It's the darkest hill in Hollywood – North Ivar Avenue, sitting up over Hollywood Boulevard. At the top of the hill you'll find the Alto Nido Apartments, 1851 North Ivar – once owned by Marie Dressler. A little-know actress, Elizabeth Short, once lived here – and after her extraordinarily gruesome murder in 1947 she became known as the "Black Dahlia." Her murder was never solved. The building was, of course, used in the 2006 movie "The Black Dahlia" – authenticity and all that.
And if you've ever watched Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), that opens here, the same apartment building – the failed screenwriter, Joe Gillis (played by William Holden), is in his apartment when two guys knock on the door and want to repossess his car. But he cleverly has the car stashed at a lot down on Cherokee – the lot is still there, but the car isn't – so those two thuggish guys just leave with their threats hanging in the air. Later Gillis hooks up with that crazy old movie star – Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond (or Hillary Clinton, if you will) – who, at the end of the film, shoots him dead. Alto Nido translates as "High Nest." Don't leave the nest.
Just down the hill is the mock-Tudor Parva Sed Apartments, 1817 North Ivar – where, in the mid-thirties, Nathaniel West wrote that famous novel Day of the Locust – all alienation and desperation, the tale of a disparate group of people whose dreams of success have, in fact, failed - Faye the starlet, Claude Estee the big-time producer, Homer Simpson, the hopelessly clumsy "everyman" – yes, that's where they got the name – Abe Kusich, the tiny, vicious gangster, Earle Shoop the cowboy and Miguel the Mexican his sidekick, Adore Loomis, the child star and major prima donna, and her doting stage-mother. The novel ends with a giant riot and massive fires that destroy Hollywood and then all of Los Angeles. It's a metaphor for America, you see. They made a move of that too, in 1975 – directed by John Schlesinger, with Donald Sutherland, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith. It wasn't very good.
West and his new wife, Eileen McKenney, died in a car accident in El Centro, California, in late December, 1940 – on their way home from a hunting trip to Mexico – the day after his best friend F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack just down on the corner here. West had always been a bad driver – his friends, particularly S. J. Perelman, would not get in the car if he was driving. The story is that the car accident happened because West, grief-stricken over the death of Fitzgerald, ran a stop sign. It's just a rumor. In any event, you know West's wife from the book My Sister Eileen, written in 1938 by her older sister, Ruth McKenney. But West is long gone from Hollywood – he was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, with his wife's ashes placed in his coffin.
West and the Black Dahlia, and Joe Gillis, may be long gone. The dark hill remains.