My wife Edye and I have called Los Angeles home since we moved our family here in 1963. I first visited LA in 1958. We were living in Detroit, and as we got off the plane, I knew I wanted to live in this city. I immediately liked the climate, the casual indoor-outdoor way of life, and the people were so friendly and well-tanned.
I remember when our airplane was in final approach to LA, someone on board said, "Look at it -- one big Queens" -- or as H.L. Mencken said, "72 suburbs in search of a city." But all that has changed, and people are taking pride in claiming ownership of this city.
So with apologies to Randy Newman and David Letterman, I offer the top 10 reasons I love LA (and you'll notice there's no mention of Hollywood, Disneyland, the weather or the beaches).
10. Diversity. I love the diversity of this city. People come from all walks of life, and they bring their cultures with them and celebrate their differences. This translates into everything from the best ethnic food to some of the most interesting conversations you can have anywhere in the world.
9. Sports. One word: Lakers. This year's NBA championship reminded us how good it is to be home to the best basketball team in the country. The Dodgers' close call with the National League championship series gave baseball fans hope. And I'm still optimistic that someday we'll again have a professional football team.
8. Architecture. Civilizations aren't remembered by their bankers or lawyers or accountants. They're remembered by their artists and architects. From the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry to the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral by Rafael Moneo to MOCA by Arata Isozaki to the Broad Contemporary Art Museum by Renzo Piano to the Caltrans building by Thom Mayne, we have great architecture all around us.
7. Universities and Colleges. Between USC, UCLA and Caltech, we have the brightest students and faculty anywhere in the world. These universities are at the vanguard of scientific and medical research, particularly in regenerative medicine and stem cell research. We also boast the country's best art schools with Arts Center College, CalArts, UCLA and USC.
6. Smart people. For all the jokes about our city's collective IQ, we have among the most PhDs and book-buyers anywhere in the world.
5. Museums. I've traveled the world, and there is no other city that has better museums. We have the encyclopedic Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the two venues of the Getty, and the Norton Simon Museum. In contemporary art, we have more square footage of gallery space than any city in the world with the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum. Los Angeles has more than 300 museums -- more than any other U.S. city -- making it truly one of the world's four cultural capitals, along with New York, Paris and London.
4. Downtown. Downtown Los Angeles has become the cultural, civic, sports and entertainment center for a region of 15 million people. Between the sports and entertainment venues of LA Live and the Staples Center and the cultural and civic center of Grand Avenue, with its pending $3 billion project including a 16-acre park and five-star hotel, Los Angeles finally has a burgeoning city center that is bringing city residents and worldwide tourists from around the city to its vibrant core.
3. Music. Gustavo Dudamel and Placido Domingo. Is it any wonder that the LA Philharmonic under the contagious energy of its new young conductor and LA Opera under the direction of the world's greatest tenor are drawing audiences from around the world? With Wagner's Ring Cycle production by LA Opera in 2010 and the accompanying Ring Festival featuring more than 50 cultural and arts organizations, our city's musical offerings will continue to be a magnet for music lovers of all ages.
2. Theater. Not many people know it, but we have more theaters and theatrical productions than New York or London. Granted, the theaters are spread throughout the city rather than being concentrated in a theater district. But there are some amazing productions -- big and small -- in our own backyard.
1. Meritocracy. LA is a great meritocracy. You can come here from any background, religion, family situation, political bent and you can be successful. I'm convinced that I've had more success in my life because I've lived in Los Angeles.