Shine Gallery

All shop-a-holics eventually find their way to stores that are completely indulgent.  These are the kinds of places that either hock luxe items which are way overpriced, or sell gadgets and doo-dads that you really have no need for.  One place that has consistently drawn us in time and time again with the latter tactic is Shine Gallery, a treasure trove of dead-stock vintage ephemera located in the Original Farmers Market of Los Angeles.  In fact, if we were rich, we would probably just buy the entire store outright!

The proprietors of Shine Gallery search the world over for merchandise that has been left abandoned in old warehouses, factories and stores long since closed down.  According to their website, they are actually one of the few “gallery” vendors in all of America with access to the large quantities of unused items you’ll find on display.

While inventory spans the decades from the 1910s all the way up to the ‘70s, we have been particularly fond of the circus/ carnival and magic favors from the 1930s, the wacky ethnic items from Mexico, Japan and beyond, as well as the store’s plentiful cadre of political and name badges from the 1950s and ‘60s.  (If you’ve ever needed to find a present for someone named Myrtle, Gordon, Junior or Dick, this is the place to shop!)

Looking for vintage dime store plastic baby dolls or sewn-on patches from your favorite gas station?  Shine Gallery’s got ‘em - and often in their original packaging.  Unopened bubble gum cards, paper popcorn bags, original kazoos?  It’s all here.  And since everything is arranged and displayed as if this were a real gallery, it’s the perfect place to wander in after eating some Farmers Market ice cream.  Set of Drifters tip:  Don’t forget your wallet.  We have have yet to leave this all-too-special joint without buying something classic ‘n quirky!

Shine Gallery - 6333 West 3rd   Street, # 134, Los Angeles, CA  90036, (323) 954-4700 and

Wacko Soap Plant/ La Luz de Jesus Gallery

A perennial favorite spot of ours in which to waste money has to be Wacko Soap Plant.  Situated in the colorful enclave of Los Feliz, Wacko and its predecessors have been catering to Hollywood hipsters (and the friends who love them) for over 40 years.  The funny thing about this wacky place is that there’s barely an item within its 6,500 sq. feet of retail space that you actually need.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t want everything!

As the name implies, Wacko began as a small handmade soap boutique in the early 1970s.  A family-run outfit, the store soon grew in such leaps and bounds over the next couple decades that it absorbed the much-loved gallery La Luz de Jesus.  Together, the proprietors of both “storefronts” offer some of the most unusual and unique gifts in all of Hollywood.  Naturally, however, it’s the more familiar pop culture and kitsch that first catches the eye.  Ever hanker for a Twinkie Cookbook?  No problem.  How about a wind-up Japanese Anime rendition of Wonder Woman?  If it’s not on sale already, it soon will be.  (According to their website, Wacko boasts over 2 million unique items!  That’s a lot of bar codes.)

Art mavens will choke on the unprecedented collection of photography, design and architecture tomes that are meticulously arranged on shelves according to topic and era.  And those looking to add fun touches to their tiki, “Dia de los Muertos” or graffiti-inspired homes could do a lot worse with what’s on offer here.  (Was that a vintage United Airlines menehune we saw last time?)  Nevertheless, we bet the haunted paintings and petrified dolls on display at La Luz de Jesus just may serve as Wacko’s most long-lasting impressions.  Luckily, the pieces displayed here, by both established and up-and-coming artists, are priced relatively cheap, making this quite possibly the place to find that one-of-a-kind LA souvenir.

Wacko Soap Plant - 4633 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA  90027, (323) 663-  0122

shopping on Venice’s Abbott Kinney

Though Venice, CA is probably best known for its storied boardwalk, the trashy beachfront walkway that attracts equal parts surfer, tourist and drug-addled freak, the community has been given a much-needed shot in the arm via a recent virtual celebrity takeover.  This Hollywood cache has sent Venice’s home prices soaring, and in response, has forced retailers to up their ante in terms of the goods and services they provide to new clientele.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the diagonal thoroughfare named after the plucky developer who founded the town.  To be perfectly honest, there’s much on Abbott Kinney that is completely out of our price range, and yet, unlike shopping experiences on Robertson or Melrose, what you’ll find here is mostly unique, and not dependant on the whims of whoever’s headlining this season’s most popular reality TV show.

While there are too many (great) individual shops to mention here, two of our Abbot Kinney faves include:

Waraku:  Specializing in obscure variations on popular sandals and trainers, many only found in Japan, Waraku is one of Set of Drifter Brady’s favorite shops in all of Los Angeles.  In fact, it’s quite rare for him to leave the space without at least one pair of colorful Adidas or Puma under his arm.  That being said, Waraku also impresses with top-notch quality graffiti and Pop Art-inspired clothing that is eye-catching as it is fair in price.  Tell them we said “Konnichiwa.”

Waraku - 1225 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA  90291, (310) 452-5300,

A+R:  Yet another of those places that sells items you probably don’t really need, but desperately want, A+R will mesmerize you with its impeccable taste.  The love child of a British ex-pat film editor (Andy) and a pop culture journalist (Rose), A+R began seducing modern design addicts in Silver Lake in 2005.  Two years later, they brought their unique assemblage of home accessories, stationary, toys and electronics to Abbot Kinney’s burgeoning boutique community.  We love their Pantone-inspired coffee mug series and retro-styled cell phone handsets that are sure to make any eavesdropper blush!  We think you will too!

A+R - 1121 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA  90291, (310) 392-9128,

Venice Vintage Paradise:  Looking for some of the best vintage in town?  Look no further than the aptly named Venice Vintage Paradise.  Though this shopfront has moved from the "heart" of Abbot Kinney, it still boasts some of the most decadent retro furnishing and clothing in town.  Expect prices to start a little high, but don’t be afraid to talk out a deal with the friendly staff.  If you buy more than one item, they’re willing to cut a deal.  If you like authenticity, color and drama in your retro stylings, than this is your new home away from home!

Venice Vintage Paradise - 2304 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA  90291, (310) 968-9904,

playing dress-up for West Hollywood's annual Halloween Parade

If you happen to be a fan of all things Halloween, a visit to the West Hollywood’s annual parade should be on your ultimate bucket list.  Sure, it’s similar to the mayhem in New York City's Greenwich Village, or the extravaganza that abounds in San Francisco's Castro each year, but thanks to Los Angeles’s favorable weather, the outfits you’ll see on Santa Monica Boulevard are typically skimpier, sexier and naughtier than anywhere else.  And with Hollywood’s special effects mavens so eager to impress the masses, chances are you’ll also witness some of the scariest and most elaborate costumes in your life.  We encountered a giant four-legged alien a few years back that towered above the crowd.  We still cannot figure out how they managed to traverse down the street.  That being said, the West Hollywood Halloween Parade is much easier to maneuver than the New York or San Francisco debacles thanks to some rather wide boulevards and skillful crowd management.

So the big question is... what to wear?  One year, Set of Drifter Brady donned a Maharaja get-up dripping in red and gold embellishments while Doug dressed up as “Lady Gaga from Next Year’s Video Music Awards.”  Sadly, most of the crowd did not get it, though we imagine the small third arm coming out from his crotch region probably had something to do with the mystification!

If you’re in town for Halloween in West Halloween and feel like dressing to impress, may we recommend two of our favorite costume shops?  First up, check out Ursula’s Costumes on Wilshire Boulevard.  The proprietor of this decades-old shop in Santa Monica is a total hoot and truly wants to help you complete whatever look you’re trying to achieve.  We’ve used Ursula’s always packed inventory to transform ourselves into everything from aliens to 1920’s Dapper Dan’s.  Set of Drifters tip:  Since the shop is quite crowded with merchandise, may we recommend visiting during the week when you will have less people to fight with getting down an aisle.

Another fave of ours is the incredible costume warehouse of Robinson’s Beautilities.  This place has it all - from Sci-Fi horror masks and full Astronaut suits to mile-high drag queen wigs and Carnival headpieces.  (And the rental prices are surprisingly reasonable!)  Of course, during Halloween season, this place is out of control busy, so if you’re looking for that perfect Renaissance doublet or 1950’s “Pink Ladies” get-up, plan ahead.  While the new management may not know specific movie references that well, they will be able to steer you in the right direction through their massive inventory based on your chosen era or ethnicity.  Robinson’s Beautilities will sell you their costume pieces as well - if the price is right - though most of their income comes from three-day rentals, and apparently, a cadre of new pinball machines and video games that has recently been added to distract children!

Ursula’s Costumes - 2516 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA  90403, (310) 582-8230,

Robinson Beautilities - 12320 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA  90066, (310) 398-5757,

We also recommend:

Poketo - 820 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013, (213) 537-0751,

Storefront LA - 801 1/2 A Traction Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90013, (213) 293-7352,

Popkiller - 343 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 489-4062,

Raggedy Threads - 330 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 620-1188,

Amoeba Music - 6400 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA  90028, (323) 245-6400,

Olivera Street Market - 125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 628-1274,

Hubba HUbba - 3220 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505, (818) 845-0636 ‎

It’s A Wrap - 3315 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505, (818) 567-7366,

American Way Thrift Store - 3226 W Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505, (818) 841-6013,

Hidden Treasures - 154 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga, CA 90290, (310) 455-2998,

Topanga Home Grown - 120 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga CA 90290, (310) 455-8781,

Obsolete - 222 Main Street, Venice, CA 90291, (310) 399-0024,