The thought crossed my mind and at $60 a ticket I dismissed it. No loss.
I could live without my guided tour of Hollywood . . . even though it included tours of the stars homes.
But I would go see the sign. And I would go see the stars in the footpath.
I caught the subway down to Hollywood Boulevard and emerged to a radically different LA to the one where I’m staying. It was a mini Times Square moment, the round lid of the Capitol Records building alerting me to the reality I was in ‘captivating iconic history’ territory.
The subway was beautiful, its walls lined with metallic film reels and fake palm tree columns. So was yup wizard, who I presumed to be mad when he accosted me emerging from the station and now I’ve checked him out online – King of Kings, Lord of Lords – probably is. But in five seconds flat he sold me a $25 tour – he gave me the seniors rate, accused me of flirting with him and called me his ‘homegirl’.
I said ‘I ain’t nobody’s homegirrrrl’. And got on his bus.
And so my tour of Hollywood began:
There’s the corner where James Dean used to live – if I’ve got the right corner, because at $25 it was a rapid drive-by tour – James’s house is now a Korean restaurant. There’s America’s – and probably the world’s – first shopping mall. Check it out! There’s Hollywood High School. And THERE’s where Brad Pitt got his first acting job – dressed as a chicken touting chicken roll.
There’s where Robert de Niro got his first job, wheeling trolleys outa the supermarket carpark. I wan’t quick enough to catch a picture of that one, but that’s about when I started to realise this is a town of ghosts. There’s the Rolls Royce Al Pacino drove in the movie Scarface. There’s where the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford (who introduced Marilyn Monroe to his brother-in-law John F Kennedy) – used to hang out. There are the stairs Eddie Murphy scaled in Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 2 and there’s what the locals calls ‘Lindsay Lohan’s summer cottage’, the Beverly Hills Police Station. Wasn’t quick enough to catch a photo of that either. And THAT’s where Julia Roberts was filmed with Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. And there is the shop she was humiliated when she went shopping for lovely clothes. For the record, it’s called Badgely Mischka.
And this, friends, is a Bugatti – one of several of Iranian designer Bijan’s $1.2 m sports toys. It’s still parked outside his shop on Rodeo Drive, even though he died about six months ago. The bus driver/tour guide described it as ‘a rough ending for Arnie’ . . . according to him, about six months ago Californian Governor and former Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger had spent about $300,000 at Bijan’s and there followed a dispute. Arnie rang the designer to have it out and a brain aneurism exploded in Bijan’s head. As the driver said, ’round ending for Arnie’, although I’m not quite sure how it was an ending for Arnie . . .
By this time I’m startin’ to get a bit tired of the tour. There’s the Presbyterian church where Elizabeth Taylor said ‘I do’ three times and the Jewish temple she did the ‘I do’ at least once. There’s Jack Nicholson’s house in The Witches of Eastwick. There’s Aaron Spelling’s house – I caught the hedge. There’s the Beverly Hills Hilton, most recently famous because Whitney Houston died there. There’s the Playboy mansion back entrance. There’s the line of cars of people who work at the Playboy mansion. There’s Humphrey Bogart’s old place. There’s the Playboy mansion front gates. There’s the gate where the ambulance pulled in for Michael Jackson’s body. There’s Elvis’s old place and Tony Curtis’s and Lucille Ball’s (yay!! a woman owned a house!).
There’s McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc’s place – the garage door was open and I saw a lampshade. For privacy reasons I didn’t photograph it. Ha ha. OMG there’s the house where The Beverly Hillbillies was filmed. And Neil Diamond’s place. And Dr Phil’s place.
Round the corners we go. Frank Sinatra came home this way (they’ve just torn down his house), and so did Tom and Nicole. There’s their old driveway. There’s the house Christina Aguilera bought from The Osbornes. And there’s the basement garage where the Kardashians started out. There’s the gate where Kevin and Whitney filmed The Bodyguard and double OMG there’s Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s house! OOOO, there’s Freddy Kruger’s place in Nightmare on Elm Street and there’s ‘the barn’ where Cecil B DeMille made the first silent movie.
Universal Studios are on the other side of that hill. That’s where Janis Joplin OD’d and there’s Johnny Depp’s old club where his pal River Phoenix dropped dead on the footpath. Sunset Strip, Mulholland Drive, Whiskey Agogo . . . I’m tired of putting the photos up – you can google any of them – and I’m bored with the story.
The whole place is a Monument to Self.
A monument to white people, with respect to those few who aren’t. And with enormous respect to those who seem to keep this city ticking over, most of whom are so not white that just about everything is bi-lingual. At its core this city is a monument to white men, with respect to the glamorous ones who decorate their world.
This is one strange town.
At the end of the tour I ran out on my tipping obligations. It was a strange moment. The driver had been great. And then he wanted more money. There was a sliding scale to express my appreciation. Suddenly my $25 tour was about to become $50. I turned on my heel and walked. It was more than coming from a non-tipping Australian culture. I felt robbed. And the best I could do in that moment was turn on my heel and walk.
And ponder the entire strange morning over lunch at an Italian restaurant at the top of the Kodak Theatre (where they hold the Academy Awards).
This is a city of dreams. Just ask the young woman I asked directions from in the subway. She came from my side of town and her gym was in North Hollywood. She’d recently moved up from San Francisco to ‘get into fashion’. That gym in North Hollywood was gonna be her chance meeting.
The same chance meeting that got Brad Pitt off the chicken corner and Robert de Niro outa the supermarket carpark.
This city is dripping with the myth of the lucky break.
And the ghosts of success.
And the glory of everyone, everywhere, speaking your name.
I’m astonished by the ability of Americans to immortalise themselves and each other.
Moreso by the yearning of the rest of us to live their triumphs and tragedies with them.
They are movie stars. They are industry executives. One creates the other. Hedonism’s public and private faces.
Why do we collectively value them more highly than we do any other endeavour?
Why do we want to BE them more than anybody else on Earth?
Individually, you might beg to differ and I am arrogant enough to find a thousand reasons to tell you you do not know yourself. Collectively there’s no avoiding the fact.
This city is a Monument to Self.
But am I any different? Here I am with the Beverley Hills sign. The only difference between them and me is the whole world is not interested in me.