13 January 2010

Cruise night returns to Van Nuys Boulevard

I remember Cruise Nights on Van Nuys Boulevard. They were fun to go watch. I never got in any trouble or saw much of the stuff that made the cops shut it down. I'm glad it's back, even as a shadow of its former self. That's probably a good thing.

By the way, the photo in the article shows a '62 Chrysler Newport, which none of us would've had up our ass in those days if we'da had room for a boxcar, but I guess anything old is cool now. Hmmmm. Some of us 'old stuff' have been so cool for so long that it's just a given and nobody even notices anymore...


As the souped-up muscle cars, restored classics and lowriders cruise through the old Rydell Chevrolet lot on Van Nuys Boulevard, Reid Stolz takes stock of a scene that was familiar to anyone growing up in the San Fernando Valley a generation ago.

Here's the crux of the biscuit right off the bat:

"Remember when we were young and the cops were old?" said Stolz, 51, watching an LAPD patrol car glide by. "Now the cops are young and we're old."

After a 28-year break, Stolz and other car lovers have brought cruising back to "The Boulevard," though the drivers are now more likely to be middle-aged guys with graying hair and grandkids, driven by nostalgia rather than teenage vanity.

Yeah, how much trouble are a buncha old farts gonna cause anyway? Wait'll me an' Fixer an' Nucks show up...

It was more than just a scene, it was an iconic ritual that was imitated, written about in hot rod magazines and captured on film. Cruise night came to represent a Southern California lifestyle that young people in the Midwest and the world over could only read about. Cruising the boulevard on a Wednesday night was about adolescent freedom, a sense that anything was possible and, above all, fun.

Back then, young people just showed up every Wednesday night. Girls and boys by the hundreds milled on sidewalks as candy-colored cars blowing rubber smoke streaked by blasting Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd from eight-track stereos.

Led Zeppelin? Pink Floyd? 8-track? Holy crap! I went to those Cruise Nights waaaaay before that! Beach Boys and Bobby Rydell days! On AM radio.

I must be older than I thought. Sigh.

The tradition dates to the late 1950s when high schools in the San Fernando Valley held club meetings each Wednesday, said Jon Billesbach, 67, of North Hollywood.

Youths in car clubs would head to the boulevard after the meetings ended for street racing, he said. Later, everyone gathered at the Bob's Big Boy restaurants in Toluca Lake or Van Nuys.

Cruising reached its zenith in the 1970s, and the boulevard was its own teenager universe.

There were a lot of people older than teenagers, trust me.

Streets lamps bathed the bikers at Arby's in an arc of white light. The van guys parked outside the Heads 'N Highs head shop and the street racers converged at Bank of America. Latino youths parked their lowrider at the June Ellen Doughnut shop, just south of the 101 Freeway, Stolz said.

Here we go again - there weren't even any head shops when I went. There aren't any now either, although there may be again. Full circle and then some, I guess.

Pretty good article. Go read.

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