The secret in Los Angeles is about 8 miles long. It twists, turns, curves and cuts its way through iconic Sunset Blvd to the infamous Mulholland Drive. This secret, originally named Rancho de las Aguas (Ranch of Waters), was renamed Benedict Canyon after Edison A. Benedict, the Missouri homesteader who settled his family in the canyon in 1858.
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is also the city of Canyons. Of the four main canyons that make the cross between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood into the San Fernando Valley, Benedict Canyon is hands down the best. For decades, the crème de la crème of Hollywood directors, actors, writers wealthy socialites knew the secret and very smartly kept it to themselves.
Past celebrated residents such as director King Vidor – whose 17 room mansion was later sold to producer Jon Peters, Charlie Chaplin – who lived down the street and was a regular at Vidor’s Sunday tennis games as was another neighbor, Cary Grant, turned their canyon into a luxurious artistic colony.
It has been an eclectic mix of who’s who on Benedict Canyon. Ann Margaret and Jacqueline Bisset are still there as is Gene Simmons from Kiss but both Eddie Murphy and Cher have sold their houses.
The reasons that Benedict Canyon has remained such a hidden treasure are both practical, emotional and a mixture of humanistic and naturalistic. Because of the canyon’s width and direct proximity to Beverly it is the smoothest and easiest canyon to traverse. The could go from the studio’s in Burbank over Benedict and be sitting at the bar at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel down on the corner of Benedict and Sunset, martini in hand, in no time. To be so close to Beverly Hills, today a drive down the hill, and to the shops down the other side in the “Valley,” yet still live in the country is unique. The canyon has a Mediterranean Ecosystem and its native Chaparral, California Sycamores Coast Live Oaks keep it and will continue to keep it “the country.”
If anyone is ever in doubt, the evening flight of a hawk or golden eagle is a beautiful reminder. Not so beautiful is a late night spotting of a coyote or a deer in the road but again, it is country.
The community itself has banded together under the banner of the Benedict Canyon Association. Started in 1948 it is dedicated to preserving the beauty, safety environment of the canyon. And that it has. It is the only canyon that remains commerce free. The Association showed its might in 2009 when a property was sold and the plans were to turn it into a mansion/ Disney Park. The group had to fight hard, and that they did, to put a stop to something that according to the buyer’s blueprints would have been significantly out of place in the neighborhood.
Going from celebs, sycamores and golden eagles to the practical beauty of Benedict, not five from the top of the Canyon is The Beverly Glen Center.
The Glen Center, as locals call it, has a dry cleaner, 2 trendy clothing stores, a Pilate’s studio and the best pharmacy in LA. The Center feels more like a small village where shopkeepers know every child’s name than a shopping strip.
The Glen Deli is the hub and heart of the Center. If someone’s child acts up while Karen, the Aussie waitress who’s been there literally forever is on duty, she’ll have that kid in line acting like Price George in a nanosecond. A late morning bagel stop at the deli will bring with it a celebrity spotting for sure as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Jon Voight are breakfast regulars. Not to mention Frank Stallone is a regular performer at the local nighttime hotspot – Vibrato Grill Jazz.
In both the practical and emotional vein, one of the most precious and hard to find features anywhere today that Benedict Canon has in abundance is privacy. It is subtle, unspoken, yet ever palatable. I have called Benedict Canyon my home for the past 40 years. It has truly been my sanctuary. In a world, in a country, in a city where privacy is disappearing, to live in a place that allows you a sense of beauty and privacy is becoming a dream. Or a well-kept secret.