She just bought some bitchin’ clothes/Tosses her head/And flips her hair/She got a whole bunch of nothing in there–Valley Girl, Frank Zappa
I used to live on Huston Street. I’m not shuckin’ and jivin’ you here–look it up, it’s an actual street. It’s a quiet and unassuming stretch in North Hollywood right off the 101 freeway, and it’s pronounced hyoo-ston just like the former ballplayer. I always had a hunch that it was named after Walter Huston, who had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston was considered one of the top character actors of his era–but I couldn’t state as a fact that the street was actually named after him, it’s just a half-baked theory.
The temperature is hotter and the architecture is sun-bleached and dull on the north side of the Hollywood Hills, which is generally seen as a cultural wasteland by the denizens of Los Angeles proper, and depicted as dusty, marginalized, lacking stimulus, and utterly hopeless in movies and pop culture. Lame. I mean, shit, the Bad News Bears were from the San Fernando Valley, and wasn’t coach Buttermaker considered an alcoholic has-been? Wasn’t the film narrative rowdy, working-class, profane, and consciously avoiding the cheap theatrics of a triumphant finale? The perfect metaphor for a place that breeds and exports scumbags with reptilian instincts for self-preservation. America in delirium.
Despite the negative reputation and mockery from friends, I loved that street. I lived two blocks away from a gorgeous park filled with “brown-bagging” cholos with time aplenty, and trash-talking basketball players. There was also a tiki bar a block away that had a time-worn, paint-battered sign saying, liquor up front and poker in the rear that apparently had never been thought to be re-touched. Proud of its crumbling state was a tiny fish and chips stand next door for conveniently sopping up the booze and chatting with girls when the bar was too loud and bursting at the seams with out-of-work actors from bum-fuck-nowhere letting off some steam. Another favorite of mine was the dark and smelly comedy club on Vineland Ave, and sometimes the patrons standing out front, and even the comedians themselves would give you cigarettes or free drink tickets as you sauntered by, searching for the next sliver of excitement in the humid jungle.
Although I haven’t been back in many years, the Valley will always make me think of lime and salt Tecate, the most beautiful, iridescent, smog-choked sunsets, getting drunk on Boone’s Farm in skate parks, abandoned strip malls, double-D bottle blondes in their 60’s, book stores with cats, screaming schizophrenic bums in a Ralph’s parking lot, and Mexican street parties with illegal fireworks and cumbia pouring from the speakers when the LA Lakers won the title (Kobe’s last) And, of course, Huston Street.
I’m old enough to remember Huston Street’ß dad, James, as quarterback of the natinal championship football team at U.of Texas in 1969. Not a ‘Horn fan, but game against Arkansas was one of best I ever saw. Glad the son opted for a better sport.
Nice article and I love the idea of naming the street for Walter Huston.
You are absolutely correct, V. and Huston played for the UT baseball team and I believe is a coach this very day.
You may be right about Huston Street’s current occupation.
Don’t suppose they could get a street near Huston named for Alfonso Bedoya could they (he’s “Gold Hat” in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”–one of my all-time favorite flicks)? 🙂
You know v. a lot of streets in that area were actually named after actors in the “golden age” of Hollywood, although I don’t recall a “Bedoya.”
I’m gonna have to give that flick a veiwing now that I know you hold it in such high regard.
Thanks again for the comment my friend. It’s good to hear from you again, and I hope maybe you can find inspiration one day to continue your wondeful blog.
Enjoyed this post very much, Gary. It’s written with lots of heart, and it educated me. It inspired me to find out more about North Hollywood. A terrific Web site _ http://www.angelswalkla.org _ showed me the vibrant NoHo Arts District and NoHo Arts Center. I would like to visit some time. North Hollywood Park and the Amelia Earhart Regional Library looked swell, too. North Hollywood must have been like a Garden of Eden at the start of the 1900s when it was populated with fruit farms and known as “The Home of the Peach.” Thanks for sharing your boyhood memories of North Hollywood.
You just named all of my haunts, Mark. The Earhart library has a statue of the pilot out front because apparently she lived in No. Hollywood. Don’t be fooled by the “arts district” though–it was just a cheap attempt at gentrification and had nothing to do with fostering any sort of legit gallery scene. To be fair, this was over 10 years ago so it may be something else completely.
Once again thanks for a well researched and heartfelt comment. i swear, some of your comments are better than the actual posts! 🙂
As crass as that sign is…I would love to have one…just to piss some people off.
Haha….cheers Max. Thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy your comments.
I grew up in the SGV but worked in NoHo at the turn of the century. The way you describe the area reminds of that time and driving down Vineland searching for that really trendy bar, that everyone knew…dang the old age brain…
I’m glad I could knock a few cobwebs loose! Thanks for the comment. 🙂
What a rollicking post! I love it when you describe a scene or scenes, so tuned into the details and relayed with amazing descriptions. This Huston Street and neigborhood was all new to me. I do remember the pitcher as having some very effective seasons as a closer.
Yeah, Street was pretty good…and he came up through the system really quickly, making his ML debut at the age of 21. Of course, we ended up trading him and Carlos Gonzalez (!) for Matt Holliday and he hated us and we hated him so he was shipped to STL after half a season. It’s a goddamn mess.
Thanks for the coment, Steve. I always enjoyed your posts on the darker, drunker side of Milwaukee so maybe I was subconciously inspired!
I miss those drunker, darker Milwaukee days. I felt part of something back then, drinking with a buddy or two until bar time, overly self-conscious and so drinking more or smuggling a flask of some rot gut vodka into parks with a buddy, mostly my friend Tom, him and I just sitting there, sipping, guzzling, laughing at people, laughing at ourselves and in the winter drinking in laundromats, good old living, thinking we’d get old and do the same god damn thing. Now, there’s way too much time alone, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
Man I thought for sure you were “shuckin’ and jivin'” me at the beginning of this post. No way he lived on Huston Street I thought! Lol. I do love the way you paint a picture with your words!
Here’s a however many degrees of separation for you, but your comment about Street being traded for Holliday and how you all hated him and he hated Oakland. Well, Holliday is now a “Volunteer Assistant coach” for Oklahoma State University baseball (his little bro Josh is the head coach), and the Holliday’s grew up in Stillwater. I lived in Stillwater when I was little, but moved away when I was about 7 or 8. I still have a few friends from those days that grew up with Matt and were teammates in high school and still remain good friends with him to this day. If I ever get the opportunity to meet Matt one day through one of my friends, I’m going to ask him how much he hated Oakland just to further solidify your beliefs. I’ll report back to you at that time. You’re welcome. 🙂
How interesting! I think in the end it was a misunderstanding (concerning a trade demand) from some random quote or another, but the booing was so incessant that Holliday later had a clause in his contract stating that he could be traded to any team BUT Oakland. All water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.
Every time I see “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” mentioned, I think of Walter Huston winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a film directed by his son, John.
And of course, the classic line, “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”
Hi Garry, I mentioned that you may like to know a little more about the great Australian game of Aussie Rules, the Grand Final was decided a few weeks ago and Geelong Cats were victorious, it was a one-sided contest, but still a great day. My Sept 20 blog AFL Grand Final Special includes great action footage and commentary of GF day entertainment down the years. Go The A’s, 4TR