The Rich are Leaving in Droves… The California Dream is DEAD
Gold’s Gym has become synonymous with the Hollywood Dream.
Set just a few hundred yards from the ocean in sun-kissed Venice Beach, Los Angeles, Gold’s was the backdrop for Pumping Iron, the 1977 documentary which followed a young, unknown Austrian bodybuilder called Arnold Schwarzenegger as he prepared for the Mr Universe contest.
The film turned him into an overnight sensation. He would go on to become a global superstar, marry a member of the Kennedy clan, and become Governor of California.
Yet today Gold’s sits amid post-apocalyptic scenes which have consumed much of LA, turning the City of Dreams into an urban nightmare from which people are fleeing in droves.
A makeshift tent city made up of flapping tarpaulins and cardboard boxes surrounds the gym on all sides.
Junkies and the homeless, many of whom are clearly mentally ill, walk the palm-lined streets like zombies – all just three blocks from multi-million-dollar homes overlooking the Pacific.
Stolen bicycles are piled high on pavements littered with broken syringes.
TV bulletins are filled with horror stories from across the city; of women being attacked during their morning jog or residents returning home to find strangers defecating in their front gardens.
Today, Los Angeles is a city on the brink. ‘For Sale’ signs are seemingly dotted on every suburban street as the middle classes, particularly those with families, flee for the safer suburbs, with many choosing to leave LA altogether.
British-born Danny O’Brien runs Watford Moving & Storage. ‘There is a mass exodus from Hollywood,’ he says.
‘And a lot of it is to do with politics.’ His business is booming. ‘August has already set records and we are only halfway through the month,’ he tells me.
‘People are getting out in droves. Last week I moved a prominent person in the music industry from a $6.5 million [£5 million] mansion above Sunset Boulevard to Nashville.’