It’s Christmas time out here, in California. Santa Claus is basking in the sun…
So once again, that time of the year is upon us… Trying to find a unique gift that stands out can sometimes be stressful. Especially if you are shopping for an eclectic person who seems to have everything. Staying away from the malls, supporting local businesses and honoring the things that make our city special makes gifting much more meaningful and fun. Get into the holiday spirit the Offbeat L.A. way! Here are some ideas…
Skeletons in the Closet: For those on your list with a morbid sense of humor, you couldn’t do better than surprising them with an item from the one-of-a-kind gift shop run by the Los Angeles Coroner’s office, Skeletons in the Closet. Located on Mission Road in downtown L.A. and operated weekdays 8:30am-4:00pm, this store, whether in good taste or bad, sells beach towels with body outlines, t-shirts, kitchen aprons, mugs, shot glasses, mouse pads, body bags, toe tags and an ever growing supply of death related memorabilia. Since this shop is located in the very building that houses the actual coroner’s office, visiting can be quite a bizarre and unusual experience. If you are a bit cowardly, browse and buy online.
Angelyne’s Trunk: This one may take a bit more planning, but it really is a perfect kitschy L.A. way to shop for those with a cult admiration for L.A.’s ’80s billboard queen. The busty blonde has a veritable traveling gift shop set up out of the trunk of her hot pink corvette. Buy Angelyne t-shirts, posters, knick knacks and even pieces of her self-made artwork. Get a photo of yourself with this iconic Hollywood character and enclose it with your gift. Hunt Angelyne down at some of her regular spots- Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset or El Coyote. If she knows you want to spend money, she is easy to flag down. You can also email her at AngelyneFanClub@yahoo.com.
An Iconic L.A. T-shirt: Some of L.A.’s greatest and most well known landmarks sell t-shirts to advertise their businesses and they make amazingly perfect and budget friendly gifts. Everyone’s favorite, Randy’s Donuts, sells both a cool basic t-shirt and a long sleeved baseball jersey style version. Buy it through the same plexi glass window that you order your favorite glazed dozen. Circus Liquor in North Hollywood, home of one of the best vintage neon signs in town, sells a cool t-shirt in several colors for less than $8. They say if you spend $100 or more you even get a free one. The amazing Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth has the very best selections of reproduction vintage valley tees that exist. Take your pick from shirts honoring the gone, but not forgotten, North Hollywood night club the Palomino, records stores Ear Candy or Moby Disc, Topanga Plaza, Pioneer Chicken, radio station KMET and so much more. Visit Saturdays to see the incredible museum or order online here. You can also hunt down L.A. turbaned, skater, guitar legend Harry Perry on the Venice boardwalk and buy a t-shirt for $20, which includes a posed photo with him or buy a shirt from the weird velvet art museum Velveteria in Chinatown.
A Gift Certificate to a Los Angeles Vintage Restaurant: A really cool idea for the food lover in your life is a gift certificate to one of the many places in this Offbeat L.A. article The Oldest Surviving Los Angeles Restaurants: A Master List of the Vintage, Historic and Old School. This is a great way to support your favorite old school joint while giving your friend a nice night out. A win/win gift, in my humble opinion. Take your pick of many fabulous gems on the above list, but make sure you call in advance to make sure they have gift certificates available.
Local Museum Gift Shops: Our city is filled with some of the best museums, stocked with both classy gifts and kitschy souvenirs. Whether it be a gift membership to LACMA, a mug from the bizarre Bunny Museum in Pasadena, a shot glass commemorating the meeting of Elvis and Nixon found at The Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, t-shirts and hot sauce collectibles from the Sriracha Factory gift shop in Irwindale or a set of of pint glasses from The Magic Castle, there are really endless possibilities. Also check out the brand new gift shop at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale before the museum’s official grand opening in late January. You will find artistically original gifts, like leatherette notebooks with amazing light-up designs and gorgeous custom table lamps mimicking classic neon art. These both are sure to please the toughest one on your list.
Souvenirs From the Boys in Blue: One really strange and surreal place to find holiday presents is the LAPD Gift Shop, The Police Revolver and Athletic Club Store, located on the Police Academy grounds in Elysian Park. Whether you are shopping for an LAPD dancing bear, a K9 plush toy dog, mugs, magnets or LAPD sweatshirts, there is quite a large selection. The store also carries police supplies such as uniforms, weapons and ammunition, making this shopping experience even weirder and even slightly intimidating. Open M-F 7:30am to 5pm at 1880 Academy Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Holiday Gifts for the Halloween Lover: The very first Offbeat L.A. article written in February 2013 was about the horror themed prop shop in Burbank, Dapper Cadaver, and we’ve both come a long way. This is the place for the person on your list who loves the macabre. Almost anything goes in this far out shop, from oddities, such as trippy specimens in jars, authentic medical straight jackets, sideshow banners, mix-n-match body parts, all manners of skeletons and bones, to even prop making supplies for the wannabe special fx artist in your life. This store is an adventure just to visit and is open M-F 9am to 6pm at 7648 San Fernando Road in Burbank.
An Unusual Los Angeles Guided Tour: Sometimes opening new eyes on the city you call home is the surest way to please. In this case, picking an entertaining and atypical guided tour is the answer. The two most interesting companies are tailored to those who love true crime, tabloid stories and great architecture. Dearly Departed Tours, based in Hollywood, offers tours of celebrity death spots, ghostly walking tours and a unique Helter Skelter tour of Manson Family landmarks. The Esotouric company has fascinating true crime, literary and culture based tours, uncovering the grit and stories that make each Los Angeles neighborhood unique. The Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler and Black Dahlia tours are among their most popular.
A Membership that Supports L.A.: Since 1978 the Los Angeles Conservancy has been fighting the powers that be to protect our city’s historical legacy. Do your part in supporting architectural preservation in Los Angeles. A yearly membership is $40 for individuals or $60 for couples and will get the recipient half-price tickets to unique walking tours, a bi-monthly newsletter, discounts to special events and get you some really good karma
A Sexy Hollywood Pinup Photo Shoot: Getting a cool, stylized photo is an amazing way to feel beautiful, whether you frame it on your wall, give it as a keepsake to the one you love, share it with everyone on social media, or have it marked For Your Eyes Only… Iconic Pinups is an artistic and friendly company owned by Carol & Stacey, two relaxed and very cool women. Each photo shoot comes with a vintage-style makeover that will have gals of all shapes, sizes and ages looking and feeling like the goddess they know they are. Gift certificates are available from $99 to $610.
L.A.’s Best Kitsch: There are several area stores full of wacky and fun pop culture based gifts. If you are on the East Side then Wacko is must-stop shopping; complete with novelties, an amazing book selection and other hard to find crowd pleasers. On the West Side, it’s the Brat Store in Santa Monica, where cool owner & gal about town, Nancy Hunt, will help you find the perfect eclectic treasure, whether it be vintage inspired dresses, crazy kitchen towels or fun, retro toys. The newly opened Shag Store in West Hollywood features prints, books and other merchandise created by the mid-century inspired artist. While pretty pricey, Nick Metropolis on La Brea & 1st has crazy, over-the-top pop collectibles.