There are a number of tattoo artists in Los Angeles, of course, but the vast majority kind of suck. Either they're unsanitary, or ridiculously expensive, or incompetent artists, and sometimes all three at once. Zulu, however, is none of the above. His patience is remarkable, and he is willing to draw and re-draw as often as it takes. His price is incredibly high (upwards of 300 an hour), but his celebrity clients can pay it and from what I've seen his designs are worth it. Zulu takes the "spiritual" element of tattooing very seriously, so be warned if that aggravates you. Otherwise, he goes out of his way to make sure you're comfortable and satisfied.
Maybe I'm being too harsh, since I've been starved for a good comic book store ever since I moved here, but *really.* There's lots of neat memorabilia and collector's items for sale here (a ceramic, butched-up Aquaman, who knew?), but the actual comic books are skewed heavily toward mainstream titles. Like most Westwood stores, this one has to make up for being in a high-rent district by jacking up its prices. I wish there were somewhere better...
...when this place is about four blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard? This place has all kinds of DVDs and VHS movies, including ones that are hard to find and out of print. It's staffed by people who know and care a lot about movies, so their taste rarely lets you down. Be careful though--some of their foreign movies are not region-free, so you should make sure that your DVD player is. They stock movies of all ratings, too, which warms my heart.
One of the things that I'm constantly bemoaning about Los Angeles is the dearth of used and/or independent bookstores. Fortunately for me, Gene de Chene is right on Santa Monica Boulevard. This is indeed a typical used bookstore--small and crowded, with an idiosyncratic selection (I haven't yet found a real pattern that holds) and a knowledgable and passionate proprietor. If you're like me (and I'm starting to fear that few Angelenos are like me), you'll enjoy just browsing through the place and getting to know the owner through his stock. Among other bizarre finds, I actually came across a novelization of Claire of the Moon here. Why didn't I buy it? Why?
Although this store specializes in customizing uniforms (silkscreening, embroidering, etc.) it also sells jerseys and other sportswear individually. Prices are well within the range of normal for things such as baseball shirts, basketball jerseys, and track pants. Their selection isn't gigantic, but it is more than adequate. Staff are very helpful and available.
Super Light is a small, independently-owned light shop on Santa Monica Boulevard. The proprietor is very solicitous and will sometimes negotiate prices. Their lamps vary from the stark, IKEA-like "lightbulb on a stick" to ornate mountains of crystal to gilded fixtures with enormous camp value. They also carry most kinds of globes, shades, and wiring. Good repair services, too.
This place almost looks like it was once a 7-11 or Lawson's convenience store. Whatever it started out as, it is now a tiny grocery store that seems to serve the immigrant communities in the area (Persian and possibly Mexican). Here you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for quite affordable prices, as well as bags of whole and chopped Middle-Eastern spices. The canned goods and other products are quite dusty, but it's also possible to find entirely random items on the shelves.
PROS: Cheap spices by the bag, fresh produce
CONS: Dusty and possibly ancient canned goods
With all of the worry about Mad Cow Disease and other problems associated with hormone-injected, factory-farmed, unsanitary meat, I've become pretty wary of the grocery-store butcher counter. For a while it seemed that my only choices were to give up beef or shop somewhere insanely expensive. Luckily for me, West LA has a huge Persian community, most of whom keep Kosher. This grocery store serves everyday working- and middle-class people, and its prices reflect that. It's clean and well-organized, and everything (including the meat) has been prepared and stored according to Kosher (Halal) standards. Although I do often wish I spoke/read Persian when I go there, it's totally not necessary.
PROS: Safe meat, clean store
The Nuart Theatre is a fairly well-known theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard. What Los Angeles lacks in bookstores and coffeeshops it certainly makes up for in movie theaters and video stores. Movies generally play here in 1- or 2-week runs, and they run the gamut from "Indie" Hollywood films to obscure foreign films to documentaries. Though it's certainly great to have a moviehouse playing Battle of Algiers or The Klaus Nomi Story at any given time, the Nuart's real claim to fame is its weekly midnight showings. Friday night is (almost) always Rocky Horror, and Saturday night is a different cult or nostalgia movie (these have included Flight of the Navigator, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tron, Neverending Story, etc).
You would think that an adult gift shop with Larry Flynt's magazine name attached to it would at least be somewhat interesting, but Hustler Hollywood is, sadly, about as sexy and interesting as alphabetizing your rolodex. the merchandise, both in terms of clothing and "novelties," is of relatively poor quality for the price and generally uninspiring. The entire store is also drunk on its own self image of being "daring," "shocking," "erotic," etc. that it winds up actually DOING very little to challenge, appall, or arouse anyone at all.
Go once if you're visiting and are into the weird and downright absurd world of the adult industry. Otherwise, buy toys and necessities at The Pleasure Chest and drive on by.