Sometimes it’s hard to believe this little mid-century hotel and restaurant touched so many people from all over the world. No matter their origins or circumstances, they all seem to agree on the Cockatoo Inn’s magical charms. Even when visiting the Cockatoo during the 1992 LA riots.
Where were you visiting from?
What brought you to LA for three months?
We were just three young women on an adventure, traveling and experiencing the world. One of us had a boyfriend from California and we visited him and traveled throughout LA. We visited churches, as we were into the Christian faith at the time. We wanted to explore the church lives in the U.S., which is very different than Germany, and Europe in general. It was just a trip for adventure and exploring. No clue whatsoever that we were entering a war zone four weeks after we arrived.
How did you end up at the Cockatoo Inn?
We arrived at LAX and had no plan, no clue where to go (when you’re young you do stupid things like this!). Pocket full of money, we never thought we would have problems. We saw airport shuttles, and one driver from one of the shuttles was a super chatty guy (we became friends and he later showed us around). He suggested the Cockatoo Inn and drove us there with the shuttle. It may have been a Cockatoo Inn shuttle in the first place, but I can’t remember. I just remember the chatty driver. He certainly was a good salesman, selling us the Cockatoo Inn!
What were your first impressions of the Cockatoo?
Amazing! It was our first time in the U.S., so every little bit of impression was wonderful anyway. But I particularly remember the smell, the fragrance in the air. There was a sweet smell in the bar/restaurant area, and a very chilled, calm atmosphere. Coupled with a beautiful sunny day and welcoming, relaxed people, it was wonderful. The photos I took from the outside of the building and entrance was literally the day after our first night.
The photo I took from the pool at night was when one of my friends had her birthday, you can see a little cake with candles and champagne on the table, bottom right.
How did you end up in the same room with future president, Bill Clinton?
We were always invited to other churches, to lunch, to stay in people’s houses etc. In hindsight, now, I wouldn’t be so open to just sleep in people’s houses without knowing them! But we were young, and everything went well. So, we were invited to a normal Sunday service at West Angeles Church. We didn’t know that it was some kind of famous church. That Sunday, Bill Clinton happened to be there. I assumed at first that he was a preacher or guest speaker, but was puzzled about the guys standing near-by (bodyguards). Our friend who invited us explained who he was and literally said that if he becomes president (or succeeds) than we can say that we saw the president.
We heard you had a run-in with the police?
One of my friends and I were just going for a walk on our second or third day at the Cockatoo Inn. The sun was going down as it was early evening. We were completely green, straight from Germany, where it is super normal to go for a walk, even in the evening. As we were walking to explore the area, a police car slowly drove next to us and asked us what we were doing there. Our German accents gave us away and the police were visibly amused at our naiveté. They told us that it would be better to return to the hotel as the area wasn’t a good place to go for a walk. They realized we were naive tourists, two young pretty women with bright clothes who didn’t have a clue that we could draw attention to us. The policemen smiled, in a way like being amused at our naiveté. So, we returned to the hotel and never went out for a walk in the evening except at the beach!
In hindsight of course, I realize that if my friend and I would have been two black women or two black men walking down the street, and if the police would have stopped us that we would have had a VERY different encounter than we had as two Caucasian, German women. We were treated well because of our skin color and where we came from. Of course, I’m glad that we were not treated badly, but it’s quite sad to now know that if we were of different color, accent, looks, our experience might have been dangerously different.
Have you been back to America since then?
I lived in Florida for almost 6 years and experienced a few hurricanes, Katrina “scratched” us with only a little flooding as we were 3 hours drive away from New Orleans. I visited New Orleans several times before and after Katrina. Horrendous devastation! In Florida, I’ve been through a big hurricane and several tropical storms. I also visited many cities and states throughout the years. Dallas, Nashville, Atlantic City, NYC, Philadelphia, a small town in ND etc. Philly is my favorite city in America of those I visited. I love the Blue Ridge Mountains and Virginia. Strangely, I’ve never visited any state or city in the middle of the country.
Los Angeles in 1992 is certainly my most memorable time, due to the riots and first impressions of the country. The different states are different in culture it seems. The vastness of the country with all climates, winter and tropical weather etc. makes the culture, as well as the food, very diverse.
We’d like to thank our new friend for sharing her very unique experience visiting the Cockatoo during the 1992 LA riots. For some more detail about that trip, visit this post on her blog, expret.org.