My Confusing Newfound Status of Wealth and Affluence
By BOB VICKREY
Special to Circling the News
The recent Los Angeles Times business section story that described our town using words like “exclusive,” “affluent” and “wealthy,” had me wondering if I was reading about the same Pacific Palisades where I’ve lived for years
The story was ostensibly about the opening of the new Bay Theater, which is the centerpiece of developer Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village, but the writer’s depiction of our small coastal village made it sound like it had suddenly morphed into downtown Beverly Hills.
A spokesman for the Cinepolis movie theater chain was quoted in the same article and said the Bay Theater was designed to appeal to “the wealthy locals and celebrity clientele.” He also mentioned the “Hollywood heavyweights who make their homes nearby.”
I’ve lived in this town for 40 years, and for this upscale miracle to have happened right under my nose, I realized that I must have just awoken from a Rip van Winkle nap of epic proportions and have now unexpectedly discovered my recent newfound privilege and exclusivity.
Last I remembered (before my long nap), I owned a 1,400-sq.-ft. bungalow that was built in 1925 on a modest residential street, and on days when the Santa Ana winds blow, this creaky old house tends to tilt a bit toward the west. Most of my neighbors’ houses look very much like mine, although a few of them have added an additional upstairs level—which has evidently vaulted them into the newly designated “affluent” category.
For many years, the Palisades was known as a boring middle-class bedroom community whose sidewalks rolled up before 9 p.m. Our town has never been mistaken for a Southern California destination point. We live near a small business district that borders Sunset Boulevard, better known for all its annoying stop lights, which were specifically installed to aggravate drivers passing through here on their way to somewhere else.
In fact, Swarthmore Avenue north of Sunset had become so run-down in recent years, many people here were pleased when Caruso purchased three-plus acres in 2014 and promised an overdue upgrade of the village. However, most of us didn’t understand at the time that the upgrade would include the re-branding of our town as “toney” and “affluent.”
When the Palisades Village project opened to nationwide fanfare in September and was launched with an Oscar-like bash featuring all the glamorous bells and whistles the Caruso folks could muster, we began to wonder what had just happened to our little town. The planners of the gala opening party were forced to settle for Grammy-winning star John Legend for the entertainment portion of the evening, only after reluctantly acknowledging there weren’t enough surviving members of The Beatles to reunite the band.
Among the many businesses that opened in the new village are at least a dozen of what my friend Alan calls “skinny-girl chic” shops, which cater to young women you can’t see if they turn sideways. He said, “Sizes in those shops range from O to ½. If you’re bigger than that, you’re immediately dispatched to the ‘plus-size’ section in a long walk of utter humiliation.”
Many of us have been noticing an undeniable influx of wealth into the Palisades in recent years that has become hard to ignore. There is more of a buzz about celebrity here than in the past, and the paparazzi are occasionally spotted swarming our village. But fortunately, I’ve not yet been forced to wear a disguise on my way into Ralphs market.
In fact, it now appears that there are many of us living here who may not meet the new economic standards this community demands, and we may be at risk of deportation to other neighborhoods that better match our standard of living. Beware Mar Vista and Palms; our caravan may be arriving on your borders any day now.
In discussing all this recently with my neighbor Colin, he reminded me the slogan of the new Palisades Village development is “Where the Stars Meet the Sea.” He said, “You know when they’re mentioning ‘stars,’ they’re not talking about those in the heavens above us. They’re talking about the stars that live among us.”
Just as I was about to recant his cynical theory, a beautiful woman walked by and greeted us with a friendly: “Good afternoon, gentlemen.” After she passed by, Colin leaned over and whispered, “Wasn’t that Tyra Banks?” Colin and Tyra had completely ruined the point I was trying to make. Now what was I saying?
So, if you come through my neighborhood sight-seeing from one of those star-gazing tour buses, give me a big wave out your window. I’ll be the “Hollywood heavyweight” who is wearing cut-offs and rinsing off my 13-year-old Dodge minivan in front of my exclusive two-bedroom mansion.
By the way, if you do happen to catch me on car-washing day, you’ll know that my butler and personal valet had the day off.