LOS ANGELES — It’s lunchtime, and Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters behind the fashion label Rodarte, are at Pink’s Hot Dogs, a historic restaurant in Los Angeles. This fast-food treasure at 709 North La Brea Avenue has grown from a single pushcart in 1939 to its current location, a sprawling indoor-outdoor picnic-table setup marked by a line of customers stretching along the avenue and around the corner down Melrose.
The Mulleavys are fueling up for a tour of their favorite design-themed spots. This being Los Angeles — and the sisters being locals and film fanatics, who just two days ago staged their first fashion show on their home turf, with silhouettes inspired by Hollywood musicals — each stopping place on the itinerary has a movie tie-in. Or several.
“Pink’s shows up in so many films,” says Kate, 40. She vividly remembers the Pink’s scene in “Minnie and Moskowitz” (1971), whose director, John Cassavetes, was a fan. David Lynch would swing by three decades later to film parts of “Mullholland Drive.”
Laura, left, and Kate Mulleavy, the sisters behind the fashion label Rodarte, stopped for a meal at Pink’s Hot Dogs in Los Angeles.
“When I heard the Rodarte girls were coming to Pink’s, I had this very pregnant pause,” says Gloria Pink, who runs the family business with her husband, Richard, and sister-in-law Beverly. “High fashion … and hot dogs? But it goes.” The Mulleavys are served 12-inch jalapeño dogs, fries, onion rings and Diet Cokes. Additional dogs are stacked on a platter with “Pink’s Loves Kate and Laura” elegantly written on the wieners in condiment. “Wow, the mustard work is really impressive,” says Laura, 38.
More than designers, the Mulleavy sisters are creative connectors. They partnered with Darren Aronofsky on many of the costumes for his 2010 ballet film “Black Swan” They directed Kirsten Dunst in the 2017 thriller “Woodshock.” They worked with Frank Gehry on reimagining “Don Giovanni” for a 2012 Los Angeles Philharmonic production at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The sisters looked at the celebrity photos at Pink’s Hot Dogs in Los Angeles as Beverly Pink Wolfe, left, and Gloria Pink, rear, who run the restaurant, point out their favorites.
Many of their collaborations began at the next stop: the 100-year-old Musso & Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Boulevard. There, career waiters serve throwback dishes from largely unchanged menus to actors and industry types tucked into rows of crimson leather booths. Each booth has its original brass hat rack.
“If we are going to meet someone we might work with, we will usually have our first meeting there,” says Kate. The sisters consider it a litmus test for a successful partnership. They will ask to be seated in Marilyn Monroe’s booth and will likely order steak or the mac and cheese made with bucatini. They swear by the restaurant’s very stiff martini. “I also love how they serve them,” says Kate. “In a carafe with small martini glasses.”
“We’ve actually never been to the High Tower,” Kate confides, “but we’ve always loved it from ‘The Long Goodbye,’” Robert Altman’s 1973 movie in which a hunky Elliott Gould plays Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe. In the film, Marlowe lives surrounded by sybarites at High Tower Court, a secluded residential complex in the Hollywood Hills.
We climb a steep hill to a sort of hidden entrance deep in the slope. Farther up is Alta Loma Terrace, a car-free microhood of small houses and apartments backing into a piece of sky behind the Hollywood Bowl. Developed in the first half of the previous century, the area incorporates the 1923 Otto Bollman House designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright), as well as a five-story private elevator built in the 1920s to look like an Italian bell tower (2178 High Tower Drive).
The sisters step quickly into and out of an old old-fashioned elevator car. It is a no-go without a key, and they are wary of trespassing. Outside, they start taking selfies.
“Now we are heading to Pasadena,” Laura says, which is their home. “Einstein lived in the house next door to ours, when he was a visiting professor at Caltech,” adds Kate. “We met someone recently whose grandmother used to rent the house to him. She said he was always on time with his rent.”
At 1000 Mission Street in South Pasadena, we arrive at the clapboard house with a rocking-chair front porch that represented the home of the spooky psychopath Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s 1978 movie “Halloween.” (Scheduled for demolition, it was rescued and moved to this spot a block away.) “The houses, the trees, the light,” says Kate. “Even today you can totally feel those scenes when Jamie Lee Curtis is driving and being followed.”
Stepping out of the car, we take a closer look at the building, which sits on a corner and faces a railroad track. A train is approaching, and the crossing bell sounds a low and tinny warning. “It’s like we our getting our very own Halloween theme,” Laura says.
The sisters, who count Halloween as their favorite holiday, skip up the few steps to what is currently a real estate office. “The sign on the door says, ‘Movie fans, please don’t disturb tenants,’” Kate yells from the porch, taking a photo of the sign. “That should be the name of this article!”
The next stop is another Pasadena residence worthy of its own IMDB page. “I think Castle Green must be where they filmed Gena Rowlands’s apartment in ‘Opening Night,’” says Kate, showing us photos of the set on her phone. The 1977 film, a cult Cassavetes drama about an aging Broadway actress, makes generous use of dark wood and plush red textiles.
Castle Green (99 South Raymond Avenue) was built at the turn of the 20th century as part of a hotel complex targeting affluent Easterners who had come to town to see the Tournament of Roses. Now an apartment complex and private event space, the seven-story Mediterranean- and Moorish-style building is impeccably preserved.
“This place definitely feels haunted,” says Kate as we wander around the complex. Vast, frozen in time and with not a resident in view, it is like the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” only with much better weather.
Dior Chase, the venue’s events coordinator, greets us, and while she notes that movies including “The Sting” and “The Last Samurai” were filmed there, she cannot confirm “Opening Night.” Kate and Laura spin through the ballroom, up to the top floor, down to the ladies’ room and out through the gardens.
The adventure is coming to a close. “We just love Avalon Vintage,” says Laura of their favorite consignment shop, which buys and sells secondhand fashion, as well as classic vinyl (106 North Avenue 56). While many designers thumb through vintage shop racks for inspiration, the sisters prefer to spend hours at this Highland Park institution simply chatting with its owners, Carmen Hawk and Rodney Klein.
But fatigue from their fashion show has caught up, and they decide to talk about Carmen and Rodney instead of paying a planned visit.
“They have such an incredible eye and wealth of knowledge about film and music history,” says Laura. “We shop there mainly for gifts and sometimes ourselves.” Their favorite find? Vintage Bette Davis and Joan Crawford 1970s T-shirts from the store’s Lonely Ladies series. They have not, however, worn them out on the same night — yet.