In “Licorice Pizza,” a teenager constantly pursuing new business plans falls in love with a woman in her early twenties who isn’t quite sure where she is going, but is willing to move on.
Together, Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and Alana Kane (Alana Haim, a native of the Valley) travel through Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley by car, truck and on foot. Their adventures in show business and local politics have crossed them with a cast of vibrant characters, including a belligerent barber and a motorcycle movie star.
Gary and Alana’s indelible bond and the series of events that ensue make “Licorice Pizza” a delightful watch. But the movie promises an extra element of nostalgic cheer for those who grew up in the Valley or during the 1970s (or both). Several of the events, people, and places depicted in the story are based on reality.
We searched for some of the Easter eggs at “Licorice Pizza”, and this is what we found.
Spoiler Warning: This article contains some plot details for “Licorice Pizza.”
Gary Valentine is based on Gary Goetzman
Cooper Hoffman’s character is inspired by Gary Goetzman, friend of Paul Thomas Anderson and co-founder of Tom Hanks’ production company, Playtone. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Goetzman’s stories from his days as a child actor and waterbed salesman found their way into the film, Anderson saying Variety.
Goetzman even appeared in the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” with Lucille Ball and was joined by a local burlesque dancer on the New York press tour. “Lucille Ball was in her second marriage to Gary Morton, and she used to yell ‘Gary!’ all the time. That was my friend’s name, so I was like, ‘Shit, he’s yelling at me,’ Anderson said.
In “Licorice Pizza,” Alana joins Gary on the New York press tour for the movie “Under One Roof,” where he and the young cast perform a song with Ball’s understudy, Lucille Doolittle (Christine Ebersole). After Gary hits her with a pillow in the middle of the performance, Doolittle yells and chases him backstage.
The “licorice pizza” is named after a record store
While the project had many titles running, including “Soggy Bottom,” the name of Gary’s waterbed business, Anderson eventually landed on “Licorice Pizza.” Although you won’t find any of those foods in the movie, it’s a tribute to Licorice Pizza, Southern California. record store chain that existed in the 70s and 80s.
In turn, the name of the store comes from a routine of Abbott and Costello in which the duo tries to sell records or LPs. When they’re unsuccessful, they joke, “Well, we could sprinkle cornstarch on the bottom and sell them like liquorice pizzas.”
Although Licorice Pizza had locations in and around the Valley, including Encino and Canoga Park, the store itself does not appear in the film.
Tail O ‘The Cock was a real restaurant
Gary imagines himself as an adult showman (“That’s what I’m supposed to do”) trapped in the body of a teenager, so it makes sense for Tail O ‘The Cock to be his hangout. The upscale Studio City restaurant (and its older brother on La Cienaga’s Boulevard’s Restaurant Row) was frequented by celebrities including Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Robert Kennedy, according to the LA Times. Both restaurants closed in the mid-1980s.
The all-American restaurant, which production designer Florencia Martin and her team built from scratch, is featured multiple times in “Licorice Pizza.” It’s where Alana and Gary spend time together after initially meeting; later, Alana accompanies movie star Jack Holden (a stand-in for actor William Holden, played by Sean Penn) there to make Gary jealous.
The scenes were also filmed at a Japanese restaurant in Studio City and at the Van Nuys Golf Course, a stone’s throw from the Tail O ‘The Cock set and Van Nuys Airport. At a press screening on November 12, Martin said the crew had to build portable platforms to illuminate the scene where Jack performs a motorcycle stunt so as not to interfere with air traffic regulations.
Bradley Cooper’s character made it on the actually date Barbra Streisand
One of the most memorable performances in “Licorice Pizza” is Bradley Cooper as former hairstylist and film producer Jon Peters. As the “monster version” of his larger-than-life character, Peters asks Gary for a waterbed; She interrogates him about Peters’s girlfriend, Barbra Streisand; and then terrorizes the gas station employees.
In real life, Goetzman delivered waterbeds to Peters’ house, and told Anderson that he was “the biggest guy in the world”. He dated Streisand for 12 years after they appeared in 1973, and worked as her hairdresser for films such as 1976’s “A Star Is Born.” In the 1980s, he achieved great success with the films “Flashback,” Eastwick “and” Batman “.
And in 2017, he produced the remake of “A Star Is Born,” starring, written and directed by none other than Bradley Cooper.
Joel Wachs actually ran for mayor in 1973
After Alana survives driving a moving truck downhill with an empty tank, she decides to rebuild her life. That leads her to volunteer for councilman Joel Wachs’s (Benny Safdie) mayoral campaign.
“Licorice Pizza” covers the early stages of the campaign. In real life, Wachs lost the election but served on the Los Angeles City Council for 30 years. In 1999, he came out as gay, an aspect of his identity that is mentioned in the film.
Talking to KCRW About the film, Wachs said he wants people to see his story as proof that social change is possible with enough time and effort.
“When they see a movie like this and they see things performed 50 years ago, a lot of people weren’t alive back then. But as someone who was alive then and is still alive today, I can look back and see that huge changes have been made, “he said.