/ Mark Frauenfelder / 4 am Fri, May 30 2014
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  • Finding Hidden Treasures in Los Angeles

    Finding Hidden Treasures in Los Angeles

    Mark Frauenfelder presents a photo-tour of Hidden Treasures, a gem of a store in Los Angeles' rustic Topanga Canyon.

    Los Angeles' most famous canyon is Laurel Canyon. A commuter conduit between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood, the forested hills on either side of Laurel Canyon were at one time populated by the cream of the 60s music scene: Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, the Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Love, Buffalo Springfield. It's the same canyon that the mind-bogglingly monstrous "Papa" John Philips was referring to in his (admittedly fantastic) 1967 song, Twelve Thirty (Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon).

    Twenty miles west is LA's second-most famous canyon, Topanga Canyon. Connecting the déclassé town of Canoga Park to upscale Pacific Palisades, Topanga Canyon is more rustic, and with a darker reputation. Yes, Laurel Canyon was the setting for the grisly Wonderland Murder spree of 1981, but Topanga Canyon was the stomping ground of Charles Manson and his "Family" of psychopathic losers. In 1969 Family members murdered Gary Hinman, "a music teacher who had opened his home to anyone needing shelter."

    Today, most of the old guard has left Topanga, driven away by rising home prices (Hinman's former residence, a 2,600 square foot house, has an estimated value of $1.3 million. It sold for $560,000 in 1992), but the town of Topanga retains an atmosphere of edgy mystery, and I usually stumble across something wonderful there every time I visit. One of my first discoveries was Hidden Treasures, which was converted from a dentist's office in the late 1980s. It's really not "hidden" -- the colorful decor and skeleton pirate theme scream at anyone driving past it, but I still feel like entered a secret world in 1995 when I walked through the front door, which is flanked by wooden tikis carved by the store's owner, Darrell Hazen. The interior is an eye-pleasing jumble of vintage clothes, knick knacks, jewelry, carvings, comic books, dolls, old signs, hats, pipes, lamps, sunglasses, guitar amps, stereo equipment, framed art, taxidermy, ashtrays, postcards, surfboards, and cuckoo clocks. It's easy to get lost in the store for an hour. Enjoy these photos, which I took on my last visit. (Click the photos to embiggen.)

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    If you are visiting LA and would like to check out Hidden Treasures, I recommend that you stop at two other places in Topanga: Inn of the Seventh Ray - an outdoor new age restaurant that used to color code the items menu according the heaviness of the unique auras they emit, and the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. From Wikipedia:

    In the 1950s blacklisted actor Will Geer had to sell his large Santa Monica home and move his family to a small plot in the canyon where they could grow their own produce. Geer's friend Woody Guthrie had a small shack on the property. They unintentionally founded what became an artists' colony. Since its founding in 1973, the Geer family has continued to operate the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. It has grown into an Equity theater, and occupies a natural outdoor amphitheater. It features Shakespearean plays, modern classics, and original productions, as well as musical concerts. Performers have included Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Della Reese, and Burl Ives.

    Hidden Treasures: 154 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Open seven days a week, 10:30am to 6:30pm. (310) 455-2998