West Covina Star in Hit Series ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’
Photos by Katherine Vallera
A typical Sunday night found me scrolling through Netflix when my friend suggested I watch a show called “Crazy Ex Girlfriend.” It was not long before I was sucked into a binge watch of the CW’s musical comedy. The series, which currently has a 96 approval approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is about a lawyer from New York City who decides to move to West Covina, California.
Not because that’s where her ex boyfriend lives, of course. Beyond the dark character studies and ground breaking diversity, one of the more imaginative aspects of Crazy Ex Girlfriend is how it treats the city of West Covina like a character in itself. It’s a character portrayed as so loveable in the show that I thought it’d be fun to make its acquaintance in real life.
West Covina is located in the San Gabriel Valley within Los Angeles County, California. It makes for an easy day trip from the city of Los Angeles, about an hour’s drive from LAX or half an hour west of DTLA. Parking is easy all around town. It only takes an hour more or less to drive from West Covina to the beach in Orange County, despite the show’s assertion that West Covina is two hours from the beach or four hours in traffic.
Visitors who would like to stay for more than a day might consider the Fairfield Inn & Suites (3211 E Garvey Ave N) or The Pacific Palms Resort (1 Industry Hills Pkwy, City of Industry). Deputy City Manager Laura Minnich reports that while it’s hard to gauge whether Crazy Ex Girlfriend has had an impact on West Covina’s tourism, the city had a positive experience with filming the show and welcomes fans to come out and visit.
The biggest draw to West Covina for fans of Crazy Ex Girlfriend might be the various filming locations. I paid a visit to the sports facility Big League Dreams (2100 S Azusa Ave), which was renamed Home Base in the series. Filming took place at this complex for the pilot, most notably at the restaurant where Greg is a bartender. While the show had this set rebuilt on a soundstage for later episodes, fans will instantly recognize Greg’s bar from Big League Dreams. I went during the day on a Tuesday when there were no patrons at this establishment, which afforded me the opportunity to snap a photo standing behind the bar.
Fans that visit during the evenings or weekends can bring the whole family to Big League Dreams for a recreational outing. Before it was the setting for Crazy Ex Girlfriend, West Covina was known for being a baseball town with numerous baseball legends who have hailed from this city. Big League Dreams has five baseball fields that are replicas of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Angel Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Tiger Stadium, complete with audience murals. The complex has a playground, batting cages, and an indoor pavilion where they host soccer matches.
Just down the street from Big League Dreams is the 42-acre Galster Park (1620 E Aroma Dr), home to the West Covina’s wilderness nature center. While the park has yet to be featured in the show, it is another family attraction. The nature center is a great place to learn about the foliage and wildlife that is native to the San Jose Hills of Southern California. On the other side of town is Hearst Ranch (1227 S Orange Ave), a pioneer village and historical reenactment that offers children a hands-on learning experience. The best time to visit is during the Harvest Festival, which takes place annually on the third Saturday in October.
Just a short drive from Hearst Ranch is the plaza at the Lakes Entertainment Center outside the Edwards Theater (1200 Lakes Drive). This location served as the setting and inspiration for “Crazy Ex Girlfriend’s” animated theme song. It was also where they filmed Rachel Bloom, who plays the show’s lead character, as she was raised on a giant donut while singing the song “West Covina.” The plaza is the entertainment hub of this city, with even more shops and restaurants located on the other side of Glendora Avenue. I stopped in to peruse at a store called EmazingLights / iHeartRaves / INTO THE AM (220 S Glendora Ave), which specializes in rave gear and apparel. I thought this was unique because not every town offers a shop that lets you stock up on furry boot covers and hologram glitter plasma boy shorts.
A few doors down is a vegan eatery called One Veg World (178 S Glendora Ave), which is known for having a global menu that honors a wide variety of international cuisines. This restaurant is conveniently located between two of West Covina’s most notorious drinking holes, The Cove Cocktail Bar (146 S Glendora Ave) and The Royal Lounge (210 S Glendora Ave). Both of these venues serve food as well, because in West Covina the bars are required by law to have kitchens. This means that Spider’s, the late night dance club featured in Crazy Ex Girlfriend, does not exist. Instead, residents of West Covina said that the hottest nightlife can be found at El Pescador (1125 W Covina Pkwy). They reported that on Friday and Saturday nights, this Mexican bar and grill is hopping and it’s not unheard of for there to be a line out the door.
I stopped to chat with friendly locals at The Royal Lounge. With the air conditioning on high and no natural sunlight, this venue offered a cool oasis from the desert heat. The $1 Taco Tuesday special and $3.50 gin and tonics are easy on the wallet, while patrons sing karaoke on Fridays and Saturday nights. I spoke with a mother and daughter who were fans of “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and, like many residents of West Covina, couldn’t be happier that this show takes place in town.
“We look forward to seeing it,” said a Royal Lounge patron named Maureen, who works as a medical assistant, “Our family members talk about it. [The show] is crazy, but it’s good!” In fact, everyone I spoke to around town and at city hall seemed pleased with the show and the way that it portrays West Covina.
“The people in the show are normal, everyday people who go through real struggles and emotions like your average person would go through,” remarked bartender Jennifer Carter, who serves up cold drinks and good conversation at The Royal Lounge, “It’s almost easier to relate because it’s not really serious. It’s funny and [about] the crazy things that happen to people every day.”
One of my favorite aspects of “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” is the diversity in casting. The two female leads are played by average sized women, which is refreshing to me because I like to see a myriad of body types represented on television. The ex boyfriend and object of the main character’s affection is played by a Filipino American, while other characters on the show hail from a sundry of ethnic backgrounds. The interracial nature of their relationships feels wonted and natural, which is a testament to how far television has come since Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura first locked lips on Star Trek (“Plato’s Stepchildren”: 1968). Perhaps this image of melting pot America is one reason that “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” has been so successful.
“The diversity of the cast reflects very well on the diversity of the community,” remarked Nikole Bresciani, director for community services for the City of West Covina, earlier that day when I visited city hall. According to City-Data.com, the residents of West Covina identify themselves as approximately 53% Hispanic, 27% Asian, 14% Caucasian, 5% African and 1% Native American descent.
“West Covina has a diverse ethnic [population] now,” remarked Jennifer back at the Royal Lounge, “People get along here because it is a local city and everyone knows each other. We’re all connected…I think it [Crazy Ex Girlfriend] shows our town in a good light. It’s a family town, I loved growing up here.”
“There are some really nice neighborhoods here and good people,” Maureen added, “there’s a mixture of different cultures, fun friendly eateries, and the theaters are great. You can really enjoy yourself, [it’s] sunny California!”
Since West Covina seems to have such a strong personality, I asked Jennifer what kind of drink West Covina would order if he/she was a person. Her reply was whiskey, vodka and lots of beer. Maureen and her daughter, also named Maureen, thought West Covina would prefer Jack Daniels and 805, a California brew.
“[West Covina is] Outgoing, loud, and fun,” Jennifer commented before serving the Maureens another round, “Even though we’re not Hollywood, we try to bring what we can out this way and live life to the fullest. There [are] so many things this city has to offer. Just drive around town and end up where the road takes you.” That’s great advice for just about any great road trip, including a journey out to West Covina, the real breakout star in “Crazy Ex Girlfriend.”
More by Katherine Vallera
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