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A Brief History of L.A. & “Venchuro” Highway…or Maybe Not

autry and horse

It’s amazing to me how so many agents cannot spell the names of the towns and areas they represent. I, of course, am here to give you not only the proper spelling, but the history of these woe begotten areas. If any information seems suspect, perhaps it’s because I am swilling my third martini.

Happy Trails to You! 

“Close to LA Zoo and Jean Autry Museum” (Yes, Gene Autry married Jean Harlow, silent film star. Thus, there is no talking allowed in the museum. He later dumped her for Jeanne Tripplehorn.  Jeanne, three times as horny as most people, wanted to become a polygamist and star on Big Love, so Gene threw her over for Jean Stapleton (aka Edith Bunker.) That was a very passionate union that inspired Autry’s signature song “Back in the Saddle Again.” His horse was Champion. When Wheaties came up with the slogan “Breakfast of Champions,” many people believed it was because Champion had an addiction to cereal. Champion later entered a twelve step program, which he completed quickly, doing  two steps at a time – because he had four legs of course.) 

“Alligator Lizards In the Air”

“EZ Access to Venchuro Highway” (That’s Ventura Highway…unless you mean the intestinal track that channels a Mexican pastry made of fat and sugar known as a  churro. And trust me, that highway will shoot you all the way to Tijuana. It is widely rumored that a batch of extra greasy churros was the inspiration for the song “Ventura Highway” by America. They often sang about their digestive problems, as all good bands do.) 

76 Trombones

“Nice area East of Asousa” (John Phillips Sousa marched to that area of California (now known as Azuza) to form a band and a town. He dropped the Sousa and went by the name of John Phillips, later forming the Mamas and the Papas.  While California dreamin’ one Monday Monday, the Mamas and the Papas invested all their loot in a variety of small stores, hence the origin of the term “Mom and Pop” stores.) 

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Dial 911

“Gorgeous home overlooking Sunset Plasma” (This area, just above the Sunset Strip, used to be Sunset Plaza. It is now Sunset Plasma because late night revelers usually wind up there for the ever-popular blood transfusion. The neighborhood motto is, “A vial and a smile.” Some historians thought the area ‘s name was changed to plasma in reference to “matter,” but after a night on the Strip, NOTHING matters but a blood transfusion, believe me folks.) 


“Bungalow in SShatylawn” (This lovely area of Baldwin Park was known as Shadylawn until someone sshat on the lawn. It is rumored that this area was the inspiration for the name of  L.A.’s Forest Lawn Cemetery when actor/director Forest Whittaker once snarled, “SShatylawn would be a great name for a cemetery because everything eventually turns to sshat and dies anyway! The name “Forest” stuck instead of sshat, because one tired assistant director complained, “Forest, can you puh-leeze shoot the sshat later?”) 

Pickalittle, Talkalittle

“ Exclusive  Beverly Hills near famous Pickfare Estate” (No, this is not named after anorexic starlets who pick at their meager fare. This was originally named Pickfair, the home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, famous silent film stars. Of course, the spelling of the name may have been changed after Mary retracted her vow of silence and became an obsessive talker. She picked a not-so-silent fight with Douglas, who threw her out. Mary hooked up with Morgan Fairchild, and the two women retained the estate and the Pickfair name  (only after brief consideration of renaming the estate Pickfairchild) . Even the monograms on the towels could remain the same, which was a bonus.  Douglas remained silent about the affair… because he was silent about everything. Douglas Fairbanks went on to a civil union with Michael Douglas and became Douglas Douglas. That name proved difficult because he was a stutterer.  Thus, he later took estrogen and changed his name to Catherine Zeta Jones. 

Bits and Pieces: 

“Cute home on Coolgroove”  (Coolgrove Drive in Downey was Coolgrove until the seventies arrived and everyone was feeling groovy…including the agent who listed this house.)                

“Near Placenta High School”   (Can we get this straight once and for all, folks? It’s Placentia, as in “pleasant place to live,” not placenta, as in something attached to a fetus. This city has nothing to do with birthing babies, although a few notable people were born there. Director James Cameron is probably the most famous artist hatched there, whereas the punk group Agent Orange is probably the most mind-numbing biological weapon available without a full tilt body search. So remember, it’s Placentia…an afterthought perhaps, but not an afterbirth.

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And that’s Hollywood for ya’ – test on Tuesday, students.

Written By

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn,, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.



  1. Matt Stigliano

    February 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Gwen – We always called Sepulveda by it’s rightful name – Sepultura, usually because whenever we found ourselves driving down it, we were heading to the Sunset Strip and that meant listening to our favorite Brazilian metal-heads, Sepultura. Once Max departed the band and formed Soulfly, the name kind of slipped into obscurity, but I thought I would give you a history lesson of your ever-fascinating town.

    Never thought I’d hear Agent Orange mentioned in a post on AgentGenius. Mark one more thing off the “things to hear before I die” list.

  2. Gwen Banta

    February 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Great visual, Matt…and did you know that the band you mentioned – Soulfly – is named after a gnat that has been known to suck out the souls of Hollywood’s denizens? The only antidote is copious amounts of alcohol, which explains our fashion sense, as well as freeway excess. Our motto is: Hit the gas or lose your a–!

  3. Joe Loomer

    February 27, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I almost decided to spell my name wrong just to post a comment. Maybe something like “Joe Fruitoftheloomer” or “Loe Joomer” – but I decided it was best to just leave sleeping logs die. A great post, Gwen, and dang-nabit I’ve missed ya! Was in the Big Easy (no, I won’t be the same) for about five years – uh, days. Limited access to anything – please don’t go there – so hence I missed last week’s post.

    Lasseiz Le Bon Temp Roulleux or whatever the fuex!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride!

    p.s. walked in to Harrah’s – won a bean on a dollar slot, cashed out – why am I telling you and AG? Heck, I’m telling everyone!

  4. Gwen Banta

    February 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Missed you, too, Joe – you were enjoying the Big Easy while I explored Savannah (love that place!) The next time the devil comes down to Georgia, you better be there, my friend!

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