My first childhood memory is the smell of eucalyptus trees. I grew up in a fairly rustic environment—very countrified. Dirt road. Donkey in a stable across the street. And eucalyptus trees everywhere.
One of the earliest sounds that I can remember is Jerry Dunphy’s voice. I guess my parents watched him on the news. And the way that he opened his news broadcast every day was, “From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California, a good evening.” That to me is Los Angeles: from the desert to the sea and everything in between. And I lived in between. I lived the canyon life that exists when you have a city that is bisected by mountains—a community cleaved. I grew up in Benedict Canyon. I drove over Coldwater Canyon. I dated a boy in Laurel Canyon. I had friends who lived in the Hollywood Bowl canyon. And Runyon Canyon and Nichols Canyon. And my favorite album growing up was Ladies of the Canyon. I had the best of both. I was neither a beach nor a desert dweller. I was really a canyon dweller. And by the way, I now reside in a canyon and have for the last 15 years or so. I raised my children in a canyon near the ocean.
The ocean and its tumultuous nature and the cold of the waves and sand in every crevice of your body and every crevice of your possessions did not yield for me a great love of the ocean. I grew up around pools. The beautiful clean warm water of pools. My parents owned a home in Palm Springs when I was a child. I have slivers of memories of this 1950s-modern house with its cinder block walls and sunken bathtub. Little mosaics of memory.
I’ve often felt that L.A. people get a bad rap. I take great pride in being a native Angelena. I am surrounded by people who have come here for work and have stayed for the benefits Los Angeles offers but secretly hate it. Everyone comes here, and everyone says they want to leave here. And I want to tell them to get the hell out of here and leave us all alone. Because they’re sucking us dry, complaining every day. They’re all snobs. I don’t like them. I am very protective of Los Angeles. I put up with people who claim that they’re from here when in fact I can see through them. When I meet someone who claims to be from L.A., I give them the Curtis Quiz [below]. » Curtis, 51, is the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. She appeared most recently in the comedy You Again. She also writes children’s books.
The Curtis Quiz
You say you’re from L.A.? Jamie and her sister, Kelly, have a few questions
[ 1 ] What used to be where the Beverly Center is now?
[ 2 ] What does PMK stand for?
[ 3 ] Name the bread bakery warehouse in Beverly Hills that’s across the street from the Lichine School of Ballet.
[ 4 ] Name the Santa Monica amusement park that closed in 1967.
[ 5 ] What was the name of the cafeteria in the original Century City mall?
[ Bonus] What was the jingle for radio station KHJ?
Answers: 1. Beverly Park and Ponyland 2. Pickwick, Maslansky, Koenigsberg 3. Wonder Bread 4. P.O.P. (Pacific Ocean Park) 5. Clifton’s Bonus: The lyrics were “93 KHJ—Los Angeles.” The tune? You’re on your own.
Photograph courtesy Jamie Lee Curtis