Gold & # 39; s Gym has become synonymous with the Hollywood Dream.
Just a few hundred yards from the ocean in sun-drenched Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Gold & # 39; s was the setting for Pumping Iron, the 1977 documentary that followed a young, unknown Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger as he settled on Mr Universe -Competition prepared.
The film made him a sensation overnight. He would become a global superstar, marry a member of the Kennedy clan, and become Governor of California.
Yet today, Gold & # 39; s is in the midst of post-apocalyptic scenes that have consumed much of LA, turning the City of Dreams into an urban nightmare that people are fleeing in droves.
Makeshift tents line the popular tourist destination of Venice Beach. There seem to be sales signs on every suburban street as the middle classes, especially those with families, are fleeing to the safer suburbs and many choose to leave LA altogether
A makeshift tent city made of fluttering tarpaulins and cardboard boxes surrounds the gym on all sides.
Junkies and the homeless, many of whom are clearly mentally ill, walk like zombies down the palm-lined streets – all just three blocks from multi-million dollar homes overlooking the Pacific.
Stolen bicycles are piled high on sidewalks littered with broken syringes.
TV bulletins are full of horror stories from all over the city. by women attacked during their morning run, or by residents returning home to find strangers to settle in their front yards.
Today Los Angeles is a marginal city. There seem to be sales signs on every suburban street as the middle classes, especially those with families, are fleeing to the safer suburbs and many choose to leave LA altogether.
UK-born Danny O & # 39; Brien heads Watford Moving & Storage. "There's a mass exodus from Hollywood," he says.
"And a lot has to do with politics." His business is booming. "August has already set records and we're only in the middle of the month," he tells me.
“People get out in droves. Last week I relocated a celebrity in the music industry from a $ 6.5 million mansion over Sunset Boulevard to Nashville. & # 39;
A homeless man on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Junkies and homeless people, many of whom are clearly mentally ill, roam the palm-lined streets like zombies – all just three blocks from multi-million dollar homes overlooking the Pacific
58-year-old O & # 39; Brien, who moved to LA from London 34 years ago, is also planning a move to Tennessee.
"Liberal politics destroyed this city," he says. “The homeless camps are legal and the police cannot do anything. White, wealthy middle-class people are getting out. People don't feel safe anymore. & # 39;
As film studios are still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and companies are only just beginning to remove the wooden planks that were put up after the riots across the city following the death of George Floyd when they were held by three white officials in Minneapolis were arrested, LA is now in the grip of white flight.
Lou Ferrigno befriended Schwarzenegger when they were both training at Gold's. Though he may not be a household name like Arnie, Ferrigno starred on the television series The Incredible Hulk and became one of the richest bodybuilders in the world with a fortune of $ 12 million.
President Donald Trump appointed him to his council on fitness, exercise and nutrition in 2018.
But for all his impeccable connections, Ferrigno is fed up with what he calls the "dramatic decline" in LA. He and his wife Carla recently sold their £ 3 million Santa Monica home and moved two hours north of LA to a 7,146 square foot mansion.
Carla says, “One morning around 7:00 am, I opened the curtains in our beautiful Santa Monica house and looked at myself from our driveway. Three gang members with tattoos on their faces sat on our retaining wall. They called me and they were vulgar. I signaled that I would call the police and they just laughed, flicked their tongues and showed me their guns. & # 39;
Her husband added, “We put the house up for sale after 40 wonderful years and moved north. We feel lucky that we made it. Now we are in a wonderful place and very happy. & # 39;
Renee Taylor, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and actress who appeared on the hit television sitcom The Nanny, recently sold her Beverly Hills home after half a century and moved to the East Coast.
"I'm so sad about my friends in Beverly Hills who have suffered looting and rioting," she says. "I got out just in time."
The virus only made matters worse. There are homeless camps in some of the most easily identifiable tourist traps.
The stretches of Hollywood Boulevard – embedded in glittering stars depicting those who achieved their dreams of fame and fortune – are more like a third world shanty city than the heart of America's second largest city.
Outside of the Chinese theater, where Marilyn Monroe and other on-screen icons are immortalized by their handprints in concrete, the lookalikes of Michael Jackson and Superman, who usually pose with tourists, have been replaced by tramps begging for change.
One of the city's homeless people – more than 66,000 people sleep badly every night. The virus only made matters worse. There are homeless camps in some of the most easily identifiable tourist traps
Meanwhile, visitors take photos of a large Black Lives Matter logo painted in the middle of the street.
The parking lots on Santa Monica Beach – a popular tourist destination for the British – are filled with battered motorhomes, each of which can accommodate several people.
The authorities have even put portable toilets on the street to prevent homeless people from relieving themselves of private property.
The Westwood neighborhood of LA, home to some of the city's most exclusive apartment blocks, has been renamed "West Hood" by locals appalled by the rise in crime.
Seasoned publicist Ed Lozzi says: “The city changed before the coronavirus brought us to our knees. The homeless problem has been escalating for years and is exacerbated by weak politicians who make bad decisions.
“Hollywood has always been the wokest of the guards, so politicians haven't done anything to stop people from sleeping on the street. It's not illegal and the weather is nice so they keep coming back.
“There are inadequate housing conditions and inadequate psychiatric care. Add in Covid and it's a perfect storm.
When I got to LA 40 years ago, the city smelled like orange blossom. Now the streets stink of urine. There is a beautiful park in Westwood but you can't go there because people have slumped on the ground and you are stepping on a carpet of needles.
& # 39; White flight is real. The elites and middle classes are leaving the country. People take losses selling their homes to get out. & # 39;
The gap between rich and poor has never been so great. Just a few meters from Gold & # 39; s is the sprawling headquarters of internet giant Google in LA.
The parking lot is located in a building designed by architect Frank Gehry that looks like giant binoculars. Private security guards wander around while a handful of employees returning after the lockdown drive their Teslas, Porsches and Range Rovers into the complex.
Charity worker Robert (declined to give his last name) manned two portable toilets across from Google headquarters. Recently released from prison, this simple job is the only job he can get. He says two people have overdosed in the toilets in the past two weeks.
“I have a narcan pen that brings them back to life after overdosing on opioids. I've had to use the pen twice since early August.
& # 39; The situation is terrible. I'm not blaming those who can afford to leave town. & # 39;
In LA, around 66,000 people sleep badly every night – an increase of 12.5 percent over the previous year.
"There is no more hope," he continues. “The rich are getting richer and there is nothing for them on Skid Row. Trump did nothing to help the poor. All he cares about is that his rich friends make more money. If I had money I'd get out too. & # 39;
The pandemic has made it clear to many in Hollywood that they don't have to live in or near LA to keep working.
Talent Manager Craig Dorfman has moved to New York. & # 39; Many people in the industry are re-evaluating their lives saying:
“You know, I never really loved LA. Where would i like to live Because I can do what I want from anywhere, ”says Dorfman.
Fashion stylist Leah Forester and her husband, film producer Bill Johnson, rented their home and moved their two children to the Mexican beach town of Careyes.
"We wanted to be in the healthiest, most supportive, and calmest environment we could be in so that we could have a sense of control over our immediate surroundings and our destinies," says Forester.
Comedian Joe Rogan, who makes $ 30 million a year on his self-titled podcast, left LA for Texas and says, "When you look at the traffic, when you look at the economic despair, when you look at the homelessness problem, it's accelerating radically … I think there are too many people here.
“I think it's not durable. I don't think it's manageable. & # 39;
Ironically, the famous Malibu enclave, home to "Wokerati" leaders like Leonardo DiCaprio, cracked down on the homeless and introduced local laws to prevent people from parking their RVs on the beach overnight.
"They brought the homeless problem to other parts of the city like Westwood and Venice," says publicist Ed Lozzi. "It's a classic case of 'not in my back yard'."
In the meantime, some of Tinseltown's biggest stars are developing backup plans in case things get worse. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson recently accepted Greek citizenship and told friends that they intend to spend more time in Europe.
More tents in Melrose Place, one of the hippest addresses in Los Angeles. Sections of Hollywood Boulevard – embedded in glittering stars depicting those who achieved their dreams of fame and fortune – are more like a third world shanty city than the heart of America's second largest city
The producer Dana Brunetti, business partner of the disgraced actor Kevin Spacey and the producer of the films Fifty Shades Of Gray, acquired Italian citizenship because Italy is part of the EU – it gives me a lot of options when the S *** meets the fan & # 39 ;.
Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban live in LA, Nashville and their native Australia.
Says a source, “You spent a lot of time in Nashville. There they can give their children a more normal upbringing. You talked about getting rid of LA square. & # 39;
When news came last week that Prince Harry and Meghan had decided to make their home two hours north of LA in the upscale hamlet of Montecito, the news didn't shock anyone.
One Oscar-nominated writer said to me, “You saw enough of LA when you left Tyler Perry's house not to want to raise Archie in a place like this. LA has always attracted beautiful and talented people from all over the world who come here to seek fame or money or both.
“Now the streets look like Haiti after the earthquake. It's dirty, dangerous, and work has dried up. Even if studios open up, people will choose to work from other locations. & # 39;
The youngest known name to leave Hollywood is Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, a darling of show business. Actor Robert Downey Jr. said it was Musk who inspired his portrayal of Tony Stark, the eccentric inventor of the billionaire in the Iron Man films.
Musk recently sold his four-house property in Bel Air for a total of $ 62 million (£ 47 million) and is reportedly considering moving to Texas where he is building Tesla's new $ 1 billion factory.
"When the real Iron Man moves out of Hollywood, you know it's all over," says a source in one of the major studios.
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