Barf me out! Even Valley Girls grow up

Sherman Oaks, shrine to a curious 1980s Californian cult, is to close. Andrew Gumbel gives the last rites

IT WAS, like, totally awesome. It was the shopping mall that defined its generation, the place to hang out in the early 1980s if you happened to be a member of that remarkable southern Californian species known as the Valley Girl.

Y'know, the kinda person who, like, buys shoes and stuff, and paints her nails like some really gross colour and talks about how bitchin' all the guys are and, like, says the word "like" a lot.

But times have moved on, and the Sherman Oaks Galleria is no longer the pivotal attraction that it once was. The teenagers of the San Fernando Valley - Los Angeles's quintessential suburban community, north of the Hollywood Hills - have headed on to new hang-outs. Business has slumped. And now the owners of the mall have decided to close the place down and refashion the whole thing from scratch.

Most of the outlets have disappeared already, including the much-fetishised local branch of The Gap, and the rest have been ordered out by April. Already there is a ghostly air to the lonely corridors and barely used escalators. The third floor Food Court, scene of a thousand teenage romances and as many unromantic break-ups, has been reduced to a Chinese takeaway and a Mexican sandwich shop where refugees from the last closing-down sales sit forlornly on the plastic bucket seats and munch alone.

Last week, the mall's anchor tenant, the Robinsons May department store, launched its everything-must-go closing-down sale, flogging sewing machines, crystal glasses and cotton shirts at 50 per cent off. Young married couples and elderly women came flocking to pick over the bargains, but there was barely a teenager in sight.

"Times have moved on. The Valley Girls have matured, grown up and had children of their own," reflected Mee Lee, spokeswoman for the Galleria's owners, Douglas Emmett & Co. In other words, spending time at the mall has become as passe as trademark Valley Girl phrases like "gag me with a spoon" and "grody to the max".

The plan is to revamp the property primarily as office space, with restaurants, some high-end shops and 18 state-of-the-art cinema screens. The new-look Galleria will be ritzy and smart, according to Ms Lee, but it won't be the sort of place teenagers will want to spend time any more.

Many are the reasons cited for the Galleria's demise. Back in the early 1980s, when the place inspired such eminently forgettable teen movies as Valley Girl (starring a youthful Nicholas Cage) and Fast Times at Ridgemount High, the sanitised artificiality of the indoor mall was enough of a novelty to disguise the fact that this particular example of the genre was a poorly designed, bland white box.

Daughters of the early Reagan era, Valley Girls were forever aspiring to hip sophisti- cation, but lacked the privileged background and easy glamour of their counterparts over the mountains in Beverly Hills. The mall became their home from home, the place to ogle the latest fashions and impress the boys.

But then several things happened. First, Sherman Oaks became wealthier and more crowded, with the result that the Galleria got boxed in by other, newer buildings. Its once enviable position at the junction of two major freeways turned it instead into the neuralgic centre of a never-ending traffic jam. When an earthquake struck the area in 1994, the Galleria only became enmeshed in further chaos.

And then there was the style of the place - a bit quirky, a bit resistant to the mass chain phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1990s. The owners spent many of the past few years fighting with Robinsons May and arguing that the department store simply wasn't classy enough. Robinsons May, meanwhile, complained that the parking facilities were inadequate. Both sides were probably right.

There are those who see the fate of the Sherman Oaks Galleria as a symptom of things to come: perhaps not the demise of the mall itself, but at least the demise of an important part of mall culture. Americans may still love their malls - and Los Angeles is arguably the epicentre of the phenomenon - but it is a love based more on convenience than any lingering sense of romance.

Those that thrive do so because of convenient parking, intelligent layout, great shops and, often, an attractive array of entertainment and restaurants pitched at family groups rather than singles.

For the modern equivalent of Valley Girls, malls have become far less interesting than coffee bars and open-air promenades. Indoor hang-outs are strictly for mom and her friends - old Valley Girls who have grown up and "pruned out". Spending time at the Galleria would be, well, like, ohmygod, barf me out!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn