LOS ANGELES "Whatever it is, I'm against it!" Groucho Marx sang in a 1932 picture filmed on the Paramount lot here.
Today's Southern Californians seem to agree.
Once know for its sunny, freewheeling disposition, this region has long been as regulated as anywhere. Lately, however, cities, school districts and even libraries have been outlawing chunks of what used to pass for birthright at a startling clip.
Bonfires on the beach? Sorry, Gidget: Newport Beach is waiting for permission from the California Coastal Commission to remove its long-cherished fire pits, which it banned this summer as health hazards.
Newport's fleet of diesel-burning yachts are still OK, but napping in the city's libraries? Forbidden, as of July, along with any "use of perfume or fragrance" that interferes with librarians' "ability to perform duties."
The Los Angeles Unified School District, bowing to pressure from ecologically minded sixth-graders, two weeks ago banned plastic foam trays in cafeterias.
On Tuesday, California's Legislature passed a ban on psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight; the ban was proposed by a state senator from Redondo Beach and is believed to be the first of its kind. On Wednesday, the Legislature forbade the carrying of unloaded rifles in public.
California, of course, has lots of competition when it comes to aggressive bans. Witness the continuing brouhaha over New York City's proposed banishment of large sodas and other sugary drinks.
But exactly what happened to the Westerner, with his rugged independence and legendary love of freedom? When the frontiersman Kit Carson and company arrived starving in 1846, they ate their mules and pushed on.
But it wouldn't happen now: Californians banned the slaughter of mules for meat in 1998.
"The rugged West of mythic stature has long been a regulated place, if only because the federal government is such a presence as to public lands, public employees, public agencies, the military," said William Francis Deverell, a University of Southern California history professor and director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.
Actually, a frontier mentality of a sort does remain at least when it comes to banning. West Hollywood, which in 2003 became the first city in the country to prohibit the declawing of cats (soon followed by a ban on the purchase of puppy-mill puppies), has a first-in-the-nation ordinance barring the sale of fur beginning next September.
"Somebody has to take a stand," said Jeffrey Prang, West Hollywood's mayor. "We don't ban things on a whim. It's about impacting public policy more broadly; other cities follow us, partly because it gives them cover."
Prang said progressive groups looking to start grass-roots movements have come to realize that California's more liberal cities places like West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Berkeley are receptive to activist ordinances.
"We are approached by these kinds of groups all the time," Prang said, noting that prohibitions of cat declawing have spread across the country. (In the 1990s, West Hollywood also helped lead the nation in banning cheap guns known as Saturday night specials.)
Santa Monica made headlines in 1999 when it joined San Francisco in banning ATM fees. The courts blocked that one, but Santa Monica came back with a ban on tall hedges, briefly levying fines of $25,000 a day on violators.
A ban on circumcision ("male genital mutilation") was registered for the Santa Monica ballot last year, then dropped in an ensuing uproar but not before state legislators got to work on a law banning circumcision bans. It was passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.
In June, Santa Monica nixed Christmastime Nativity scenes in its parks, after tolerating them for 60 years. (Atheists wanted park space, too.) But that beach town really earned its bones in the ban business with smoking, which is outlawed almost everywhere, including the beach and at ATMs.
Private apartments are one exception, and the city spent much of the summer embroiled in a battle over closing that loophole. Eventually, the push to forbid smoking in apartments was dropped, partly because it would complicate the smoking of medical marijuana.
Richard Bloom, Santa Monica's mayor, who is now running for the state Assembly, did not respond to calls or emails, but Prang summed up the situation rather neatly: "Once you start reaching inside people's living rooms, it's a little too close for comfort."
The fur ban enraged a lot of people, too. "How about outlawing the wearing of ugly clothes?" one letter-writer, identified as Helpful Heroine, ranted to the LA Weekly in August.
Meanwhile, the injunctions continue in and around a city that suddenly seems bent on living up to its angelic name.
Stars in pornographic movies will soon be wearing condoms, if nothing else, assuming county voters approve a November ballot proposition that bans unprotected sex in movies.
Foie gras was supposed to disappear from the restaurants on July 1, in the face of a statewide ban (foodies dubbed it "foie-maggedon").
Los Angeles in May became the largest city in the nation to ban the workaday plastic bag, which though recycled by dog walkers everywhere is an environmental nuisance.
Like Santa Monica, Angelenos will soon require grocery shoppers to bring their own reusable bag or pay 10 cents each for the paper kind.
Western defiance lives on, of course. California may be the only state left in America that still allows the wild and woolly practice of lane-splitting riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic.
But Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, who is in charge of the Marine Corps installations south of Los Angeles, recently decided to take a page from Groucho. As of June, Camp Pendleton and its adjuncts in Barstow and Miramar have banned the practice.