Driving the 101 Freeway from Silver Lake to Calabasas, California, I kick around in my head the literary references I could use to describe this stretch of road bounded by the Sherman Oaks Galleria to the south and the turnoff for the Ronald Regan Presidential Library to the north. Charles Bukowski’s pulp and grit was left back in Hollywood, we’ve crossed out of Reyner Banham’s ecologies, and the hills that so famously burn in Joan Didion’s Letter from Los Angeles are farther east. There’s probably a German term for this landscape of rolling hills, Starbucks, and Lexus dealerships. Certainly Adorno coined some phrase in his critique of the culture industry, written while living in exile in the Pacific Palisades.
It’s tempting to say that we are on the edge — the edge of culture, the edge of suburbia, the edge of rural California and all the narratives that go with it. (The Western High Noon was shot at Warner Bros. Ranch, which is now the Calabasas Golf Club.) But if we leave behind old-fashioned geography and look at our pin on the media map, we find that this is the territory of E!: a pop-cultural space populated by people whose names often start with K.