Helicopters Over Bronson Canyon, and a Gruesome Discovery

January 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

Hiking in Bronson Canyon 1/1/09/Hope Anderson Productions

For the past 1 1/2 hours, helicopters have been circling and hovering overhead–an unusually long time for the Hollywood Hills. I soon learned why from a neighbor, who emailed me this link:


Those who hike in Bronson Canyon can attest to the ease with which they can leave the city and hit the trails. The last time I was there, on Christmas Day, my visiting sister was amazed at how quickly we reached wilderness from my house: 10 minutes by car and another 5 on foot. She remarked that it would take her more than half an hour to drive to a comparable area from her much less densely populated city on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Since moving to Beachwood Canyon, I’ve experienced two other incidents of prolonged helicopter surveillance. The first occurred around 2007, when two hikers got stuck on one of the steep trails near the quarry. One was injured, and both required rescue. The second incident, in 2010, was the tragic death of Sally Menke, best known as Quentin Tarantino’s film editor, who collapsed in Bronson Canyon while hiking in record-breaking heat. 

According to the latest report, today’s emergency began when a dog discovered a human head in a bag. Leaving aside uncanny similarities to the work of Tarantino (and David Lynch), I have to wonder at this sentence from a press release I just received: The detectives are treating the case as a possible homicide. Possible?

According to breaking news on the LA Times blog, the head is believed to be that of a recently murdered Armenian man in his 40s. Police are looking for “additional body parts in the area.” Hikers–and their dogs–beware. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/01/human-head-found-in-bag-on-hike-trail.html

Update, 12:40am: The search was suspended at 8pm and will resume at sunrise on Wed., January 18th. Better hike elsewhere today.

Related Post: https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/extreme-heat-and-a-death-in-bronson-canyon/

Helicopters in Hollywoodland: A Perpetual Noise Overhead

August 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Embarking on my Helicopter Shot, May 2007/Hope Anderson Productions

During daylight hours, Beachwood Drive is the scene of nonstop  car and truck traffic. It’s especially bad on weekends, when the roar of engines makes the street sound like a speedway, even from indoors.  

Those who live in the upper Canyon have it worse, however, since much of their traffic noise comes from helicopters. Whether the helicopters are being used by the police and fire departments, news channels, tour companies or camera crews, the result is the same: a nerve-wracking rat-tat-tat of blades as they hover overhead. Sometimes they come close enough to make the houses vibrate.

Incredibly, helicopter traffic over Los Angeles is unregulated by the FAA. Anyone with sufficient funds can charter a helicopter and fly wherever he wants, with minimal red tape. I know this because when I did the helicopter shot over Beachwood Canyon for my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign,” in 2007, my big logistical hurdle was renting a sophisticated aerial camera and having it rigged. The helicopter company did have to clear the flight plan with the ranger station on Mt. Lee, but that was because I planned to film the Hollywood Sign, front and back, at close range. (Yes, it was awesome; no, I’ll never do it again.)

Since then, the volume of helicopter traffic has increased tremendously. No one is be able to explain why, but there seems to be a helicopter over Beachwood Canyon at all times during the day, and not infrequently at night. According to Hollywoodland resident Martin Smith,

the tour helicopters as well as those that are shooting and therefore hovering, drive everyone up here mad… I have no idea why those that are filming don’t have to warn the residents beforehand… just as any other filming unit has to when shooting in our neighborhood….post 9/11, a no-fly zone seems sensible as the top of Mt. Lee is so essential to LA’s safety.

Soon after I promised Martin I’d write something about helicopter traffic, the New York Times published this article:


In contrast to the ho-hum reaction to prior complaints, the NYT article got an immediate, high-level response–from none other than Rep. Howard Berman, our U.S. Congressman.  He is sponsoring new legislation to regulate helicopter traffic over Los Angeles, something the FAA so far has refused to do:


From your mouth to the FAA’s ears, Congressman.

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