L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies Valley of the Dolls & Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

At one point in the course of Valley of the Dolls, Neely O’hara, the Eve Harrington of the movie, runs away to San Francisco and roams the mean streets of our northern neighbor. Drunkenly making her way past the x-rated theaters and strip clubs, she cries out “Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin’ but boobies. Who needs ’em?” Well, apparently we Angelenos need them, that’s who.

If you were a space alien and you needed to learn about Los Angeles based on Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, you would conclude that drugs, stardom, parties, and boobs were the four corner stones of our culture. In fact, Jennifer, one of Neely’s best girlfriends, commits suicide when confronted with the prospect of a mastectomy, boobs being her most outstanding attribute, one might even argue, her skill set. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, being a Russ Meyer film, of course, exercises even greater reverence for a good rack. Meyer used to describe the perfect pair as “cantilevered.”

Honestly, Valley of the Dolls is not a terribly good movie; it is in fact, more terrible than good. The book, if also trashy, is more entertaining. It’s worth viewing in that sort of way you watch movies in the background while you fold laundry. But if you haven’t had the doubtful pleasure of seeing BOV, you should Netflix it for sure. For one thing, Roger Ebert wrote the film, which makes it’s delicious campiness even more fun. Life in Los Angeles according to BOV is one long self-destructive bender disguised as a party during which we all screw as many other people as possible–literally and figuratively.  And for another thing, in a turn of almost frightening narrative irony, Z-man, the decadent, over-sexed, “It’s my happening and I’m freaking out” tramp, who ultimately murders his own party guests is modeled after Phil Spector. Which brings us to the final truth about L.A. that both movies gesture at: Truth is definitely stranger than fiction here.

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