TRAVEL: Southern California – Hollywood

So far, this LA sightseeing tour had given me the big city grime of Downtown Los Angeles, but I wanted the stars. I wanted to meet face to face with the Spirit of Hollywood – an exclusive one on one. Then, I wanted to capture the essence of celebrity, bottle it, and sell it to the highest bidder.

So there I was, armed with a digital camera, a rough map of some celebrities’ homes, and a keen eye. I was ready for Hollywood.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON THE DIONASAURUS BLOG:

Dion and Jessie booked themselves a sightseeing tour of Los Angeles with a cool local black tour guide called Mike. Hoping to find glamorous stardom, they had only come across American gangland suburbs, hordes of homeless zombies in gritty Downtown LA, and many, many Mexicans. Would this tour ever take them to the bright lights of Hollywood? Was Mike even a real tour guide? And even if you can take the man out of the hood, is it possible to take the hood out of the man?

Find out now, as The Dionasaurus Blog continues…

After spending the first half of the tour in and around Downtown LA, I had seen enough of the hard streets, and I was hungry for the high life. I could smell celebrities – all of their personalised fragrances and the sweat of their Mexican houseworkers. We were close.

The public restrooms where singer George Michael revealed himself to an undercover cop.

At some point, the houses and buildings began to look a little more respectable and soon enough, we were turning onto the Sunset Strip and into Beverly Hills. We saw where Lindsay Lohan crashed her car into the curb when she got her DUI conviction and we saw the restrooms where singer George Michael propositioned an undercover cop. Propositioned him with his genitalia.

A celebrity's home.

After seeing where celebrities like to hang out and get arrested, we moved on to seeing where they live, with a tour of their homes. For this part of the tour, you slowly drive around looking at all the nice, big houses, and you click away on your camera, but that’s where it started to feel a bit odd for me. You hear “So-And-So used to own this house”, or “Mr Whats-His-Face owns this place, but spends most his time in his country chateau in Southern France”. I quickly realised that I was snapping away at houses as if the photos would be something exciting, but they weren’t. In fact, I ended up with a lot of photos of big houses and I couldn’t even remember who owned them, and who cares? You can see photos of their houses online. You can even see photos of the celebrities themselves online. Everything I was seeing seemed so far detached from the celebrity life I’d seen in the media, and it was at this point that I decided to put the camera away and the only celebrity-related occurrence that would bring it out was if I spotted something like Ricky Martin kissing a woman or Mel Gibson shouting and throwing things at a tour bus full of Jews.

The oh so fancy shops of Rodeo Drive.

After a taste of how the rich and famous live, we had a brief stopover at Rodeo Drive for a taste of how they shop. All I feel I can say about this place, me being a male, is that its reputation precedes it, and overstates it. From a guy’s point of view, it just seemed like a fancy block of shops, with fancy jewellery and clothes stores, and a few fancy restaurants. For the record, I bought a coffee from Rodeo Drive, and it was average.

When we hit the road again, I started to catch glimpses of familiar hillside letters between the buildings, and I knew we had made it. We finally came out of the dim shadows of the city and emerged into the metaphoric bright lights of Hollywood.

Trying on Johnny Depp's shoes.

There, we found the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and many movie-themed souvenir shops. After a few minutes of standing in the cemented footprints of actors like Johnny Depp and Sean Connery, I started to feel that peculiar celebrity detachment again, and found more fun in seeing which stars had smaller feet than me, and after getting bored of that, it was time for a stroll along Hollywood Boulevard.

A look down Hollywood Boulevard.

As you walk along in Hollywood, you will find a lot of familiar movie characters walking around trying to get money for posing for tourist photos. There’s the Frankenstein monster, Darth Vader, and even Rambo, all edging up to you, hoping for a few dollars. Even Marilyn Monroe was down on cash! However, unless it was the real thing walking up to me and offering me a photo op for money, I wasn’t biting. Yet one character that really stood out to me was Spiderman. Jessie and I passed the masked hero pretending to crawl along next to a building as we were snapping photos of the Hollywood scene, but on returning, we passed the same hero, only this time, we saw him in a very different light. With his mask off, sitting on a windowsill ledge and sucking on a cigarette, we saw his true identity – a tired old man, possibly in his late 40s, unshaven and dishevelled with sweaty grey hair. This got me thinking. At what point does one have to get to realise that they’ve really got distracted from their starry-eyed dreams of fortune and fame, and are now glorified beggars pretending to be other people? Did this man come to Hollywood in hopes of posing for tourist photos, or did he want to be a movie star? This man suddenly summed up Hollywood for me, as dreamers flock to this city like moths to a hot light bulb, and quickly forget that their lives are burning away. With that said, I really wish I took a photo of this man in this way. But then I would’ve had to pay him for the photo, and he’d probably just go and blow the money I gave him on buying DVDs anyway, and so continues the vicious cycle of the Hollywood dreamer.

I should mention now that we lost one guy on our tour in Hollywood. I’d like to say that he was a good man, reliable, and trustworthy, but I can’t, because he was annoying. At each stop on the tour, he was late for our scheduled rendezvous, and he was warned by our tour guide Mike that he will leave people behind if they are late. So after everyone else was on the shuttle bus, three minutes after our set meet-up time, we drove on. Part of me wonders if he got caught up in the Hollywood dream, and got a small part on a daytime soap opera. A wiser part of me knows that he simply turned up late, and had to spend a fortune on Los Angeles’ notoriously bad public transport system to get back to his motel.

The Hollywood hills.

After a quick view of the Hollywood sign and Downtown LA from the hills of Mulholland Drive, our next and final stop was Universal Studios. Located up in the Hollywood Hills, this theme park crossed with a live working film studio lot is like the official souvenir shop of Hollywood, where all the merchandise is licensed and therefore more expensive. Buying your souvenirs here means you can rest easy knowing that your money is paying for some rich producer’s fourth offshore home. Beyond the retail, Universal Studios does offer some decent movie-themed rides, original film props, and a really great studio tour for all those interested in the behind the scenes magic.

Universal CityWalk.

Just outside Universal Studios, you’ll find Universal CityWalk – a big, open-air mall made up of mostly of movie-themed gift stores and restaurants (including a Hard Rock Cafe). This means that you can buy all your movie souvenirs without having to pay the admission fee for Universal Studios.

And with that, the tour was over. We were picked up by a bigger bus, minus the one guy we lost, and taken back to our respective motels. We had hoped to get a taste of celebrity life, but it felt more like we had simply rummaged through their trash. Beverly Hills showed us big gates hiding private mansions that at one point may have been home to someone famous, or someone related to someone famous. After not a single celebrity sighting, it seemed that celebrities were like ghosts – invisible unless they were working. Hollywood Boulevard showed us that many people have found the home of the Hollywood dream, but are still searching endlessly for the key to fame, and they’ll keep searching until they’ve forgotten what they were looking for in the first place.

So the Hollywood dream and the big stars had eluded me, and I returned to my Anaheim motel somewhat deflated. However, that night, the Spirit of Hollywood ghost came to me in my room (in the form of the brilliant Bill Murray) and he told me not to fear, because there was plenty more to America that I had yet to experience. I tried to take a few quick photos of the celebrity ghost, for the magazines or at least Facebook, and although none of the photos turned out (they were just white blurs), I went to sleep happy knowing that tomorrow was a brand new day in the United States of America.

Introducing the Spirit of Hollywood ghost, as portrayed by Bill Murray.

 


Background:

Jessie and I booked the full day Los Angeles Grand Tour with Los Angeles Sightseeing Tours and Charters for $56 (USD) per person. Despite losing a member on the tour group (an annoying guy who would show up late at the end of each stop), we felt that the tour was so good that we felt absolutely no bitterness in leaving a generous tip with the driver / tour guide. The tour company operates out of Santa Monica, and offers pick-up and drop-off from most LA / Anaheim motels.


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