American times Los Angeles: This party ain't big enough for the both of us

SPENDING THE millennium celebrations in Los Angeles sounds about as much fun as hooking up your living room to a car exhaust pipe with the engine running: who wants to contemplate the next thousand years under a blanket of smog, urban blight, gang warfare and endless suburbs?

That, at least, is the jaundiced view from the millennial organisers in San Francisco, LA's perennial rival and a city now frantically trying to boost its own stock as the celebration draws closer. Ask a San Franciscan what he would think of travelling 350 miles south for the dawn of the 21st century, and he will probably refer you to Strange Days, the apocalyptic Ralph Fiennes movie that envisioned downtown LA on New Year's Eve 1999 as the monstrous scene of a running battle between rioting crowds and crypto-fascist police units.

Los Angeles may not have pastel houses, trolley cars or the Golden Gate Bridge, but it does have the crucial advantage of sheer size and the capacity to attract saturation media coverage. Come 1 January, every television camera in America will be pointing at the Rose Parade, the traditional array of giant floats that passes through the streets of Pasadena, northeast of downtown LA. (Estimated TV audience: up to 350 million people).

The night before, at the stroke of midnight, there will be a laser display at the Hollywood sign, one of the essential symbols of the century now passing. And that's not to mention the 2,000 Mexican folk dancers downtown, the 2,000 gospel singers in the traditional African America Crenshaw district, the 2,000 drummers at the port in San Pedro, the 2,000 line dancers hopping through the San Fernando Valley, plus myriad sky shows, firework displays and all-night dances.

Until recently, San Francisco had hoped to better all of that with a stunning fireworks and laser display on the Golden Gate Bridge. The aim was to make as much noise as a century ago, when San Francisco was in its heyday and LA barely a blip on the map. The 1899 end-of-year party was described by the Examiner newspaper at the time as "a tide of feverish life, tooting horns, crashing cymbals, jangling bells, beating cans, utilising every noise-producing device that ingenuity had heretofore produced and others that were unheard and undreamed of until last night".

Alas, not this time. A few days ago, the city abruptly cancelled the laser show at the bridge and a big fireworks display outside City Hall. Two reasons were given. The first was that the city had not raised the $3m (pounds 1.85m) necessary to stage the event. The second was a protest by environmentalists who worried that revellers near thebridge would damage the national parkland on either side.

"As the time zones change around the world," said Mary Currie, an official with the bridge, "there will be celebrations in Hong Kong, Paris, New York, but San Francisco probably will not leave a lasting impression."

Nobody could be more delighted about this than the powers that be in Los Angeles. The cancellations were reported in gleeful detail in the LA Times and held up as proof that San Francisco, for all its posturing and claims to cultural superiority, can't hold a candle to the multicultural chic and sheer energy of the capital of the movie industry.

The deeper truth, however, is that both cities' millennial bashes are in trouble. Across the US, hotel bookings have fallen short of expectations. Rather like the solar eclipse, the millennium has been sold as such a mob scene that most people have decided to stay at home.

As hotel prices have tumbled, LA and San Francisco have started savaging New York, boasting they will have better weather and more compelling entertainment than the ball-dropping ritual in Times Square. As Richard Riordan, LA's mayor, said: "Who wants to see someone drop the ball?"

The only city to stay out of the slanging matches has been Las Vegas, which is already booked solid for the period. Hotel rates there have jumped up to tenfold to meet demand. No wonder LA and San Francisco are so mad.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little