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When I got my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they shut the street down. And I was thinking the last time I was on Hollywood Boulevard with police this near me was when I was getting arrested for selling fake drugs on the corner of Highland. My friends and I—we were 14—took these capsules and put flour in them and were selling them as mescaline. I told you I was a bad kid.
I was very rebellious. I was kicked out of a bunch of schools and went to juvenile hall a couple of times. When I was 19, I used to go to Cal State Northridge and break into the practice rooms. Recently the school wanted to give me a distinguished alumni award. I said, “I’m a college dropout, and not only that, I’m a vandal.” But they didn’t care. They gave me the award and a new key to the practice rooms.
Growing up in Van Nuys was like growing up in the Midwest. I craved for something to be going on. I had dreams of going to see publishers and getting my songs heard. And I knew that was over the hill in the big bad land of Hollywood. Me and my friends used to hitchhike there. We’d walk down Sunset. My friends were always trying to meet guys. I just wanted to meet people in the music business. I had a hunger. It wasn’t the Valley I was trying to leave. I was just trying to be successful. I live on this side now, in the Hollywood Hills, but in a lot of ways the Valley’s kind of cooler—more chilled out.
I just bought an apartment in New York, thinking maybe I’ll go sometimes for the weekend. But I don’t think I’d ever live anywhere else than L.A. I can’t stand the cold. I’m someone who doesn’t like to travel that much. I like to be in my studio writing. I’m there all day. I’ve been in this space 25 years, and it’s never been cleaned. It’s really dirty and dusty. There are all variety of insects. There are phone messages from 1995 on cassettes on the floor. It’s like being in the room you grew up in as a kid. Either I am immune to diseases or I am going to get diseases from being in there. Hopefully I am immune.
I like this area of Hollywood where my studio is—by Vine and Sunset—because it’s kind of sleazy. I’m bummed that it’s getting less sleazy. There used to be prostitutes on the corner, which was cool because I’d talk to them and they were really nice. Now you walk down Vine and it’s like, “Whoa, where did that Trader Joe’s come from?” Or the W Hotel. “How’d that happen?” » Warren, 54, is the first songwriter in Billboard history to have seven hits recorded by different artists on the singles chart at the same time.
Photograph by Cliff Watts