My LA to Z: John Landis

The director of films including The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and Trading Spaces appreciates cultural staying power (speaking of, his 1986 hit ¡Three Amigos! debuts on Blu-Ray this month). Here he reveals his favorite classic L.A. spots


I remember back when once you got past L.A. it was all orange groves. I’d be hard pressed to name my favorite ride because for me, they’ve kind of paved paradise and put up a parking lot. I still don’t understand what the fuck California Adventure is. You’re supposed to go there and think, gee, it’s just like we’re in California! But I love walking around the old park. I just like the ambiance.

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The Farmers Market

It’s still a good place to go. I’m fond of Magees, and I like the stand with the nuts, but I don’t have a favorite vendor. I like places where it is just like it was when I was a teenager. That’s the problem with L.A., everything keeps changing.

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The Smokehouse

That’s an old LA restaurant right across from Warner Bros. You go in there in the middle of the day and it’s dark. I eat everything, I’m an omnivore. I once had lunch there with Roy Rogers.

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Lawry’s The Prime Rib

That’s where we went for my birthday growing up. I still get nostalgic there. I’ll be there at least once a year and it’s a totally different clientele now. It’s probably the least hip restaurant in town, but the waitresses still wear their uniforms and they still have the carts. You can’t go there a lot—it’s too much food.

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Musso and Frank Grill

I still have lunch there and dinner on an occasion. A martini lunch? Not if I’m working. But I have fond memories there. I had lunch with Orson Welles there.

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Norton Simon Museum

It’s pretty spectacular. The collection is just so amazing. You go, Holy shit, look at this. 

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Los Angeles Zoo

In the eighties my wife for my birthday bought a gorilla for the L.A. Zoo, and I named him Jim. He is now I think in Denver, Colorado because they traded him. I was furious. But unless you put in the deed of gift… We used to be philanthropic when I had money.  

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We once donated a Mary Cassatt painting to the museum. When we did that we put in that if and when they ever sell the Cassatt, all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. Which meant, don’t ever sell. 

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Santa Monica Pier

I like to take people to the Ferris wheel at sunset—it’s gorgeous. What people forget about Southern California is we have these unbelievably beautiful beaches. On the pier you can get that old timey flavor. We used to go to Muscle Beach and go down to Venice when it was a rough neighborhood and it was kind of tough. And then Venice got hippified and during the sixties it was an exciting place to be. Then the surf music came. I even saw little Stevie Wonder perform there. 

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Images courtesy (in order): (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9)