnesota is "The Land of 10,000 Lakes," now you know why a team in L.A. is called the Lakers.) Nevertheless, only the banners for the host team on a given night are shown on that night.

The Lakers have finished 1st in their Division 30 times since moving to L.A.: 1962, '63, '65, '66, '68, '69, '70, '71, '72, '73, '74, '77, '80, '82, '83, '84, '85, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90, 2000, '01, '02, '08, '09, '10, '11 and '12. And they have reached the NBA Finals 25 times since their arrival: 1962, '63, '65, '66, '68, '69, '70, '72, '73, '80, '82, '83, '84, '85, '87, '88, '89, '91, 2000, '01, '02, '04, '08, '09 and '10.

But, like the Yankees, the Boston Celtics, the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Montreal Canadiens, they only post banners of their World Championships, having won 11 in L.A.: 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. This places them 2nd to the Celtics, and if you do count the Minnesota titles, it's very close: 17 to 16. The Chicago Bulls, with 6, are way behind in 3rd.
The Lakers have 9 banners with retired numbers, plus 2 other banners that I'll get to shortly: 

* From their 1971-72 NBA Championship season: 13, center Wilt Chamberlain; 22, forward Elgin Baylor (their 1st star in L.A., although he retired early in that season and thus didn't get a ring); 25, guard Gail Goodrich; 44, guard Jerry West. Although that team featured a young guard named Pat Riley, who would go on to coach the Lakers to 4 NBA titles, his Number 12 has not been retired.

* From their 1980, 1982 and 1985 NBA Championship seasons: 32, guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson; 33, center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and 52, forward Jamaal Wilkes. Kareem and Jamaal both won National Championships at crosstown UCLA, as did Goodrich. Unlike Goodrich, they converted to Islam and gave themselves new Arabic names: Kareem was born as Lew Alcindor, Jamaal as Keith Wilkes. The aforementioned Jerry West was the Laker GM who built the 1980s and 2000s dynasties.

* From their 1987 and 1988 NBA Championship seasons: Magic, Kareem, and 42, forward James Worthy.

* From their 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA Championship seasons: 34, center Shaquille O'Neal, born and raised in Newark, and a Devils fan, although he went to high school in San Antonio. Guard Kobe Bryant, who played on these teams, and on their 2009 and 2010 titlists, will likely also get his number retired. But which number? On the earlier 3 titles, he wore 8; on the latter 2 and to the end of his career this season, he wore 24.

* The Lakers have a single banner honoring 6 Hall-of-Famers from their Minneapolis days: 17, forward Jim Pollard; 19, forward Vern Mikkelsen; 22, guard Slater Martin; 34, center Clyde Lovellette; 99, center George Mikan; and head coach John Kundla. 22 and 34 have been retired for others, but other sports teams (including the Knicks, 15 for both Dick McGuire and Earl Monroe, and the Yankees, 8 for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra) have retired 1 number for 2 players. And 17, 19 and especially 99 are not commonly worn, making it odd that these numbers haven't been retired.

* They also have a banner with the image of a microphone, for Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn, who broadcast for them from 1961 until his death in 2002. He was famous for his "Chickisms," sayings that have entered the basketball lexicon: Airball, boo-birds, brick, charity stripe, finger roll, garbage time, give and go, no harm no foul, triple-double, and, yes, Chick coined the term "slam dunk."

A team getting beaten badly "couldn't beat the Sisters of Mercy." They had "two chances, slim and none, and slim just left the building." If a shot was particularly bad, he'd invoke his wife: "Marge could have made that shot." If a supposedly easy shot was flubbed, there was "too much mustard on the hot dog." When the fans booed an official's call, he'd say, "Lots of referees in the building, only 3 getting paid."

Despite coming from the Chicago area, he came up with some countrified sayings reminiscent of baseball's Red Barber and Ernie Harwell, and football's Keith Jackson. A player called for traveling "did the bunny hop in the pea patch." Good defense meant they were "on him like a postage stamp" or "covered like the rug on your floor." A player making a clutch shot "has ice-water in his veins." A team missing a lot of shots "couldn't throw a pea into the ocean."
The retired numbers, on the night Shaq's was unveiled, April 2, 2013.

All of these players, plus Kundla, have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, except Shaq, who just became eligible and has been nominated for election in 2016. (UPDATE: He got in.) Also Lakers in the Hall are 1970s coach Bill Sharman, 1980s coach Pat Riley, 2000s coach Phil Jackson and his assistant Tex Winter, longtime owner Jerry Buss, and Bob McAdoo, a forward who won 2 titles in the 1980s but whose Number 11 has not been retired. A few other Hall-of-Famers were briefly Lakers but didn't win titles with them.

The Clippers have now won Pacific Division Championships in 2013 and 2014, the 1st 1st-place finishes in team history. But they've also announced that they won't hang banners for them, just as the Lakers don't hang banners for sub-league titles.

The Clippers -- the Buffalo Braves from 1970 to 1978, the San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984, and the Los Angeles Clippers since 1984 -- don't have any retired numbers, despite their franchise now playing its 46th season, being in its 38th season in Southern California, and its 32nd season in Los Angeles.

Only 2 Hall-of-Famers played more than a single season for them: The aforementioned McAdoo (all in Buffalo) and Bill Walton, who played for the team in his native San Diego and made the move to L.A. where he, like Kareem, Wilkes and Goodrich, played for UCLA. But he was injured for most of his time with the Clippers.

Several members of the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, named in 1996, played for the Lakers: Baylor, West, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Worthy, O'Neal, and Minneapolis star Mikan. (Bryant was a rookie at the time.) The only people associated with the Clippers to make that team were Baylor (their former head coach and longtime general manager) and Walton. Mikan was named to the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team in 1971; he, Baylor, West, Kareem and Wilt were named to the 35th Anniversary Team in 1980.

Also the home of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, the Staples Center holds banners for their 2001 and 2002 NBA Championships -- making the arena the home of the NBA and WNBA titlists in each year, a feat matched by the Detroit Shock and Pistons in 2003-04, at the expense of the Sparks and Lakers, respectively.

A banner honors their 2 WNBA titles, and beneath it are their 2 retired jerseys: 11, guard Penny Toler, now their general manager; and 9, center Lisa Leslie, arguably the greatest player in the league's history (she was the only Spark named to the league's 15th Anniversary 15 Greatest Players in 2002), who helped them win the 2 titles.
Magic now owns the Sparks, having bought them from Jerry Buss' family. Former Lakers Henry Bibby and Michael Cooper have served as their head coach, as has former Philadelphia 76ers Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Kobe's father.

At one end of the arena, the Lakers' and Sparks' banners are covered up with large photos of Clipper players during Clipper games. This decision was made in 2013-14. The season before, the Celtics, coached by Doc Rivers, got slaughtered by the Clippers, and Celtic trainer Eddie Lacerte, who knows the effect the banners in Boston have, said that the Lakers' banners had a similar effect, even though the Lakers' players weren't even in the building. When Rivers became Clippers coach, he ordered the Laker and Spark banners covered by the pictures of Clipper players, to introduce a sense of pride, as if to say, "Hey, it's our building, too."
The Kings' banners are at the other end of the arena. It's hard to believe, but in 48 completed seasons (not counting the current one and the canceled 2004-05), they've only finished 1st in their Division once, in the Smythe Division in 1991. And they've never won the President's Trophy for best overall record in the NHL. But they won the Western Conference Championship in 1993 (its last year under the name of the Clarence Campbell Conference), and won the Stanley Cup in 2012 (beating the Devils) and 2014 (beating the Rangers -- making the Kings the only team to beat 2 different New York Tri-State Area teams in a Final, in any sport, except for the Red Sox, who beat the Giants in the 1912 World Series and the Dodgers in 1916).

The Kings have 6 retired numbers, including 2/3rds of their 1970s and '80s "Triple Crown Line": 16, for center Marcel Dionne; and 18, for right wing Dave Taylor. Left wing Charlie Simmer has not yet had his Number 11 retired. Also retired from the 1970s is the 30 of goaltender Rogatien "Rogie" Vachon. But such was the Kings' luck that the only Stanley Cup won by any of those guys were the Cups won by Vachon in 1968, '69 and '71 -- as the backup goalie on the Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps Simmer has not had his number retired because he's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as Dionne, Taylor and Vachon are.

From their 1993 Conference Champions, they retired the 4 of defenseman Rob Blake, the 20 of left wing Luc Robitaille, and the 99 of center Wayne Gretzky. That team had some of Gretzky's 1980s Edmonton Oiler teammates, including a pair Hall-of-Famers, right wing Jari Kurri, Number 17; and defenseman Paul Coffey, Number 77; however, those numbers have not been retired.

Also honored by the Hall of Fame, with their Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, are broadcasters John "Jiggs" McDonald (better known around here as an Islander announcer) Bob Miller and Nick Nickson.
The Kings' banners. Note that Blake's number, retired in 2015,
wasn't up yet, and that the banners are the colors of the uniforms
that the Kings wore at the ends of those players' respective careers.
Also note that the Cup banners are white on black,
and the sub-Cup banners are black on white.

Gretzky, Dionne, Kurri and defenseman Larry Robinson were named to The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players in 1998. Neal Broten and Steve Christoff of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team played for the Kings. However, no members of the Kings were selected for the Team Canada that beat the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series.

Outside the arena, at the Star Plaza, are statues of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille and Oscar De La Hoya, who boxed in L.A. many times and was a hero of the Mexican-American community. A statue of Shaquille O'Neal has been announced, to be dedicated in the 2016-17 season. West 11th Street, on the north side of the arena, has been renamed Chick Hearn Court.

Stuff. The Team LA Store at the Staples Center not only sells items connected with the 4 teams playing there, but also the baseball Angels and soccer's Galaxy. They also have outlets at Angel Stadium in Anaheim and the Gals' home, the StubHub Center in Carson.

Contrary to its image as a city whose idea of culture is yogurt, there is a Los Angeles literary tradition. Much of it is in the "hard-boiled detective story," as pioneered by Raymond Chandler and his L.A.-based private eye Philip Marlowe. Writers influenced by the city include Nathanael West, Charles Bukowski, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley and Bret Easton Ellis. And the Los Angeles Times has produced many fine sportswriters. But as for books about the Staples Center's teams? Uh...

In 2009, the L.A. Times' sports staff compiled The Los Angeles Lakers: 50 Amazing Years in the City of Angels. It's as good a history of the team as you're liable to find, and a year later they released an expanded edition that included the 2010 title.

In 2005, sportswriter and former coach Charley Rosen collaborated with Phil Jackson -- at that point the Lakers' coach, but a member of the Knicks team that faced the Lakers in the 1970, '72 and '73 NBA Finals -- on The Pivotal Season: How the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers Changed the NBA.

In 2014, Jeff Pearlman published Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. Pearlman has also written about naughtiness in sports: The Bad Guys Won! (the 1986 Mets), Boys Will Be Boys (the 1990s Dallas Cowboys), Love Me, Hate Me (Barry Bonds) and The Rocket That Fell to Earth (Roger Clemens). But he also wrote about one of sprots' true good guys: Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.

The Clippers? Um... In 2013, Josh Anderson published their installment in the NBA's On the Hardwood series. Julie Nelson published the Sparks' edition in the Women's Pro Basketball Today series. And the Times' sports department produced the retrospective Crowning Glory: The Los Angeles Kings' Incredible Run to the 2012 Stanley Cup.

As for videos, video packages are available for the Lakers' 1980s and 2000s titles, and for the Kings' 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup wins. (You might like the 2014 version, since they embarrassed the Rangers. The 2012 version, against our Devils, not so much.) In 2004, the NBA Dynasty Series released Los Angeles Lakers -- The Complete History, including the early 2000s titles, but also the humiliation at the hands of the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals (much worse, psychologically, than the Pistons' sweep of the Lakers in 1989).

I could find no book about the Kings' entire history, but their 50th Anniversary in 2017 (which they may start officially celebrating at the start of the 2016-17 season, as items with an Anniversary logo are already being churned out) should produce new books and videos. I could find no Clippers or Sparks videos.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Clippers 12th, citing how they've stuck with the team through the rare thick and the mostly thin. They listed the Lakers 1st, calling them "a dedicated fan base that love the Lakers no matter what." The Lakers are the most popular team in the L.A. area, ahead of the Dodgers and the bandwagon-blessed Kings, but Kobe has announced that this will be his last season. So I guess we'll see just how popular a starless Lakers are in 2016-17, won't we?

A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the King's fans 13th: "Took several years of winning to pack Staples Center. Kings are hot ticket now." That's bullshit: From the moment Wayne Gretzky was traded in February 1996 until the Playoffs started in 2012, the only people in L.A. who gave a damn about hockey were going down the freeway to Anaheim to watch the Ducks.

This is not a Dodger-Giant game, or a USC-UCLA game, or a Raider-anybody game. The Lakers have rivalries with the Clippers, the Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Boston Celtics. The Clippers, really, only have a rivalry with the Lakers. The Kings have rivalries with the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks. But fans of the Staples Center's teams are not going to go out of their way to cause trouble for fans of the Knicks, Nets, Devils, Rangers or Islanders. Behave yourself, and they'll behave themselves.

The Lakers' game with the Nets on March 1 is Kobe Bryant Bobblehead Night. Their game with the Knicks on March 13 is Noche Latina Mountain Dew Rally Towel Night. Neither of the Clippers' games against the NYC teams is a promotional night. The Kings' game against the Rangers on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, will be preceded by a charity auction of the team's green warmup jerseys. Their March 12 game with the Devils will not include a promotion.

The Lakers and Clippers hold auditions for National Anthem singers. The Kings have a regular singer, Pia Toscano -- ironically, a New Yorker, from Howard Beach, Queens.

The Lakers don't have a mascot. The Lakers don't really need one, since they have the Laker Girls, who are, along with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the most famous cheerleading crew in North America.
The Clippers' mascot is Chuck the Condor. I don't know why their mascot is a condor, or why he's named Chuck, or why he wears a crash helmet. I do know why he wears uniform Number 213: It's for L.A.'s Area Code.
The Kings' mascot, like the Kansas City Royals going with the "King of the Jungle" idea, is Bailey the Lion, named for Garnet "Ace" Bailey, a member of the Boston Bruins' 1970 and '72 Stanley Cup teams, who was a scout for the Kings when he died in one of the 9/11 hijackings. (He was nicknamed after old-time Toronto Maple Leaf Irvine "Ace" Bailey.) Bailey the Lion wears Number 72, although I can't find a reason why.
Bailey the Lion, with Tom Cruise.

Jack Nicholson, sitting courtside with his familiar shades on, is the Lakers' most famous fan, although lots of celebrities sit nearby. Billy Crystal, being short and silly, is a Clippers fan. So is Arsenio Hall. Celebrities only show up at Kings' games when they're winning, as they've been these last few years.

One famous Laker fan who appears to have given up the ghost is Dancing Barry. A takeoff on Dancing Larry from the 1970s Knicks games, he cut a basketball up, including eyeholds, and put it on his head, and entertained fans at Laker games in their 1980s glory days. But he hasn't been seen in about 25 years.

Both the Lakers and the Clippers use a fight song titled "Roll With It," bearing no resemblance to the 1988 chart-topper of that title by Steve Winwood. The Kings' fight song is "We Are Los Angeles" by The Goon Squad. Their goal song is "I Love L.A." by Randy Newman.

According to a recent New York Times article, there is not one place where the Clippers are more popular than the Lakers. Not in the City of Los Angeles, not in the County of Los Angeles, not in Orange County, not even in the Clippers' former home of San Diego (City or County). In fact, there are places in Southern California where the Chicago Bulls, as a holdover from the 1990s, have almost as many fans as the Clippers -- but not, despite all LeBron James achieved, the Miami Heat.

After the Game. Los Angeles has had crime problems throughout its history. However, if you stick to downtown, you should be all right. Again, because New York and New Jersey don't actor into L.A. rivalries these days, no one is likely to rough you up, as long as you don't antagonize anyone.

The L.A. Live complex includes sports bar The Yard House,seafood restaurant Rock 'n Fish, Rosa Mexicano, and Wolfgang Puck's Bar & Grill. 800 W. Olympic Blvd. Between this buildng and the arena is gastropub Tom's Urban, at 1011 S. Figueroa Street. Mexican restaurant El Cholo is a block away at 1037 S. Flower Street. If you like steak, and you have a jillion dollars in your bank account, The Palm Restaurant is at 1100 S. Flower Street. If you like Starbucks, and you have $15 in your pocket, there's one 3 blocks away at 600 W. 9th Street.

A recent Thrillist article on the best sports bars in America named Big Wang's as the best in L.A. It's a chain, with a big picture of a rooster, showing you that "Wangs" is an accented "Wings," but also suggesting that "wang" cold mean "cock," as in, "This is where a man goes to relax, and a woman shouldn't." 801 S. Grand Avenue, about 6 blocks from the Staples Center.

Santa Monica is home to both the local havens for the Yankees and the football Giants. Yankee Fans gather at Rick's Tavern On Main, at 2907 Main Street. West 4th & Jane is owned by a New Yorker and is an L.A.-area haven for Met fans. 1432 4th Street, Santa Monica. Bus R10.

New York Giant fans meet at O’Brien’s Irish Pub, at 2226 Wilshire Blvd. Both are about 17 miles west of downtown L.A. Bus 733 goes directly there from City Hall. The local Jets fan club meets at On the Thirty, at 14622 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, 13 miles northwest. Metro Red Line to Universal/Studio City station, then transfer to Bus 750.

If your visit to Los Angeles is during the European soccer season (which we are now in), the best soccer bar in the L.A. area is The Fox & Hounds (that's plural), 11100 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Metro Red Line to Universal/Studio City, then Bus 150 or 240 to Ventura & Arch.

Sidelights. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, in spite of not having Major League Baseball until 1958, has a very rich sports history. And while L.A. is still a car-first city, it does have a bus system and even has a subway now, so you can get around.

* Dodger Stadium. Home to the Dodgers since 1962, it has hosted 8 Pennant winners (but none since 1988), and 4 World Series wins: 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988.

Public transportation in L.A. is a lot better than it used to be, with the addition of the Metro -- and now, the Dodger Stadium Express bus. It will pick up fans at the Patsaouras Bus Plaza adjacent to the east portal of Union Station and continue to Dodger Stadium via Sunset Blvd. and Cesar Chavez Avenue. Service will be provided starting 90 minutes prior to the beginning of the games, and will end 45 minutes after the end of the game. Service will be provided every 10 minutes prior to the start of the game and run approximately every 30 minutes throughout the game. Dodger tickets will be honored as fare payment to ride the service. Those without a ticket will pay regular one-way fare of $1.50.

Because of its proximity to Hollywood, Dodger Stadium can be seen in lots of movies, including Superman Returns, where the Big Red S safely deposits a distressed airliner on the field. But while it filled in for Anaheim Stadium in The Naked Gun (Reggie... must kill... the Queen), Rookie of the Year had a scene set at Dodger Stadium, but because they were filming all in Chicago, they used the White Sox' U.S. Cellular Field as a stand-in for Dodger Stadium.

It hosted an NHL Stadium Series game in 2014, a local rivalry game, with the Anaheim Ducks beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-0.

* Site of Wrigley Field. Yes, you read that right: The Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels played at a stadium named Wrigley Field from 1925 to 1957, and the AL’s version played their first season here, 1961.

The PCL Angels were a farm team of the Chicago Cubs, and when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought them both, he built the Angels’ park to look like what was then known as Cubs Park, and then named this one, and then the Chicago one, Wrigley Field. So this ballpark was Wrigley Field first. The Angels won 12 PCL Pennants, the last 5 at Wrigley: 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1916, 1918, 1921, 1926, 1933, 1934, 1947 and 1956. Their rivals, the Hollywood Stars, shared it from 1926 to 1935. It hosted a U.S. soccer loss to England in 1959 and a draw vs. Mexico the next year.

Its capacity of 22,000 was too small for the Dodgers, and the AL Angels moved out after one season. Torn down in 1966, it lives on in ESPN Classic rebroadcasts of Home Run Derby, filmed there (because it was close to Hollywood) prior to the 1960 season. Mickey Mantle was a fixture, but the only other guy thought of as a Yankee to participate was Bob Cerv (then with the Kansas City A’s). Yogi Berra wasn’t invited, nor was Moose Skowron, nor Roger Maris. And while Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges were on it, and all did briefly play for the Mets, the Mets hadn't gotten started yet, so no one on the show will be wearing a Met uniform.

42nd Place, Avalon Blvd., 41st & San Pedro Streets. Metro Red Line to 7th Street/Metro Center station, transfer to Number 70 bus. Be careful: This is South Central, so if you're overly nervous, you may want to skip this one.

* Gilmore Field. Home to the Hollywood Stars, this 13,000-seat park didn’t last long, from 1939 to 1957. The Stars won 5 Pennants, the last 3 at Gilmore: 1929, 1930, 1949, 1952 and 1953. A football field, Gilmore Stadium, was adjacent, and was home to the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the 1936-37 version of the American Football League. CBS Television City was built on the site. 7700 Beverly Blvd. at The Grove Drive. Metro Red Line to Vermont/Beverly station, then either the 14 or 37 bus.

* Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Probably the most famous building in the State of California, unless you count the HOLLYWOOD sign and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge as "buildings." The University of Southern California has played football here since 1923. The University of California at Los Angeles played here from 1928 to 1981, when they inexplicably moved out of the Coliseum, and the city that forms their name, into a stadium that could arguably be called USC’s other home field.

The Coliseum was the centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. It was home to the All-America Football Conference's Los Angeles Dons from 1946 to 1949, the NFL’s Rams from 1946 to 1979 and the Raiders from 1982 to 1994, and to a number of teams in other leagues, including the AFL’s Chargers in 1960 before they moved down the coast to San Diego. The Rams will move back in for the 2016, '17 and '18 seasons, before moving into their new stadium.

The Dodgers played here from 1958 to 1961,including winning the 1959 World Series, while waiting for Dodger Stadium to be ready. But the shape of the field led to a 251-foot left-field fence, the shortest in the modern history of baseball.

They got the biggest crowd ever for an official baseball game, 92,706, for Game 5 of the 1959 World Series; 93,103 for Roy Campanella’s testimonial, an exhibition game against the Yankees on May 7, 1959; and the largest crowd for any baseball game, 115,300, for a preseason exhibition with the Red Sox on March 29, 2008, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in L.A.

A crowd of 102,368 on November 10, 1957, for a rivalry game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, stood as a regular-season NFL record until 2005 (when a game was played at the larger Estadio Azteca in Mexico City). Ironically, the first Super Bowl, held here on January 15, 1967 (Green Bay 35, Kansas City 17) was only 2/3rds sold. Super Bowl VII (Miami over Washington) was
sold out. Officially, the Coliseum now seats 93,607.

Because of its closeness to Hollywood, many movies with a football theme have filmed at the Coliseum. It also stood in for Baltimore's Memorial Stadium when Billy Crystal made 61*, about the 1961 Yankees.

It has hosted 20 matches of the U.S. soccer team -- only Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington has hosted more. The U.S. has won 9 of those games, lost 7 and drawn 4. The North American Soccer League's Los Angeles Aztecs played their 1977 and 1981 seasons there.

* Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Next-door to the Coliseum, it opened in 1959, and hosted the Democratic Convention the next year, although John F. Kennedy gave his acceptance speech at a packed Coliseum, debuting his theme of a "New Frontier."
The Sports Arena, shown with its proximity to the Coliseum

The NBA's Lakers played there from 1960 to 1967, the NHL's Kings their first few home games in 1967 before the Forum was ready, the NBA's Clippers from 1984 to 1999, the American Basketball Association' Los Angeles Stars from 1968 to 1970, the World Hockey Association's Los Angeles Sharks from 1972 to 1974, the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Fours (both won by UCLA, over North Carolina and Florida State, respectively, even though it was then USC's home court), USC basketball from 1959 to 2006, and UCLA basketball a few times before Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965, and again in 2011-12 due to Pauley’s renovation.
Due to its closeness to the Hollywood studios, the Sports Arena has often been used for movies that need an arena to simulate a basketball or hockey game, a fight (including the Rocky films), a concert, or a political convention. Lots of real rock concerts have been held here, and Bruce Springsteen, on its stage, has called the building "the joint that don't disappoint" and "the dump that jumps."

It won't be jumping for much longer. It is going to be torn down to make way for a 22,000-seat soccer-specific stadium for MLS expansion team Los Angeles Football Club, beginning play in 2018.

3900 Block of S. Figueroa Street, just off the USC campus in Exposition Park. The California Science Center (including the space shuttle Endeavour), the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are also there, and the Shrine Auditorium, former site of the Academy Awards, is but a few steps away. Metro Rail Expo Line to Expo Park/USC. Although this is on the edge of South Central, you will probably be safe.

* Rose Bowl. Actually older than the Coliseum by a few months, it opened in 1922 and, except for 1942 (moved to Durham, North Carolina for fear of Japanese attack right after Pearl Harbor), it has hosted the Rose Bowl game every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) since 1923. As such, it has often felt like a home away from home for USC, Michigan and Ohio State.

UCLA has used it as its home field since the 1982 season. It hosted 5 Super Bowls, including the first ones won by the Raiders (XI in 1981) and the Giants (XXI in 1987), plus the all-time biggest attendance for an NFL postseason game, 103,985, for Super Bowl XIV in 1980 (Pittsburgh over Rams, the "home" field advantage not helping the Hornheads).

It hosted the Army-Navy Game in 1983, with Hollywood legend Vincent Price serving as the referee. The transportation of the West Point's entire Corps of Cadets, and of Annapolis' entire Brigade of Midshipmen, was said to be the largest U.S. military airlift since World War II.

It's hosted 18 games of the U.S. soccer team, and several games of the 1994 World Cup, including a Semifinal and the Final. It also hosted several games of the 1999 Women's World Cup, including the Final, a.k.a. the Brandi Chastain Game. The Aztecs played their 1978, 1979 and 1980 seasons there, and the Los Angeles Galaxy played there from their 1996 inception until 2002. It also hosted the 1998 MLS Cup Final.

Rose Bowl Drive & Rosemont Avenue. Bus 485 from Union Station to Pasadena, switch to Number 268 bus.

Before there was the Rose Bowl stadium, the Rose Bowl game was played at Tournament Park in Pasadena, from 1902 to 1922. 644 Wilson Avenue in Pasadena. Also use Bus 485.

* Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion. Following their 1964 National Championship (they would win it again in 1965), UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wanted a suitable arena for his ever-growing program. He got it in time for the 1965-66 season, and it has hosted 9 more National Championships, making for 11 banners. Wooden coached 10: 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Jim Harrick added the 11th in 1995.

The building was named for an oil magnate who was also a Regent of the University of California system, whose donation to its building went a long way toward making it possible. Edwin Pauley was a friend of, and appointee to several offices by, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, but the student protests of the 1960s led him to switch sides and support Ronald Reagan for Governor.

Pauley Pavilion was the site of the 2nd debate of the 1988 Presidential campaign, where CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked the question that shattered the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis – not that the Duke helped himself with his answer. Oddly, Dukakis chose to hold held his Election Eve rally there, despite being a Bostonian. (In contrast, Boston’s JFK held his Convention in the Coliseum complex but his Election Eve rally at the Boston Garden.)

Metro Purple Line to Wilshire/Normandie station, switch to Bus 720, then walk up Westwood Plaza to Strathmore Place. “Westwood” is the name of the neighborhood that UCLA is in; Wooden was known as “the Wizard of Westwood.”

A few steps away is Drake Stadium, the track & field facility that was home to 1960 Olympic Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson and another UCLA track star you might’ve heard of, named Jackie Robinson. On the way up Westwood Plaza, you’ll pass UCLA Medical Center, now named for someone who died there, Ronald Reagan. (Wooden, Michael Jackson and John Wayne also died there.) The UCLA campus also has a Dykstra Hall, but I’m 99 percent sure it wasn’t named after Lenny Dykstra.

* The Forum. Home of the Lakers and the Kings from 1967 to 1999, built by their then-owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who went on to sell them and buy the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Known from 1988 to 2003 as the Great Western Forum, after a bank. The Lakers appeared in 14 NBA Finals here, winning 6, with the Knicks clinching their last title over the Lakers here in 1973.  The Kings appeared in just 1 Stanley Cup Finals here, in 1993, losing it to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Forum is now owned by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, thus run by James Dolan, which means it’s going to be mismanaged. Elvis Presley sang here on November 14, 1970 and May 11, 1974. The Forum is not currently being used by any professional team, but was recently the stand-in for the Sunshine Center, the arena in the ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine. 3900 W. Manchester Blvd. Hollywood Park Racetrack is on an adjacent site. Metro Silver Line to Harbor Transitway station, switch to Number 115 bus. (Be careful, this transfer is in South Central.)

* New Rams Stadium. Scheduled to open in 2019, what is presently known as the City of Champions Stadium project (but will almost certainly have a corporate name within months of its opening) will be built on the site of Hollywood Park Racetrack (1938-2013), near the Forum.

The Rams will move in, and it is rumored that either the Oakland Raiders or the San Diego Chargers will try to get a groundsharing agreement. It will have a capacity of 70,000, expandable to up to 80,000. A retractable roof will allow it to host Super Bowls and Final Fours. 3883 W. Century Blvd. in Inglewood. Same conveyances as for the Forum.

UPDATE: City of Champions Stadium has been awarded Super Bowl LV, to be played on February 7, 2021.

* Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Home of the Angels since 1966, and of the Rams from 1980 until 1994, it was designed to look like a modernized version of the old Yankee Stadium, before that stadium's 1973-76 renovation.

The football bleachers, erected in 1979, were demolished in 1997 and replaced with a SoCal-esque scene that gives the place some character. Unfortunately, the old "Big A" scoreboard that stood in left field from 1966 to 1979 was moved out to the parking lot, and now stands as a message board.

It was known as Anaheim Stadium from 1966 to 1997, and Edison International Field of Anaheim from 1998 to 2003. 2000 E. Gene Autry Way at State College Boulevard. Metrolink's Orange County Line and Amtrak share a train station just to the north of the stadium.

* Honda Center. Previously known as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, it is across the railroad, the Orange Freeway and Katella Avenue from Angel Stadium. It has been home from the beginning of the franchise in 1993 to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks – formerly the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and I still tend to call them the Mighty Dorks and the Mighty Schmucks.

The Clippers, with their typical luck, had to move one of their few home Playoff games there in 1992 during the South Central riot. 2695 E. Katella Avenue. Anaheim Metrolink stop.

* Titan Stadium. On the campus of California State University, Fullerton, this 10,000-seat facility is better known for soccer, having been used for NCAA Tournament games, U.S. Open Cup matches by the Los Angeles Galaxy, and 8 games by the U.S. national team -- which is undefeated there, winning 4 and drawing 4. 800 N. State College Blvd. Metrolink Blue Line from L.A. to Buena Park, then Number 24 bus. Or Number 57 bus from Angel Stadium.

* StubHub Center. Formerly the Home Depot Center, this 27,000-seat stadium was the only one in MLS shared by 2 teams, the Los Angeles Galaxy (since it opened in 2003) and Chivas USA (from 2005 until the club went bust in 2014).

Aside from the regular-season title of the Western Conference in 2007, Chivas USA, a subsidiary of the legendary Guadalajara, Mexico-based Chivas, won nothing. But the Gals -- yes, they get that feminized nickname -- have won more MLS Cups than any other team, 5: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014. They were also the 1st U.S.-based team to win the CONCACAF Champions League, in 2000, and won the U.S. Open Cup in 2001 and 2005.

The StubHub Center hosted the MLS Cup Final in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014. It's hosted 14 games by the national team, winning 10, losing 2 and drawing 2. It hosted 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, including the Final, in which Germany beat Sweden. 18400 Avalon Blvd. in Carson, adjacent to Cal State-Dominguez Hills. Metro Silver Line to Avalon/Victoria, then Number 130 bus.

* Hollywood Bowl. This 17,376-seat outdoor amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills, with the HOLLYWOOD sign in the background, is one of the best-known concert venues in the world. Opening in 1922, it should be familiar to anyone who’s seen the original 1937 version of A Star Is BornDouble Indemnity, Xanadu, and Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

The Beatles played here on August 23, 1964, and again on August 29 & 30, 1965. 2301 N. Highland Avenue. Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland Station, then walk almost a mile up Highland.

Since Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, and has been where countless TV shows and movies have been filmed, and too many to list have been set, I won't make this long post any longer than it has to be by listing them.

* Academy Award ceremony sites. The Oscars have been held at: 1929, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.); 1930-43, alternated between the Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Blvd.; and the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue, downtown. 1944-46; Grauman's Chinese Theater (more about that in a moment); 1949-60, Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; 1961-68, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (which also hosted the legendary televised rock concert The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964), 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica (Number 10 bus from Union Station); 1969-87, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, downtown; 1988-2001, Shrine Auditorium, 665. W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles (Metro Silver Line to Figueroa/Washington, transfer to Number 81 bus; Elvis sang here on June 8, 1956.); 2002-present, Kodak Theater (which also hosts American Idol), 6801 Hollywood Blvd (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).

All of these buildings still stand, except the Ambassador, which was demolished in 2005. The site of a legendary nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, and filming site of a lot of movies, the last movie filmed there was Bobby, in honor of the building's real-life most tragic event, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968. (Directed by Emilio Estevez, one of its stars was his father Martin Sheen, who may be the only actor ever to play both Jack and Bobby Kennedy, although, already 65 yers old, he didn't play Bobby in this film.)

In addition to the above, Elvis sang at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on June 7, 1956, the Pan Pacific Auditorium on October 28 & 29, 1957; the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on November 12 & 13, 1972, and May 10 & 13, 1974; the Long Beach Arena on November 14 & 15, 1972 and April 25, 1976; and the Anaheim Convention Center on April 23, & 24, 1973 and November 30, 1976.

The Los Angeles area is home to a few interesting museums, in addition to those mentioned at Exposition Park. The Getty Center is an art museum at 1200 Getty Center Drive, off I-405. The Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, was founded by the Singing Cowboy and Angels founder-owner to celebrate and study the Western U.S. and Native Americans. (Metro Red Line, Hollywood/Western.) Also at Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory, at 2800 E. Observatory Avenue, should be familiar from lots of movies (including Rebel Without a Cause) and TV shows.

The Hollywood section of town (not a separate city) has a few interesting sites, and the studio tours may be worth it, but do yourself a favor and skip the tours of stars’ homes. You’re probably not going to see any of the celebrities. You’ve got a better chance of seeing one back home on the streets of New York.

And you don't need to see the HOLLYWOOD sign, erected in 1923 to read HOLLYWOODLAND and reduced to its current version in 1949. You might remember the shot of it in the ESPN film The Bronx Is Burning, when the Yankees went out to L.A. to play the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, their shot of the sign was accurate: In 1977, it was falling apart, a genuine ruin. A year later, it was restored, but it’s still no big deal up close. It was meant to be seen from afar. Besides, there's no public transportation to the site, anyway.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with its cemented signatures and footprints of stars, is the centerpiece of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the legendary intersection of Hollywood Blvd. & Vine Street (6931 Hollywood Blvd., also at the Hollywood/Highland Metro stop).

Grauman's Chinese Theater

* MacArthur Park. Yes, there is a real park with this name, that inspired that very long song with seemingly drug-inspired lyrics, on which no one is neutral: You either love it (as I do), or you absolutely hate it.

Songwriter Jimmy Webb used to take his girlfriend Susan Horton there for picnics -- hence the cake that was left out in the rain with its sweet green icing flowing down. She ended up leaving him and marrying someone else, inspiring him to write the song, recorded and turned into a huge hit by Richard Harris, and later by Donna Summer. (Harris said the name 3 times in his recording, but always getting it wrong, calling it "MacArthur's Park." There's no apostrophe-S on the end.)

Their relationship also inspired Webb to write “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and "Where's the Playground Susie" by Glen Campbell, and “The Worst That Could Happen” by Johnny Maestro's later group, the Brooklyn Bridge.

The worst that could happen in MacArthur Park now, you don’t want to know: Since the 1980s the park has been a magnet for gang violence, as recently as 2007 being the site of an incident known as the May Day Melee. So if you like the song, go ahead, visit it in daylight, but not at night.

It's bounded by 6th, Park View, 7th and Alvarado Streets, with Wilshire Blvd. cutting through it, and it has its own Metro Rail station, Westlake/MacArthur Park on the Purple Line.

If you’re interested in American history, especially recent history, Southern California is home to 2 Presidential Libraries. Richard Nixon’s is not far from Anaheim, built adjacent to the house where he was born in 1913 at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, Orange County. Metrolink Orange County Line from Union Station to Fullerton, then Number 26 bus to Yorba Linda.

Nixon's “Western White House” at San Clemente can be reached by I-5 or by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to San Juan Capistrano (the former Spanish mission where, as the song goes, the swallows return on the first day of spring), and then transferring to the Number 191 bus. However, the house, which Nixon called La Casa Pacifica, is privately owned (not by the Nixon family), and is not open to the public. So unless you're a major Tricky Dick fan, I'd suggest skipping it, as you'd only be able to stand outside it.

Ronald Reagan’s Library is at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley in Ventura County. (Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, about 130 miles west of Chicago.) Unfortunately, the Reagan Library is next to impossible to reach without a car. Reagan’s Western White House, Rancho del Cielo outside Santa Barbara, is owned by a private foundation that can be contacted for tours.

Nancy Reagan, now 94 and frail, still lives at their post-Presidential home in the Bel Air section of L.A., and, while I’m no fan of the Reagans, I’ll respect her privacy and not list the address (or how to get there) even though it’s been published elsewhere. It’s been remarked that the ranch was his home, whereas anyplace they lived in “Hollywood” was her home.

The tallest building on the West Coast, for now, is the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly the Library Tower. It stands at 1,018 feet at W. 5th Street & Grand Avenue downtown. The Wilshere Grand Tower will surpass it in 2017, at 1,100 feet -- unless a tower planned for San Francisco the same year ends up taller -- at 900 Wilshere Blvd. at Figueroa.

However, the two most famous tall buildings in Los Angeles are 444 S. Flower Street, at 5th Street, famous as the location for the law firm on L.A. Law; and the aforementioned City Hall, at 200 S. Spring Street at Main Street.

Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Southern California's original tourist destination, outside of the Hollywood studios. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.


So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Knick, Net, Devil or Ranger fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the New York-Los Angeles matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California. Even if it is, you know, Southern California.

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