How Jeep’s “I Love You California” Ad is Worsening Hollywoodland’s Already Horrendous Traffic

January 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

Frame from Jeep Cherokee's "I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube

Frame from Jeep Cherokee’s “I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube

Several months ago, Jeep Grand Cherokee started running a commercial set to California’s State Song. I wrote about it and the song’s origins in this post

Lately I’ve noticed that increasing numbers of visitors to Beachwood Canyon expect to be able to drive to the Hollywood Sign–not to its vicinity or to a lookout, but all the way up to it. Over the weekend it finally occurred to me that the Jeep ad, still in heavy rotation, might have something to do with this idea, so I watched it a few times.

Six seconds in, we see a Grand Cherokee ascending a hill that appears to be directly beneath the Sign; from the trajectory, it seems clear the Jeep is heading straight up to it. But it’s not, and it can’t. The hill in question is the so-called Millennium Plateau* which lies not directly under the Sign but east and far south of it. Although Jeep filmed at the Plateau, you can’t drive there: the road is closed except to police and fire vehicles, and to cars on official business. (Disclosure: I have been permitted to drive up the road to an area above the Sign for filming purposes on two occasions.) You could walk to the Plateau, but even if you’re up for a considerable hike, it’s nowhere near spitting distance to the Hollywood Sign. It’s not even the best view.

As long as we’re on the subject of tourist traffic in Hollywoodland, this weekend saw some of the worst traffic ever–and it’s only January. Saturday brought total gridlock on the streets leading to Lake Hollywood Park. On several blocks of Beachwood Drive north of the Gates, there was no street parking at all. The merchants in Beachwood Village have opposed parking restrictions near the stores on the grounds that restrictions would affect their businesses, but as far as I could see everyone who parked on my block was heading in the opposite direction, toward the Sign. Most of these sightseers were gone for hours, and the car with out-of-state plates blocking my garage sat there all day.

The influx of cars has become so severe that one elderly resident apparently died while waiting for paramedics who couldn’t get through a the traffic jam at the north end of Beachwood Drive. As a result of constant gridlock, many of our streets–including upper Beachwood Drive–will soon get permit parking. While I’m happy for those residents, my neighbors and I can forget about ever having friends or family over during daylight hours: all the spaces outside our houses will be taken up by tourists’ cars.

Those who say “You knew the Sign was there when you moved in,” should realize that this wasn’t the situation when we moved in; it dates to when GPS became ubiquitous on phones and has become a crisis only in the past two years. The tourist season is now year-round and affects us daily, and rarely in a good way. So here’s some advice for visitors: if you must come to Hollywoodland, please use public transportation to the Village and prepare to walk. Buy something more than bottled water from the Market and Cafe, especially if you expect to use the restrooms. And don’t smoke anywhere, including in your car. In a bone-dry canyon during the worst drought in memory, one spark equals catastrophe.

*The Plateau is where camera crews filmed the light show at the Hollywood Sign on New Year’s Eve of 1999. The lighted Sign drew such a stampede of cars into the Canyon that all access, including that of emergency vehicles, was completely blocked. It’s a nightmare that haunts residents to this day.

“I Love You, California”: the Song, the Era and the Ad

February 26, 2013 § 20 Comments

There’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee ad currently running on TV in California that features a jaunty song sung in warbling 1920s style.
Over picturesque shots of the Jeep with the Golden Gate Bridge, mountains, desert, poppies, redwoods, beaches and the Hollywood Sign, we hear:

I love you, California,you’re the greatest state of all
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore

I looked up the lyrics and was surprised to learn that “I Love You California” is our state’s official song. It also features a chorus and three more (in my opinion, far superior) verses that can be seen here:
Having spent most of my life in California, I find it more than a little odd that I had never heard “I Love You, California” played even once before Jeep decided to use it in an ad.

The lyrics were written by F. B. Silverwood (1863-1924), a Los Angeles clothier, and set to music by A. F. Frankenstein, the conductor of the Orpheum Theater Orchestra. The song was copyrighted in 1913 and was debuted soon afterwards by the opera star Mary Garden. “I Love You, California” was an instant success, and in 1915 became the official song of both the San Francisco and San Diego Expositions. It was also played aboard the S.S. Ancon, the first ship to sail through the Panama Canal.

For me, the song captures what I think of as the era of California Exceptionalism–the period between 1900 and 1940 when California had a burgeoning population and geographical remoteness from the East Coast and its culture. Californians–whether established or new–reveled in their state’s differentness: its non-European culture, its climate, its exotic crops, its dramatically varied topography. That California was a popular name for both boys and girls before WWII says a lot about state pride, as do the sentiments expressed in “I Love You, California.”

Apparently, the song is still played at the funerals of former governors, most recently Ronald Reagan’s. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were played at sporting events, and if children learned to sing it in school? Perhaps “I Love You, California” could pave the way for a new era of boosterism, one distinguished by a new-found interest in planting backyard citrus, and in naming babies for the greatest state of all.


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