Although LA’s culture is more complex than many imagine, many of the stereotypes do hold true. Actors here do become movie stars, musicians do become rock stars and blonde women with surgically enhanced breasts do stroll Rodeo Drive. Every waiter in West Los Angeles wants to be an actor, or a model, or a screenwriter, or a director. Or a model’s assistant. Bikini-clad women rollerblade along the beach, and inflated men lift weights in the sunshine in Venice.

Los Angeles is a city of people from everywhere else. It’s a city that has, since its inception, drawn people escaping one life and looking for another. That sensibility continues today. Los Angeles, like New York, offers limitless possibilities for the determined, the talented and, above all, the lucky. The story of actress Lana Turner being discovered at a Schwab’s drugstore on Sunset Boulevard may be a legend (she was actually discovered at the Top Hat Café across the street from Hollywood High), but the city is full of people who imagine that in one way or another, they too will be discovered.

From afar, Los Angeles appears to be a promised land and people from hundreds of different cultures, countries and backgrounds arrive in droves in hope of a better life. Most of them will have little or no contact with Hollywood, but nearly all of them are seeking ‘the American Dream’. Aside from New York, no other city in the nation embodies that dream the way Los Angeles does.

Los Angeles is a progressive, liberal city with a minority of wealthy, powerful and conservative pockets.

The steady flow of mostly poor immigrants to the Los Angeles area combined with an undermanned police force, plagued by corruption, has driven tensions high. From the ‘Zoot Suit’ riots to the Rodney King riots, the city has a long history of violent racial conflicts exacerbated by interracial tensions, deep poverty, and what has been, at times, institutional racism.

Newsletter Subscription