by Lee Foster
With the average North American spending several hours a day before the TV set and attending 24 movies per year, according to Warner Brothers’ Dick Mason, it’s no wonder that a visitor to Los Angeles, the media capital, often asks the question: How can I get close to the magical world of TV and movie production?
Moreover, it’s not just North American travelers who are interested in these media sources. The world audience tunes its TV sets to American productions and watches American films. Even the Japanese, who often surpass the competition in hardware, from autos to electronics, buy our media and speak our language. Our export surplus in media is healthy and profitable, so much so that media is a favorite foreign-capital investment.
So it is natural, for a North American or foreign traveler visiting Los Angeles, to want a close encounter with the movie-TV world. After personally researching this matter in Los Angeles, here are my 10 suggestions. For more details, use a Google Search on the concepts:
*Stroll the historic heart of Hollywood. Begin at Mann’s Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Boulevard), with the stars’ handprints and footprints set in the cement. Across the street is the restored movie palace, the El Capitan Theatre (6838 Hollywood Boulevard), exquisitely re-created with museum-grade care to its 1925 splendor. Look inside, then walk down the street to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Boulevard), where the Academy Awards were first held in 1928, at a time when actors were held in low regard. Some boarding-house window signs then read, “No dogs, no actors.” The mezzanine level of the Roosevelt features a time-line display of Hollywood memorabilia. Back on the street, throughout this area, there are 1900 brass-and-coral stars on the sidewalks, a 1.7-mile Hollywood Walk of Fame. Marilyn Monroe occupies a space in front of McDonald’s restaurant. Hollywood continues to revitalize itself. Historic signage graces the avenue. A gem of a theatre, the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Boulevard), has also been renovated.
*Visit Universal Studios (Universal City) and take their tour. The adventure rides and classic special effects are breathtaking, such as the Jurassic Park water ride or the Backdraft fire movie set. Universal Studios is designed to be a movie production lot and a theme park. On the E. T. Ride, for example, you make a simulated journey, helping E. T. find his way home amidst the galaxy. Among other encounters during a narrated tram tour at Universal you’ll remember the Earthquake and King Kong special effects, which supplement the earlier Jaws and Parting of the Red Sea experiences. Stroll down Wisteria Lane, scene of the Desperate Housewives antics.
*Take the more intimate Warner Brothers Studios VIP Tour (Burbank), and see the Warner Studio Museum. Dedicated movie and TV fans will enjoy this behind-the-scenes walk, a technical tour that will appeal to the enthusiast who wants to see movies being made today. Classic sets, sound studios, and live filming are part of the experience in this mammoth, 108-acre, media factory, where 33 sound stages can accommodate different TV and movie shootings simultaneously. Warner Brothers has produced some 7,500 films since 1912. Batman was one of their biggest moneymakers. The Ellen Degeneres Show is one of the current hits.
*Walk past more than 300 world-class boutiques on Rodeo Drive, watching for the stars. Expect some serendipity as you amble Rodeo Drive. The day I was there, the Saudi Royal family was shopping, protected by burly bodyguards. A hill street, Two Rodeo Drive, doubles the boutique store space and creates a European-style street, complete with a Spanish Steps. Even if you purchase nothing on Rodeo Drive, the sight of the finest in design is a visual education, starting with Giorgio’s, where pioneer merchant Fred Hayman began the Rodeo phenomenon. He offered free champagne and cappuccino to customers perusing his luxury merchandise and sniffing his proprietary fragrance. You’ll see world travelers shopping here. Sixty percent of the money spent on Rodeo Drive comes from foreigners.
*Dine at restaurants and visit stores where stars may be seen. Consider, for example, an evening at the West Hollywood restaurant Spago. Stop at the West Hollywood bookstore Book Soup. Who knows into whom you might bump amidst the aisles?
*Take a drive-by tour of the stars’ homes. The drives are conducted in discreet vans, so as not to disturb the tranquillity of the stars, who hover anxiously between their fear of the lone crazy in a crowd and their even greater fear of not being seen and becoming forgotten. The modern stars tend to hide in secluded estates behind high walls, but you’ll see some visible homes of past stars, such as the house of Lucille Ball. The drivers provide a lively commentary, pointing out also what you don’t see, such as no cemeteries in Beverly Hills, where plastic surgery promotes the lure of eternal youth. Google “drive by tours of stars’ homes Hollywood” to see multiple providers.
*Attend a TV taping. This is possible, but can be complicated, because there are numerous networks, many shows, and the rules for getting tickets change constantly. Better leave the task to an agency that keeps on top of all this. Google for your options. One provider is Audiences Unlimited.
*Enjoy an evening of music at the Hollywood Bowl. In the 1920s this natural amphitheater in the hills was transformed into a concert venue. Between June and September the Hollywood Bowl hosts the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic, plus numerous rock, jazz, and pop concerts. Patrons bring a picnic dinner and relax in their boxes before the show. The Hollywood Bowl is at 2301 N. Highland Avenue.
*Visit the museum where the first silent movies were made, the Hollywood Heritage Museum (2100 N. Highland Avenue). Cecil B. DeMille’s original office and the chariot from Ben Hur are examples of the many movie mementos to be enjoyed at the museum. You’ll learn how the first film companies came here in 1906, lured by the congenial outdoor climate and “anywhere” Mediterranean look. The Squaw Man was the first full-length feature film made entirely in Hollywood. Some 218 companies were making films here by 1918.
*Lodge in the historic heart of Hollywood at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Hollywood Roosevelt (7000 Hollywood Boulevard) stands in the funky heart of Hollywood, like a former star struggling to make a comeback.
After an immersion in the media world of Los Angeles, you’ll better understand Humphrey Bogart’s famous line in the Maltese Fountain. While holding the mounted falcon, he said, wistfully, “This is the stuff that dreams are made of.”
Los Angeles and the Movies: If You Go
The overall information source for the star-struck traveler is the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://discoverlosangeles.com/.