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Diane von Furstenburg Discovers Los Angeles

Now it's Tuesday afternoon, and Tatiana, also a great enthusiast for obscure places, is showing her hard-to-impress mother her side of town—which ranges from old Hollywood dives to swap meets in East L.A., and beyond, to Pasadena flea markets and a cabin near Lake Arrowhead. The allure of Silver Lake is ramshackle and elusive compared with that of the Los Angeles her mother knows. "Here's Rockaway Records, and here's where I have yoga classes," Tatiana says as she drives up Glendale Boulevard. "These are the public tennis courts run by this old guy Jerry Goldberg, who knows everyone," she says as she drives into Griffith Park, "and over here is the public pool that was built in the 1920's."

"Is it nice?" asks her mother, who doesn't know much about public pools.

"It's beautiful. I go all the time and meet other moms," says Tatiana. "People do that here. It's all about community."

Tatiana is sounding strangely municipal, if not suburban. But as someone who rejects the supersleek and stylish for places that "have more soul," Tatiana is merely a more Americanized, Westward-looking version of her trailblazing mother, who took New York by storm when most women her age were still trying to conquer Europe. With the same infectious enthusiasm a fashion doyenne might use for the latest fabric or handbag, Tatiana shows her mother (who watches movies in private screening rooms and flies on her husband's jet) Griffith Park's pony ride, zoo, carousel, and playground. "There's so much to do here, you feel like you're on vacation," Tatiana says.

Is it possible that getting into community is what's really hip in L.A.?When public officials use the phrase city of neighborhoods to promote the diverse ethnicity and geography, the idea appeals to the kind of trendsetting crowds colonizing places like Silver Lake and Hancock Park, which now have strong café cultures.

Years ago, Joan Didion called the freeway experience "the only secular communion L.A. has." But now, in urban pockets like Venice's Washington Avenue (where surfers and stylists hang out) and the Montrose (a neighborhood that feels like a small town), that's been changing. The past 10 years have seen an end to the mindless building outward that made L.A. a city of strip malls in the 1980's. Now people are rediscovering what's already there. In Chinatown, along Chung King Road, galleries occupy storefronts. At a former railroad stop in Santa Monica, the prestigious Bergamot Station gallery has created a lively art scene. The Pasadena Museum of California Art is attracting even more foot traffic to a once-sleepy area. On downtown's Olvera Street, inexpensive Mexican stores draw socialites and actresses looking for embroidered blouses and lace-trimmed peasant skirts. They're also flocking to downtown's Standard hotel, which André Balasz opened in an old office building. On Sundays, its rooftop bar (complete with a swimming pool) is packed with rockers, actors, stylists, and tourists. "I use it like my own personal country club," says Tatiana, who runs with a groovy crowd and occasionally relapses into enjoying the more predictable trendiness of restaurants like Les Deux Cafés, in Hollywood.

On Vermont Avenue, she's driving her mother past a mosque one minute and a street sign that announces LITTLE ARMENIA the next. They pass a row of the kind of cafés and restaurants that inspired Vogue to call Los Feliz, a neighbor to Silver Lake, the SoHo of Los Angeles. On Sunset Boulevard, Tatiana points out Café Tropical, a Cuban coffee shop with delicious pastries, and gestures to the general vicinity of Chinatown, which isn't where the Chinese live anymore. "They're actually in Rosemead," she says, "and the Japanese are in Torrance, where many of the signs aren't even in English." Her knowledge of ethnic communities is impressive. But then, she and a friend are thinking of writing a book called How to Travel the World Without Leaving the U.S. Her hunger for all things authentic is well-fed on this side of town. "Even if we never publish our book, we love saying we are—it's a good excuse for more excursions," she says.


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