Only subscribers may read this in its entirety. What follows is a free preview, truncated midway through.There’s some paradox, some string theory, maybe, whereby if Los Angeles disappeared into the ocean, New York would also grudgingly cease to exist. They are each other’s negative image, linked by mutual loathing. I grew up in Long Island, came of age in Manhattan, and though I couldn’t tell you when the brainwashing started, when this seed was planted, at some point I knew it as sure as I knew my own name: I was a New Yorker, and I didn’t belong out west. Los Angeles was full of vapid drifters searching for stardom and validation. Sure, we were lost souls, too, but at least we were lost in the most important city in the world.
In movie making, this New York¬L.A. antagonism could be given its own Netflix queue—from All About Eve to Pretty Woman, from The Karate Kid to Barton Fink. The trope has been recycled and spun a thousand ways. In Valley of the Dolls, a trio of ambitious Manhattan women head west only to fall to pieces, turning to prescription drugs to ease the sting of Hollywood rejection. In an echo decades later, on tv’s Sex and the City, the girls vacation in Los Angeles, where Miranda (the uptight one) meets up with an old friend, a schlubby, unhappy mensch named Lew (why not just call him Jew?) who once wrote for David Letterman but then sold his soul for a Hollywood salary. He and Miranda have dinner together, and at first glance California seems to agree with him. He’s skinny! He’s handsome! He’s smiling! Miranda wonders if she might have been wrong about this town, until she notices that he’s only chewing his food before spitting it out. The symbolism isn’t exactly subtle: Not only are Angelenos starving for integrity, they’re plain starving.