Growing up I was always fascinated by Hollywood. Being a bigger than usual movie fan made it seem like some kind of Mecca; the place where all the magic happens. I was determined to visit the city of angels where dreams are supposed to come true. And sure enough, when I was 21 I finally managed to go there…only to discover it was a dump, full of bums, wannabes and tourists. I’m sure there’s a lesson or moral in there somewhere about how perceptions never measure up to reality…
Of course my disappointment as a young, naïve 21 year old hasn’t stopped me from revisiting LA, although this time - with 8 years of life experience behind me and my understanding of Hollywood slightly more reality based - I wasn’t looking for Mecca anymore.
The nice thing about visiting now was that the bubble was already burst, so it could only go up in my opinion. And it did. But more surprisingly it also went up in Joe’s; a first time visitor and the one who had originally vetoed us going in earlier versions of our trip. I convinced him that he really should see it at some point, so why not now?
It would be remiss to expect everything in LA to have improved since I was last here, Venice Beach is still scuzzy – we didn’t even bother parking the car, just drove on by – the bums, wannabes and tourists are still present everywhere, but something has changed. It seemed less overwhelming, less like a mythical land where movies are born, and more just like a regular city; like any other in the world.
We made our way to Rodeo Drive. Most of the shops were closed due to it being Sunday, but this was just as well really; it’s not like we could afford anything they had to offer anyway. After leaving the riches of Beverly Hills behind us we went over to visit young Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. We stopped in at the famed celebrity hotel, Chateau Marmont, but for some reason we didn’t feel welcome and made a quick exit.
Over on Hollywood Boulevard things were a lot more tourist orientated and I enjoyed recreating my last visit there by viewing the Hollywood sign from the exact same spot. We would have liked to get up close to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (and all the movie stars handprints), but the film premiere for ‘Legends of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’Hool’ was setting up so it was blocked off. Drat!
We followed the Walk of Fame instead and I was excited to find Cuba Gooding Jr’s star; not because I’m a huge fan, but because the last time I was there I actually saw him getting that very star! We also found Kevin Costner’s star; seems he’s our trips unofficial celebrity ambassador.
Another thing we felt we had to do was take a tour of the Kodak Theatre; home of the Oscars. Sadly they didn’t allow photos inside, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was interesting…but probably only to the nerdiest of nerds. Anyone else would likely think ‘huh, we just walked around a theatre…big deal’. Standing in a box overlooking the stage I was surprised by just how small it is compared to how huge it looks on TV. Another case of reality dissolving tinsletown’s magic.
Back on Hollywood Boulevard we decided to walk all the way down it to Vine. Although an iconic street, it is mostly full of crazy people and ‘adult’ stores. The seedy side of Hollywood mixes right alongside everything else I guess. After doing the long roundtrip our legs needed a rest and our mouths needed some ice cream.
Finishing up our day in LA we headed over to Universal Citywalk. An entertainment area attached to Universal Studios. It’s basically just a bunch of touristy shops and restaurants set under a roof of neon lights. As we were meeting my friend Leala for dinner, we killed some time by watching the movie ‘Machete’ – although the less said about that film the better…
Once Leala turned up we stuffed ourselves at a barbeque restaurant called the Saddle Ranch Chop House. Turns out the best thing about finally making it back to LA after all these years was getting to hang out with the lovely Leala; who I met through work a couple of years ago. An LA native, she was a great help in giving us tips about our time in LA and I really wish we’d had more time to hang out!
Thanks for dinner Leala, hope we get to do it again!
So, until tomorrow…
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