Saturday, 27 August 2011

Hollywood in a Hurry!

Los Angeles would be the last stop of our trip to the US and Canada before heading back to Japan. Having arrived at Union Station at night, we were keen to see what ‘The City of Angels’ might actually look like in the clear light of day. Well, we couldn’t actually see too much really as a thick smoggy haze sat over the city, despite a fine sunny day being forecast. This is apparently how it is in LA as the car culture rules and air pollution appears to be just a way of life. Jules had booked us into a nice Art Deco hotel just off Hollywood Boulevard and with only a couple of days to spare, we were keen to cover as much ground as possible. Of course to this end, the popular open top buses seemed the most sensible way to go. However, by the end of our touring, we both compared it to sitting in a garage with the car running…choked up and gritty! As we weaved around the city streets, we commented on how the outlook contrasted dramatically from suburb to suburb. While neighbourhoods like Beverley Hills, Brentwood and Hancock Park were beautifully manicured to match their elite suburb status, there was also plenty of other less notable areas that were just down right tacky and dirty. It seems that if you have money in ‘Tinsel Town’ you can find your own little oasis, but it generally came at a pretty hefty price. From an architectural point of view, both the city and suburbs provided some interesting historical examples of Art Deco styles as well as some early high-rise structures. I particularly liked seeing many of the classic cinemas and theatres that dominated the Broadway and Hollywood districts, although many are now rundown, closed or being re-used in some other capacity. It really must have been an exciting experience going to a show in the early 20’s and 30’s when many of these entertainment palaces were built. Eventually we made our way over to the many film and television studios that dominate the economy of this city and from which many fortunes are gained. These days there are plenty of studios that are prepared to open their doors for a price to allow tourists to gain an insight into the production process. We chose the highly regarded Warner Brothers tour, which allowed us to access the famous film back lots and the sound stages of many popular television programs. Jules enjoyed standing on the set of ‘Friends’, (which is still kept for posterity despite the show finishing years ago) and also the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’, while I particularly enjoyed seeing the sets from some classic movies like ‘Casablanca’ and ‘East of Eden’. Of course no tour of Hollywood would be complete without visiting the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with its famous collection of hand and foot prints by movie stars, both past and present. It now sits alongside the more recently constructed Kodak Theatre, which is now the permanent home of the Academy Award ceremony. Jules and I walked the red carpet path and into the theatre itself for a tour, providing us with an insight into the backstage operations of the big night. When we visited, they were putting the final touches to the new Cirque du Soleil show ‘Iris’, which will run in the theatre for next ten years, except for the month of February, when they prepare to hand out the annual ‘Oscars’ of course. With all of our running around, our two days in Los Angeles passed quickly and to be honest that was quite enough for us. While we appreciated its silver screen history, our stay confirmed that it wasn’t really our kind of town. I guess we’re not looking to be in the movies, we’re certainly not wealthy enough and we just like to breath clean air!

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