Los Angeles Moonlights as a Regular City

Downtown Los Angeles is a favorite spot for filmmakers, and often doubles for towns as diverse as New York City and Cincinnati. This fusion of fantasy and reality often leaves downtown L.A. residents wondering whether they live in a city or on a movie set.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now, a different Hollywood story. This one comes from poet Lewis MacAdams, who also writes short stories about things that happen in his downtown Los Angeles neighborhood.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

LEWIS MACADAMS: I was jolted out of bed by what I thought was machine gun fire followed by a series of loud explosions.

(Soundbite of explosion)

MACADAMS: I pulled back my curtain just in time for a pair of helicopters to swoop low across the rooftops like they were on strafing runs.

(Soundbite of helicopters)

MACADAMS: I didn't know whether to reach for my SAG card or call out the National Guard. From across the loft, my teen son shouted for me to look nine floors below, where a Ford Shelby was screeching out of an alley across the street from the front door of my building again and again and again, executing perfect 360-degree doughnuts and fish-tailing east on 7th Street with an LAPD squad car in hot pursuit.

(Soundbite of siren)

MACADAMS: It was strange when the stunt-car drivers took a coffee break to see that the policeman's uniform covered just the top half of his body. From the waist down, he was wearing saggy cut-offs and high-tops.

(Soundbite of music)

MACADAMS: It's like this almost every Sunday around here. Six days a week, this is a big city. On Sundays, it becomes the city, any big city, a backdrop for Mary J. Blige videos and the exteriors for “CSI New York.”

Anyone who's moved to Los Angeles from someplace else knows the feeling. You turn left into some random alleyway and feel like you've already been there, when actually you've just seen the place on TV. Television implants memories on my brain.

Just yesterday, I walked past the handsomely restored Orpheum Theater on Broadway. Out front, there were posters for a production of “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” I'd never heard of any of the cast. Wait a minute, I thought suddenly, noticing for the first time a pair of lighting trucks parked at the curb, is this a poster for a production of a Shakespeare play, or is it just a prop on a movie set? Am I walking through someone else's TV show? Has living here turned me into an actor trying to act like myself?

BRAND: Writer Lewis MacAdams lives in downtown Los Angeles.

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