In a city full of affected eccentricity, John was an authentic eccentric.
He was not always easy to take; he was unpredictable—a dandy, a nut, charming, annoying, exuberant, depressed—but completely sincere. He looked interesting because he was interesting.
This was the man who told the corporate executives of Koo Koo Roo that they might be able to get permission to build one of their restaurants on Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of WeHo if the logo in their sign was in 3-D and if it revolved.
Only after talking to some other friends last night did I remember that I had a hand in his Glitter Stucco book. I think I was the first one to read the manuscript for Verso Press. The whole episode had escaped me because John was completely without literary vanity, and working with him and making suggestions (did I make any?) was so painless there was nothing to remember.
And he was a significant writer. His 1982 book Exterior Decoration did for Los Angeles architecture what The Velvet Underground & Nico did for pop music. Reyner Banham put his finger it on it as usual, when he noted its “profound disrespect.” There’s always a lot of disrespect in circulation, but how much of it is profound?
Mike Davis called him the “irrepressible leprechaun of LA planning: sowing ludic mischief and democratic hope in an otherwise bureaucratic desert.”
I can’t believe it.
Like Valéry, John preferred “the brilliance of the least fact that happens.” And fortunately for me—and a vast and extremely varied crowd of admirers throughout the world—John was a fact that happened to our lives that will endure.