L.A.s primo newsstand, World Book & News, located at Hollywood Blvd and Cahuenga in the depths of Hollywood, has closed after 78 years. Science fiction writing great Harlan Ellison introduced me to what absolutely had to be the world’s greatest newsstand in the late ’60s, shortly after I first arrived in L.A. Harlan’s not the only guy I’d hang with there. Comedian Mort Sahl was often there when I was. And writer-pal Gerry Conway, known to TV viewers as a former producer in the LAW AND ORDER franchise and to comic book fans as “the writer who killed Gwen Stacy.” Actually most of my friends frequented World Book & News. The place was quite simply kind of an oasis for creative souls.
For 35 years, WB & B was a twice weekly destination for me, whether I was living in Laurel Canyon (actually, not just anywhere in Laurel Canyon but at a certain house on Wonderland Avenue long associated with some people called The Doors), the Valley (well, not just anywhere in the Valley but 3 doors down a Studio City hill from Patrick Swayze and 8 doors down that same hill from then L.A. Mayor Sam Yorty), or in the ranchy communities of Hidden Hills (next door to Jo Swerling Jr., whose father wrote GUYS & DOLLS) and Hidden Valley (across a very narrow road from Brockett’s Film Fauna, home of just about every exotic animal you’ve ever seen on film – including 40 gaters and crocks).
For awhile, in the early ’90s, I lived in Santa Fe, NM. But World Book & News was literally the first place I went to when I moved back to the L.A. area. And the only reason I didn’t continue going there into the 21st Century is that in 2002 I left Southern California for, well, for a little sojourn that’s currently got my wife and myself happily ensconced in a teeny little tourist town in the Seattle area. Where, btw, there ain’t nuthin’, no-how, like WB & B.
Sorry to see that you’ve had to face mortality, World Book & News. You had everything an avid – make that compulsive – no, addicted – reader could ever want. But your legend will live forever.
Dammit, this has me thinking – I fucking miss Harlan Ellison!