Los Angeles is not as pretty as San Diego, but I was pleasantly surprised when I looked out the window of our Santa Monica hotel this morning. Blue sky rather than the whitish smog-filled sky that I have seen here on many other trips. I worked on a consulting project in the LA area once, and it rained after a week or two on the job, and when I looked out the next morning, I first realized there were mountains.
Route 66 is a very important part of the trip to me. We started our Route 66 journey this morning, though the plan was to spend most of the day in Hollywood. We went to Ocean Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard – near the Santa Monica Pier where we ended yesterday – and we took a photo of the plaque that commemorates the end (or the beginning in our case) of Route 66. The memorial is to Will Rogers and proclaims this part of “the main street of America” to be Will Rogers Highway.
As we waited for a light to change so we could cross Ocean Boulevard, I took a photo of the Shangri La Hotel. An attractive 60-ish blonde woman in sunglasses and a straw hat advised us that the sign was original, and the building has been fully restored. I introduced myself, gave her a card, and asked if she was a famous movie star. She replied: “I could have been.” I managed to get a photo of her from the back as she walked away. I believe she was in motion pictures. Boz doesn’t. It’s more fun to believe.
Santa Monica has a memorial to the military overlooking the ocean. The monuments are nice. It was sad to see so many homeless people curled up under palm trees nearby.
As we drove the first section of Route 66 – Santa Monica Boulevard, we were disappointed to see so few remnants of days gone by. We saw very few old buildings and only one or two businesses that dated back very far. Route 66 is no longer a “real” route, so signage is limited.
Bozzie Jane needed a cup of coffee, so we stopped at DK’s Donuts & Bakery. She felt obliged to try their glazed donut, so I joined her. After two years of taste-testing donuts, we are tough critics, but these were excellent.
Our next stop was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. From my research, I had learned that the cemetery (under another name) had gone bankrupt. I’m sure this had to be terrible news for the families of the 79,000 people buried there. There had been a question about whether anyone would step in to maintain the cemetery, but we were pleased to see crews busily maintaining the grounds. There are a number of stars resting there, so tourists are welcomed and expected. Many of the gravestones featured photographs – something we had never seen. We drove right by Mel Blanc’s grave. We didn’t feel comfortable getting out and walking across gravesites looking for tombstones, so we didn’t. We did see a very strange site – a film crew had one area filled with lawn jockeys (both black and white) and a stage of some type. Perhaps the new owners are renting the cemetery to motion picture companies. Somehow I would imagine that the residents wouldn’t mind. The cemetery sits at the end of a street that looks straight up to the Hollywood sign.
Boz has been an excellent navigator, but the California map we were sent by the state is not much better than the worst map so far – Florida. We spent an hour and a half driving the first stretch of Route 66 while trying to find Hollywood Boulevard. It did not intersect as the map indicated.
Bozzie had visited Hollywood on a trip with my parents 27 years ago, but I don’t recall ever having visited, so I was really excited. We parked at the far east end of Hollywood Boulevard so we could walk the entire area in a long loop and see every single star in the sidewalk as well as the other sights.
We were disappointed almost immediately as one of the first stars we saw was blank. We ultimately saw many blank stars. We read the names as we passed, and we saw a name that we thought we had just seen a few feet away, and then another and another. There were also stars for people who aren’t big stars. We also saw stars for people we had never heard of, and we know movies and music better than most. We assume all of this has been done to increase the size of the tourist-oriented area in an attempt to benefit businesses there, but we felt ripped off (even though it was free). The result was that the stars lost their significance, and we no longer paid attention.
We did note early on that Lucille Ball’s star has broken and missing cement around it and needs repair. The only star that had been defaced was Charlton Heston’s. His name had been lined out – probably by someone who opposes his position as the most visible advocate for the National Rifle Association. I would never deface his star, but (despite my generally Republican views) I do believe ours would be a better, safer society if we did not have so many guns. We caught a little bit of a news report about gang violence in the LA area on TV in a restaurant. Frightening.
Hollywood Boulevard was not seedy as I expected. There were very few sex shops and not that many street people and no beggars. If you are looking for funky shoes, Hollywood Boulevard is the place to go.
It looks like the Church of Scientology is buying up Hollywood as we passed one L. Ron Hubbard Church of Scientology building after another. Scientologists were out on the street trying to lure people inside. With apologies to any Scientologists out there, this approach seems more cult-like and less church-like.
We enjoyed looking around in Hollywood Toys & Costumes. Fantastic masks and costumes. Pat asked me if I had been to Mardi Gras. We went in Hollywood Souvenirs to see a great selection of items. We saw the Capitol Records building and a few theatre buildings – most of which were not being used for movies. There is a huge Frederick’s of Hollywood building, formerly S.H. Kress.
There isn’t much to see on Hollywood Boulevard. While there are signs proclaiming a building to be historical, the signs are about 10-feet in the air, and we passed by most without realizing they were there. Our experience might have been more enjoyable if a Visitor’s Center had little maps or some type of orientation. We walked for hours, but we didn’t see much of anything.
A highlight of the day was passing by Michael McDonald, the incredibly funny star of Mad TV. Son Ryan is a big fan of his. We apologized for intruding and introduced ourselves. He could not have been nicer. He was out for the afternoon planning to catch a movie at the local theatre.
Flags were not to be seen in Hollywood. We saw one billboard in a parking lot with a flag, and I saw one flag inside an army surplus store, but that was it. After seeing so many displays of patriotism across the country, it was very disappointing. We saw Audie Murphy’s star and Ronald Reagan’s star as well as the stars of many who were in the military during World War II. There seems to be a huge patriotic gap between those real movie stars of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and the people we have in the movies today.
The primary sight to see in Hollywood is Graumann’s Chinese Theatre — on the far end of Hollywood Boulevard from where we parked. I was looking forward to seeing the handprints and footprints of big stars. We were not allowed to see them. The area was blocked off in preparation for the Premiere of the movie X-Men 2. Major disappointment!
We befriended two security guards in an attempt to get in, but no luck. We were advised that we could see Halle Berry, Rebecca Romaine Stamos, Hugh Jackman, and many other stars at the Premiere. When Boz saw Jennifer Garner’s photo on the big poster, I figured seeing Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner was worth the wait.
The Premiere was scheduled to start at 7, and we were advised that the stars would begin arriving at 6:30. At 3:30, we had our pick of spots. I asked a few people where the best spot was, and Bozzie Jane and I took up permanent residence on a raised cement area directly across the street from the main entrance to Graumann’s where the stars would walk. For the next 3½ hours, we watched the setup – a cast of thousands or so it seemed. There were FAR MORE people working than there were tourists or fans watching. There was some people watching, too. We saw the worst Elvis impersonator ever; the only thing that looked at all like Elvis was a white jeweled costume.
There were no stars at 6:30. There were no stars at 7. The sun began to set as did our hopes of getting a good photograph of the stars.
There were not many in the audience at the Premiere, but the people doing interviews on the Jumbotron as well as those interviewed kept saying they had never been to anything as big as this. Smoke and mirrors! The attendance consisted of a few hundred poor schmucks like us who wandered by and thought they could see some stars and bleachers filled with people who won free tickets in a radio promotion. The rest of the “crowd” consisted of the huge group of people that it took to set up the event.
Stars finally began arriving at about 7:30. I managed photos of Jon Voight and the cast of American Idol. We never got a good look at any of the stars in the movie except on the Jumbotron screen. Halle Berry did not attend, and Jennifer Garner wasn’t in the movie after all.
We gave up about 8 pm – declaring our day in Hollywood as pretty much a bust.
We laughed at ourselves as we limped back down Hollywood Boulevard. We limped faster as we got to the far end of the street where the folks standing in doorways didn’t look necessarily friendly. I started to take off my beads, but decided they might actually keep people away.
We stopped along the way to grab something to eat for dinner at Skooby’s. We talked quite a bit to the owner, John, and we took a photo of John and Ben. We had eaten lunch there, and it was definitely the highlight of the day. This little gourmet hot dog shop has been open only a few months. The hot dogs were excellent, but the fries and lemonade were the best we have ever eaten. The fries are cooked twice and tossed in a secret seasoning. The lemonade is hand squeezed. It was just as good for dinner as it was for lunch.
The lesson of the day: We all have choices to make – some big and many small. Sometimes we make choices that seem good and sometimes we make choices that don’t turn out as well as hoped. Of course we rarely know what would have happened had we made a different choice. Deciding to forego a tour of stars’ homes in favor of attending the Premiere may not have been a good choice. We probably would have seen more on a tour, but then again, how many people can say they attended a Hollywood Movie Premiere? As to our carefully-chosen location at the Premiere, that was a small choice in the great scheme of things…but definitely a bad choice!