by Derrick Garbell
February 6, 1999
A reply to the L.A. Times article Jan 31
The Sherman Oaks Galleria was a speck of a mall. Only two anchor stores. Every mallie knows it takes three to put a mall over the hump.
So why did it succeed back in the early '80's? Unsolicited advertising. It was a pop event. Moon Zappa's "Valley Girl" 45 was the trigger factor, and the "mall movies" poured it on. Media hype created a behemoth mall where there was none.
>And, of course, Hollywood made movies about it. "Valley Girl" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" both presented the Galleria as the dominant institution in the lives of their young characters.<<
This is more unwarranted media hype. While "Valley Girl" had a few scenes filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" did not use that location at all. Yet the S.O. Galleria got the credit, and the quoted article continues this misnomer. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was filmed "over the hill" for goodness sakes, at the Santa Monica Place mall.
Actually to me, the definitive Sherman Oaks Galleria film was "Terminator 2, Judgment Day," where a reformed Arnold took on the borg-cop from the future near the escalators and in the emergency exit corridors.
>In these movies ("Valley Girl" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"), the mall functions like a parentless home to the kids. It offers a certain level of protection, a haven where the kids can, in effect, guide each other through the vagaries of teen life.<<
True. We now have a generation of young adults not raised by their parents. Daycare got them started, then convenience stores and malls were the shapers of their characters. I fear this grotesque xyz generation, nurtured clones in the petri test tube of mall cultures.
They vote. They drive. They don't vote. They watch 90210 and Melrose Place and Friends and then ape, ape, ape. 83% of the cells in their bodies consist of mall Crisco. Without this generation, white bread would have been outlawed by now, and McDonalds would be serving organic pita garbanzo sandwiches instead of slabs of soulful-eyed bovine homogenized salmonella burgers.
The Sherman Oaks Galleria had run its course five years ago, but the bozo owners dumped millions more in a doomed renovation that consisted of adding even more theatres (yet still no place to park), and gaudy marble floors in the main galleria. What the owners needed to do was address the fact that their measly two-anchor store mall had become a one-anchor mall: Robinsons and Mays had merged, so now the stores at either end of the S.O. Galleria mall were the same!
The Sherman Oaks Galleria did well in its '80's heydays despite its minuscule proportions, because:
1) At first, it was the only indoor mall within miles of wealthy Encino and Sherman Oaks. We even drove from West Los Angeles to shop there, because there was no Santa Monica Place mall yet, nor a Westside Pavillion Mall yet, and because the sleezy Fox Hills Culver City Mall was taken over by street gangs.
2) The nearest department stores for Valley folks were the ancient Bullocks Fashion Square, only a half mile away, with a free standing I. Geriatric Magnins nearby, and an even more ancient solo Robinsons, five miles away in Pornorama City. These were isolated, non-enclosed stores, cheesy with age, and they sucked. You drove there, you hassled parking, and your reward was one store. Or go back into the sweltering Valley heat and walk to a strip mall or taco shop. (Topanga Plaza was nine long miles to the west.)
So even Moon Zappa 1988, who lived on Wilson Drive off Benedict Canyon, would drive right by the Bullocks Fashion Square to the mini-mecca of the Sherman Oaks Galleria.
Later, a Broadway was built near the Bullocks Fashion Square, a roof and enclosed gallery of shops were positioned between the Bullocks and the new Broadway, the enclosure included the I. Magnins, and voila! A new mammoth mall just 1,000 yards from the Sherman Oaks Galleria took root. And this new mall, dubbed Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, got so cooking that Bloomingdales came to become a third even larger anchor, when it bought out all of Broadway and part of the I.Magnin turf. Bullocks of course was bought by Macy's, if you're keeping score.
The Sherman Oaks Fashion Square is now one of the hottest people spots in the whole Valley. Oodles of parking, early and late hours, everything there succeeds. People walk to it, stay at it for half-days, see movies, the whole mall extravaganza.
The Sherman Oaks Galleria will become more office space, largely inhabited by lawyers who want a "Ventura Boulevard" address.
Oh, the glory that was grease!
© 1999 Derrick Garbell
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