My co-writer Brian Thomas moved to LA in the early 90s to find work in the film industry. He worked behind the scenes on films from The Wizard of Space and Time to Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3), then landed a job in the 20th Century Fox research library — literally, my idea of heaven on earth. He provided research for The X Files, The Simpsons, Firefly, Brimstone, Millennium, and more than a hundred other TV shows and movies.
I started going down to LA in the late Nineties to research the sidebars for Morbid Curiosity magazine. That led to Brian and I working on the books that would become Lost Angels and Angelus Rose. He prowled throughout LA, scouting locations where we could set scenes of the novels. Here’s the backstory on them.
Lost Angels was inspired by a nightclub that stood between Temple Street and the Hollywood Freeway in the mid-1990s. As I remember, the highway offramp wrapped around the club, making for easy access. The site was a stone’s throw from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, still under construction at the time.
Brian drove me by the bar, but we never stopped in its parking lot so I could take a photo. I was never inside of it, either. The interior, as it appears in the novel, was based on San Francisco’s legendary Club DV8, which had a wraparound balcony above the dancefloor. You came in at street-level, then descended a grand staircase to the main floor.
Santa Rosa’s, the church where Azaziel forces Ashleigh’s soul to possess Lorelei, was a real place on the wrong side of the 405 from downtown LA. Brian found the burned-out Odd Fellows Hall on the north side of Washington, not more than a mile or two east of Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. Once he started to think about it as a church, he wondered who might have lived there and how he might have provoked Hell to set fire to his home. We drove by huge building several times, but I made him stop once so I could take some photos. Our descriptions in the books are all based in reality: there were ghostly shadows above the boarded-up windows, where the smoke had escaped.
Tuan’s apartment building
I never had a particular building in mind for the penthouse apartment where Tuan Nguyen lives with the succubus Floria, although Brian probably did have. He was always more specific than I am. I had a rough idea that Tuan’s building was one of the white Deco-style apartment towers that stood along Brand Boulevard in Glendale.
The LA River
When I envisioned the LA River, I thought of the scene in Repo Man, when the Rodriguez Brothers chase Bud and Otto through the trickle of water until their car breaks down. That, or the end of Buckaroo Banzai when Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers walk down the huge empty stretch of concrete beneath the spans of bridges. In reality, the river is fairly wild in some areas. Brian took me to a place next to the 5 (not too far from Dodger Stadium) where a miniature suspension bridge supported a pipe across the water — just like Lorelei and Ashleigh cross after they escape Asmodeus and the botched exorcism in the storm drain.
The sadistic Japanese restaurant where Lorelei has lunch with the fiend Thodos is completely made up. It was inspired by restaurants in Tokyo that exist on the second and third floors of skyscrapers, overlooking the street but separate from it. After I first heard about Drunken Shrimp, I quizzed a friend’s father, who had done a lot of travel, about food that was still living when you ate it. He suggested the lobster sashimi. I don’t eat shellfish, so I haven’t tried either one.
One of my favorite places in Los Angeles is Griffith Observatory. It’s probably the one place I’ve been more than any other in Southern California. Brian and I used to break off writing so we could drive up to watch the sunset from the Observatory’s deck overlooking the city below. Because I spent so much time there, the observatory serves as Lorelei’s safe place in Angelus Rose.
The observatory, which stands on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, was a bequest by Griffith J. Griffith, who also donated the land on which Griffith Park stands. When the observatory opened in 1935, it was the third planetarium in the US. More people have looked through its 12-inch telescope than any other on earth. None of that has any bearing on our books. I just think it’s really cool.
Rising above Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont hotel was modeled after the Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley. The hotel was completed in 1929. Members of Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through it in the 1960s. Jon Belushi OD’d in one of the garden bungalows in the 1980s. Lorelei claims to have been present for both of those events. Her story “Never Bargained for You” is set there (it appears in my collection Unsafe Words) and she takes Azaziel to the Chateau in the first chapter of Angelus Rose.
I’ve never set foot into Chateau Marmont, which I consider a crime. If our books are ever optioned to be made into movies, I’m going to schedule a weekend at the Chateau to celebrate.
Asmodeus’s high-end restaurant was inspired by Michelin-starred Gary Danko in San Francisco. I’ve been lucky to eat there twice. The theater lighting and the impeccably timed service really struck me, so the descriptions of Isfahan come from those memories. Isfahan’s menu was inspired by a Persian restaurant, sadly long gone, that used to exist on Clement Street in San Francisco.
The Museum of Death
The first iteration of the Museum of Death really did stand in the shadow of the Scientology Building on Hollywood Boulevard. It was a warren of little cubbies full of postmortem photos and serial killer mementos, including John Wayne Gacy’s clown paintings. I visited that version of the museum twice, once to host a reading for Morbid Curiosity magazine. It felt like the perfect place for Lorelei to take a fiend she was trying to seduce.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Although they carefully don’t use it as a marketing tool, the huge Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale is the final resting place of many of Hollywood’s famous names. Among them lie Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Walt Disney, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Chico Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Sammy Davis Jr., and W. C. Fields. Brian and I often took breaks while writing to walk the green hills or visit the museums. The Last Supper window really is something to see.
For all the time we spent in the cemetery, I’m not sure I ever noticed the lighted cross atop it until I started to collect cemetery postcards. Brian wrote the scene where Aza releases Ashleigh’s soul beneath the cross.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
After the Saint Vibiana Cathedral suffered structural damage in the Northridge Earthquake, it was condemned by the City of Los Angeles. In 1996, the diocese chose a downtown parking lot overlooking the Hollywood Freeway as the site of its new cathedral, named for the city’s namesake. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in September 2002.
I’ve only had the opportunity to visit the cathedral once, in the company of horror writer Maria Alexander. We had a fascinating conversation about faith and atheism while sitting in the honey-colored sanctuary. Then we explored the cathedral’s crypt, of course.
The cathedral was a construction site while Brian and I wrote the initial drafts of the As Above books, but it felt important to include it in Angelus Rose. I revised the scene where the archangels listen to the high school choirs perform and shifted it to the cathedral courtyard.
The Canter Brothers opened their first deli in LA in 1931. After the deli moved to Fairfax in the Miracle Mile district, its amazing Art Deco dining room has never been updated. Brian wrote a wonderful scene, since lost, where the succubi were sitting at different tables around the dining room and using the rotary dial phones to call each other and interrupt each other’s dates. Every time I go to LA, I try to stop into Canter’s for a chocolate egg creme and a pastrami sandwich. I wrote the scene where Aza orders takeout in honor of that tradition.
Westwood Memorial Park
The first burials in this graveyard date from the 1880s. Joe DiMaggio chose this cemetery to be Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place because it was sleepy and out of the way. Now Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, half a block off of Wiltshire Boulevard, is entirely surrounded by high-rises. In 2002, the cemetery was recognized by the Cultural Heritage Commission of Los Angeles.
Among those buried there are Natalie Wood, “Queen of the Pin-Ups” Bettie Page, Heather O’Rourke (the pretty blonde girl swallowed by the Poltergeist house), and 20-year-old Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate of the Year.
Brian took me to the Westwood cemetery once on a winter evening, when darkness came early. I was really impressed by how peaceful the cemetery was, with the city rushing by just beyond the encircling skyscrapers. I wrote it into Angelus Rose in the final revision when I needed a setting for Lorelei and Aza’s first real date.
Brian took me to Chinatown one night to look at the neon. I don’t remember if we had dinner there or not, but I do remember the cockroach that Lorelei sees scuttling by my foot. I thought about stepping on it at the time, but I was afraid it would carry me off.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of speakeasies, but I’ve never actually been to one. Yasmina’s Pandemonium Club combined the terrifying third-sub basement noise club I went to in Tokyo with some of the SM performances I’ve seen in San Francisco.
Angelus Rosedale Cemetery
In 1884, when Los Angeles was a city of under 30,000 people, Rosedale Cemetery was founded on 65 acres of land facing Washington Boulevard between Normandie Avenue and Walton and Catalina Streets. America’s first crematory west of the Rocky Mountains — only the second crematory in the country — opened at Rosedale in 1887. With its photogenic lines of palm trees, Angelus Rosedale has appeared in the Clive Barker film Lord of Illusions, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, as well as many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the first Charmed show, and Six Feet Under.
Brian and I spent many happy hours roaming around the cemetery, plotting out lines of attack and making notes about where characters would die. I do feel bad that we set the cemetery on fire for the climax of Angelus Rose, though.
The Mulholland Memorial Fountain
Dedicated in August 1940, the Mulholland Fountain remembers the controversial man who built the aqueduct that brought water to the burgeoning metropolis of Los Angeles. The Art Deco fountain recirculates more than 2000 gallons of water each minute. At night, the waters dance to a cycle of candy-colored lights.
It must have been recently refurbished when Brian and I visited in the mid-Nineties. Now, looking back, I can’t believe that we hung around the fountain at night. Even though it’s at the junction of Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside Drive, the lights would have highlighted us to anyone looking for trouble or some quick cash. I was too starry eyed at the time to realize we might have been in danger.
Brian wrote the final scene of Angelus Rose long before we finished writing the books. It gave us something to aim for.
You can learn more about our succubus/angel love story here: https://lorenrhoads.com/writing/as-above-so-below/
If you’d like to order the “boxed” set from me, I’ll throw in a little special gift. You can check Lost Angels & Angelus Rose out at my bookstore. They’re also available individually on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, or as ebooks on Smashwords.
Brian is very brave to try out a coffin. I got a little wave of claustrophobia just looking at the photo! Fun post!
I know! I wouldn’t do it at the time, but now I wish I had.