Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Century City 1978

So all of this talk about Rose actually got me out of the house- to Neiman Marcus for the (off topic) rhubarb body wash and to the Lush store in Century City for the Rose Jam that everyone was saying I needed. Hey, I do as I am told.

But first a History Lesson (since I know you all love those).

She did it.

The Century City Mall was created in the late 60’s as a shopping area for the captive inhabitants of the new neighborhood Century City- a planned community of high-rise offices, the tony West Coast outlet of the Shubert Theater, and pricey high-and low-rise condominiums. All clean with wide boulevards impossible to cross during the span of one traffic signal (Avenue of the Stars had, and has, a pedestrian bridge allowing workers to enter shopping area without crossing the street at ground level and which is shown collapsing in every TV movie about LA having a natural disaster.) It was laid out in a 60’s wealthy suburban vision of Corbu’s Ville Radieuse or Wright’s Broadacre City- minus those annoying poor people. Because while Beverly Hills as originally planned had neighborhoods with housing and apartments that were affordable to people who owned the department store, shopped there, sold the merchandise or just stocked the shelves Century City planned on having none of that. They banked on having their own freeway. “Those” people could come in during the day and do a fast, motorized fade come night.

That freeway didn’t happen.

That didn’t stop more and more expensive buildings going up, most not terribly remarkable. Some exceptions were the remarkably photogenic twin 1975 Century Plaza Towers, by the WTC architect Minoru Yamasaki and which shared the same windswept plaza issue WTC had. What would be a polite zephyr on Century Park East would be a gale on the plaza. 

Or the 1988 Fox Plaza building, done in a Faux-Po-Mo FLW style and made famous while still unoccupied by the movie “Die Hard.” Legend has it that producer Joel Silver tried to get them to let him actually blow up the top third of the building for a climactic scene rather than have to resort to CGI.

Fox Plaza

They said no.

My friend Lynn used to say Century City had “an expensive lack of charm.”

But the whole magilla was actually spurred on in part by Elizabeth Taylor.

The entire 176 acre parcel was actually part of the 20th Century Fox backlot, and while there were nascent plans to develop the land since Los Angeles was ever expanding and Westside real estate was becoming ever pricier it was the colossal cost overruns on “Cleopatra” and it’s subsequent belly flop at the box office that kicked it into high gear. A subsequent sting of poor performers didn’t help: “Dr. Doolittle” did little at the Box Office and “Star!” burnt out. If it weren’t for “The Sound of Music” and “Valley of the Dolls” (yes, really) there might have been more mall and no studio at all.

Century City as it stands (for the next few minutes.

Over the years more and more has been added- more, larger office buildings, a high-rise condo so fancy that no less than Candy Spelling “downsized” from The Manor to the top three floors, and a huge expansion of the mall that tore down one of the signature Gateway buildings (center in the 1978 photo above) to allow for the expansion of the mall and a really big Nordstrom. Now I do miss the symmetry of those buildings, but a convenient Nordstrom is always a balm to any wound. The loss of the Shubert theater is harder since it was just replaced by an office for CAA (I believe) and killed off both Harry’s Bar and a really good Chinese place. Killing live theater, happy-hour egg rolls and the place to get an authentic Bellini to house more agents? No.

So now that I have written War and Peace about the history of Cinema and the Malls of the West Side, how are the products?

Well, first off: LUSH Rose Jam is freaking glorious. It’s rosy and jammy in both the way that real roses can be and the way that actual jam is. Like there’s some actual confection in there. LUSH’s website just says rose and citrus but I think I smell plum and even a little concord grape in there. That’s right- I smell a hit of Welch’s Grape in there and it’s fabulous. I just washed my hands in it at the store (haven’t taken the full on shower yet, but looking forward to it). It almost made up for the cluster-fu@# that is the Century City Mall which totally reminded me why I hate malls in general and this one in particular- impossible to find your way in, around, or out of. 16 ounces was $40. Is there a larger size?

Rhubarb, the way I like it..

Molton Brown Delicious Rhubarb and Rose is wonderful in a different way. Less rosy and more rhubarb, and not gourmand at all. Tart and refreshing and the rose skims in at the end to add a little perfumes sweetness to the tart almost pungent rhubarb. I love rhubarb (I used to filch it out of a neighbors garden as a kid and eat it like celery- I think they thought I was a little wrong in the head) and this is perfect- a lot of time in pastries people will lean into the sugar on, say, a strawberry rhubarb pie feeling that otherwise it will be too tart, which misses the point- the tart rhubarb when cooked down becomes sweet on its own and is perfect against the sweet strawberry. This rhubarb is perfect against the rose. I got this one at Neiman-Marcus in Beverly Hills where I also had not been since the pandemic. N-M was the polar opposite of the frenetic mall: quiet, cool, and best of all contained. As I said to the SA (stealing from Holly Golightly) “Nothing bad can happen to you in Neiman Marcus.” Of course it helps if you’re a greying middle aged guy who looks somewhat affluent (looks deceive) but I’ll take it were I can get it. 10 ounces was $35 and since Neimans has the whole line I will have to go spend some time over there.

Tree Hut Moroccan Rose was an online purchase that was A) a stop gag incase I was in danger of a rose bath goo-free day and 2) a way to get free shipping from Nordstrom Rack. It is a very pretty if somewhat pedestrian rose. It was also $10 for 18 ounces. If you want it, move fast.

The TJ’s in Hadley, MA that serves my hometown. You can finally get two buck Chuck in the Pioneer Valley

The last one is a Trader Joe’s special. A rose water body mist. I keep it in the icebox and after I’ve come in on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a spritz of this to the back of the neck and arms. The fact that it’s a lovely little rose is a plus as well. It’s $3.99 for 4 ounces and if you’re near a TJ’s and see it, stock up. You never know when TJ’s is going to decide on a whim to cancel something. Just don’t denude the WeHo TJ’s of it, please..

So thanks to you all for the wonderful suggestions especially to the many of you who had been telling me about Rose Jam forever. And Lush delivers so I will bever have to deal with Century City again. And to Maya and alityke for the Molton Brown suggestion. I will be going back to Neiman-Marcus. Maybe even staying for lunch. Bar on 4 had great chili as I remember.

All items were purchased by me at the source.

Images; my iPhone, Pexels, and Wikimedia Commons.

 

  • MzCrz says:

    I don’t care for rose scented anything due to ongoing PTSD recovery brought about from Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose. shudders

    That said, your Century City history was beyond awesome, Tom! I moved to L.A. (Rancho Park) in 1978 and worked at City National Bank there, then later worked in a surgery/P.T. practice on the 17th floor of one of the high rises there. I had a spectacular view from my office. Thanks for yet another marvelous post that stirred so many memories.

  • Portia says:

    YAY TOM! You are now a Rose Jam owner. That’s the size I buy too.
    Your LA knowledge is legendary. Whenever the city comes up in conversation I brag shamefully about our adventures and the various super LA haunts we got to.
    Thank you, it’s still remembered and appreciated.
    HUG
    Portia xx

  • alityke says:

    I am always surprised when the high rise buildings from the 60’s to 80’s house the very wealthiest. Outside Central London most of these have been knocked down or house the very poorest or immigrants. Of course the newest still attract £££ in the best cities.
    It’s all about the area I guess.

    You is now a full blown rose ‘ho! You’ll be wearing Matiere Premiere Radioactive, sorry Radical Rose next!

    Also have you got Yorkshire heritage? Eating rhubarb like celery was the norm here. How do feel about licquorice? That’s our other world famous product.

    • Tom says:

      It was sort of a thing here for a while- there’s an area of Wilshire in Westwood called “Condo Canyon” where they put up ever more glam condo buildings aimed at older people who’s kids had moved out and were looking to downsize. They actually used on in “Dynasty” as the exterior shots of Alexis’ penthouse.

      Not sure about Yorkshire- 23 and me doesn’t go that far. I do like licorice flavor in things like Pernod and fennel, but not the candy.

      • alityke says:

        Round here we call the black candy “hard spanish” & sucks are dipped in “kali” as in alkaline. Kali is the sourest rhubarb sugar crystals imaginable. If you dip your finger in it to eat it your finger sort of burns, but for sour freaks it’s da bomb!
        We can also buy licquorice sticks from chemists. That’s the dried roots of the plant. Chewing them is great for a calorie & sugar free sweet treat.
        Yep as kids we chewed sticks!

    • Maya says:

      Real black licorice? I love it!!!

  • rosarita says:

    I would read anything you write but the Hollywood history is the best. I need some of that TJ rose mist.

    • Tom says:

      Thank you! You made my week!

      TJ’s is really good for cheap skin care and soap. That fact gets lost in all the food though.

  • March says:

    Oh Tom, I loved this! The history! The humor! The snark! So reading this and comments, apparently I need to try Rose Jam … there’s a store in Albuquerque but it’s going to be 100 today so not feeling the drive there, perhaps I’ll order it. I love your rhubarb story. I am not a particular fan but, hey, more for you! Also I need to check our TJ, I would love that mist and I don’t think I’ve seen it!

    • Tom says:

      I don’t know that I would drive 100 miles in the heat to get it (or anything for that matter- how long did it take me to drive 5 miles for it?) but they do do these in a small size so you could test a bunch out for a reasonable price at least.

  • Dina C. says:

    Loved your history lesson on Century City buildings. It was very interesting to me. I’m so glad you got your Rose Jam! I’ve just recently used up one of those Tree Hut Moroccan Rose bath gel bottles and ordered myself a Rose Jam to replace it. Tree Hut also does a great sugar scrub in the Moroccan Rose that I enjoy. I’ll have to hit up my local Trader Joe’s for the Rose water Mist– it sounds very refreshing. Next time I go to the fancy mall (Tysons Galleria), I’ll head to N-M and look at the Molton Brown offerings. Tom, you’re such an influencer, and a danger to my wallet. I kid! Keep up the great work! Now I’m in the mood for rhubarb. Wonder where I can get some??? Maybe Whole Foods?

    • Tom says:

      I’m an influencer! Dina C. said so! So how do I parlay that into free hotel stays and cars?

      Honestly you people influence me more than I could ever influence you. Now I am craving a jaunt to Whole Paycheck for greens..

  • Musette says:

    because of your original post (and ensuing comments) I will be going to the LUSH boutique in Naperville on Sunday (taking my reno (and otherwise) friends ON THE TRAIN because he has been yarking on about taking the train for 40+ years, as if it’s the equivalent of hitching up the wagon to go over the Continental Divide and she is sick of him yarking on about it.
    I don’t care what else we do, come Sunday – we’re going to LUSH

    • March says:

      This is HILARIOUS. Naperville is not that far, the train sounds like a fabulous idea! If/when it cools off here again I’mo take our train to ABQ. Let me know how the LUSH is, I’ve not tried it.

      • Tom says:

        Hey I get it. Going from NoHo to Boston seemed like hitching up the wagons and going to NYC was like reliving the voyage of the Nina, Pinta, AND Santa Maria.

        Now I’ll drive further for lunch. California warps you.

    • Tom says:

      Oh I wish we had real, actual trains out here. (well, we do, but getting downtown is a hassle.

      You should make your friends wear big hair and white sunglasses and play the theme from “Valley of the Dolls”

      I would.

  • cinnamon says:

    I wish we had Trader Joe’s. Actually, thank you for the history. Is fascinating. Town planners are a weird tribe. I haven’t used Rose Jam for years due to the price. I have received as gifts and used with joy and abandon. The rhubarb thing sounds nice. Here we’ve got a brand called Faith in Nature which offers a quite nice rose shower wash. It doesn’t have the oomph or pizazz of RJ but it is a third of the price.

    • Tom says:

      Rose Jam is a little pricey for what it is, but it’s so darned strong that I think that $40 bottle may outlive me.

      Now I am off to look for Faith in Nature.

  • Maggiecat says:

    I feel…broken somehow. I am apparently the only one on here who doesn’t like Rose Jam. At all. And I should – I love rose scents, and citrus too. I’m not sure why I get a chemically plastic from Rose Jam, but I do.
    Can I still hang out with you guys?

    • Maya says:

      LOL. I guess I spoke too soon about Rose Jam. Personally, I would hate it if we all liked the same thing. Way way way too boring. 😉 🙂

    • Tom says:

      I can see where you’d get that. That thing that t get as Welch’s Grape. It’s just a bit af frankly fake. I like it but it could be off putting.

    • alityke says:

      I get doll’s head too, I like the spray perfume in homeopathic amounts. Never tried the shower gel.
      Likely you’ll prefer the Molton Brown. Not a doll’s head to be sniffed

    • MzCrz says:

      Maggiecat, rose anything gives me the fantods, so I have saved a seat over here for you.

  • Maya says:

    I love learning about the history of places. It adds a certain depth to everything.
    I am also a fan of rhubarb. I was an adult before I knew that people cooked it. The neighbors with 11 kids that I was always with had a couple of rhubarb plants from some long lost garden that we would always pick bare. I thought that eating it like celery was the way you were supposed to eat it.
    Great on the suggestions working out for you. I may have to finally break down and order Rose Jam. I have never heard of anyone who doesn’t love it. I was planning on ordering a Karma perfume solid from Lush in the near future so…..

    • Tom says:

      OMG I feel like a rural gay in the 20’s discovering Paree!

      Even my parents thought I was just being weird. But even to this day I like tart and sour more than sweet.

      • Maya says:

        Love the image you just created!
        Ditto on the “tart and sour more than sweet”.

        • Tom says:

          I even like Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda.

          • Maya says:

            Well, you made me look……I never heard of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. Sounds like it would be fun to try!

          • Tom says:

            I think it’s an East Coast thing- specifically NYC. I love it but I am rarely willing to spend 4 bucks on a bottle of soda.

          • March says:

            Hahahaha Tom absolutely not! No Cel-Ray for me thanks. There’s another brand … their stuff looks so tempting but they put herbs in everything? It’s like drinking bouquet garni, and not in a good way. Every now and again I make that mistake because I forget.

          • Tom says:

            Oh I think I know that brand. No, not for me. Too twee. Cel-Ray is kind of like Moxie. If you know, you know and if you don’t you’ll just shake your head (and quite rightfully) think “WTF?”

      • MzCrz says:

        Tom, one of my favorite snacks is a saucer of Mazzetta brand cocktail onions, crisp and cold. When I was a bartender, I had to restrain myself from gobbling them all day long. As a kid, I would sneak in my Nana’s pantry for sips of white vinegar straight from the Heinz bottle. Who is to say what’s “weird?!”

        • Tom says:

          I still eat cocktail onions even though I forgo the actual cocktails. Dipped in a little cracked pepper.

          And as a mocktail I have a splash of cider vinegar in club soda.

        • alityke says:

          Oh yes! My sour & vinegary tribe at last!
          Big, strong pickles are a wonderful food group.
          I still like a nip of pickle vinegar. I certainly save it when the onions are gone & use it as a condiment.
          In September I plan to do a week of pickling & preserving. Chilli peppers, onion, apples, shallots will all get the treatment. Might have a go at kimchi too

          • Tom says:

            A splash of good dill pickle vinegar with soda water over shaved ice on a hot day seems like it would go down a treat.

          • alityke says:

            Absolutely! Must try if the sun ever shows it’s face again

          • Tom says:

            I am sure we could come up with a ton of vinegary mocktails that would be very refreshing. Maybe just for us, mind you, but hey..

          • alityke says:

            Virgin Mary with a shot of red wine or balsamic for starters.

  • MMKinPA says:

    My son buys me a big bottle of Rose Jam every Christmas. I don’t wear many rose centric perfumes, but I ADORE Rose Jam. The rhubarb one sounds fab too.