Jewish World Review July 29, 2005/ 22 Tammuz, 5765

Greg Crosby

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Name That Community | In previous columns I've talked about how communities have changed their names in order to "sound better" to the public. There are lots of reasons for this. I'm sure that real estate agents have something to do with it — attempting to give a less than elegant area a new, richer-sounding cachet so as to improve the property values. Sometimes neighborhoods will change their name to erase a negative connotation which has become associated with the area, i.e. South Central Los Angeles was officially changed a couple of years ago to simply South Los Angeles.

What is now going on in the area formally known as North Hollywood is so laughably ridiculous it's hard to believe. Apparently there are some grown up people who have nothing else to do but sit around and concoct new community names that sound like Toluca Lake for what is left of the rest of North Hollywood.

Toluca Lake is the original community, of course, situated between Burbank and North Hollywood (actually a part of each). Once part of a Spanish land grant, as was most of the San Fernando Valley, Toluca Lake was farmland until the mid 1920's when the first home was built. According to the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, in early 1923 the area was known as the Forman Toluca Ranch and was famous for its crops of peaches, apples and walnuts.

Then a syndicate of financiers and developers arrived and started the development of the area they called Toluca Lake Park. Throughout the late twenties and thirties movie stars and other luminaries built their mansions and charming neighborhood shops and restaurants sprung up forming the core of the village of Toluca Lake. It became the prime area of the Valley. It still is.

The original boundaries were Cahuenga Boulevard, Clybourn Avenue, Camarillo Street, and the Los Angeles River. As time went on, however, other adjacent streets and areas have been added, pushing out the boundaries into more and more of plain old North Hollywood. As Jimmy Durante used to say, "Everybody wants to get into the act!"

No doubt the boundaries would continue to be pushed out (probably all the way across the valley) were it not, I suppose, for someone in the Toluca Lake Property Owners Association who must have said, "Enough, already!" So Toluca Lake proper has stopped spreading. But that's not the end of the story.

Doesn't Cary Grant sound better than Archibald Leach? Just as hopeful actors change their names to better sounding movie star monikers, the North Hollywood areas directly adjacent to Toluca Lake have done the same. If you can't afford to live in Toluca Lake do not despair, you can live in Toluca Woods, Toluca Terrace, or West Toluca Lake. Yes, these are all part of North Hollywood but they sound so much better, don't they? I mean who wants to be Spangler Arlington Brugh when you can be Robert Taylor.

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But there's no reason to stop with those names. Why not continue the trend with Toluca Hills? Or how about Toluca Springs? Anyone want to live in Toluca Oaks? If we have a West Toluca Lake, why not a North Toluca Lake, a South Toluca Lake, and an East Toluca Lake? I'll bet you could sell a gang of condos in Toluca Valley.

Want to settle down in that cozy community of Toluca Glen? Or what about a townhouse in Toluca Heights? We might even name a section Toluca Beach — if there was a beach. Maybe we can build one. Hell, we can keep naming places Toluca something-or-other all the way up to Thousand Oaks!

You can see how much fun it is to re-name communities. Much more fun than trying to actually clean up or fix neighborhoods and communities so that their real names might lose the negative connotations they have gotten.

Besides communities we might use the name changing gimmick in other areas to make things sound better than they are. We could change the name of vomit to gardenia: "The dog got sick and now I've got to clean up the gardenia on the rug." Substitute jewels for garbage: "Jim, would you please take the jewels out to the curb?" Change the word gangrene to pistachio ice cream: "Better take care of that cut before pistachio ice cream sets in."

Then we might change the term failure to deferred success, communist to progressive, terrorist to insurgent, and suicide bomber to militant. Wait. I forgot we've already done that.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2005 Greg Crosby