An online friend that I’ve known for years and had never met in person came to LA recently for a visit, and I got to show him around Tinseltown. He lives in Australia and this is his first visit to the US, so I wanted to get it right. Fortunately, he’s at least as geeky as I am, so I knew the kind of things he’d want to see.
Growing up in Los Angeles, one learns early to differentiate between the things we find interesting and the things the tourists want to see. Hollywood & Vine is kind of boring if you don’t get a giggle out of kitschy souvenir shops. There are far more interesting things to see, if you know where to look. For example, even if you’re no longer star-struck (that happens after the third or fourth time you bump into a movie star at the grocery store), it’s still interesting to visit some of the locations where favorite movies were shot.
I considered giving him the “scandal tour”- all of the places associated with the notorious events and people of movie history; the condo where OJ stabbed his ex-wife, the home where Lana Turner’s mobster boyfriend was stabbed by her daughter, the house where Alfalfa from the Our Gang movies was shot in an argument over a hunting dog. Then there are all the other scandals; the bungalow at Chateau Marmont where John Belushi overdosed, the house where George Reeves either killed himself or was rubbed out (depending on who you believe), and so much more. I can even show you where would-be silent film star Peg Entwhistle jumped from the H of the Hollywood sign, if that’s to your taste.
But since Paul is more into the fantastic and odd than the scandalous and creepy, we looked at other things, which I’m going to share with you over the course of a few posts to come.
Paul took the Greyhound down from San Francisco, so I picked him up at the station, which is on Seventh just east of Downtown in rather a dire part of town not far from skid row. On the way to the freeway, I made sure to drive past the Bonaventure Hotel at Fifth and Figueroa; you may know it better as the home of Buck Rogers from the ’80s TV show, though it’s been used in a lot of other movies and programs including This is Spinal Tap, Blue Thunder and True Lies. It’s a cool building comprised of four mirrored cylindrical buildings surrounding a slightly taller fifth one. Glass elevators run up the outside and there’s a restaurant at the top that slowly rotates.
Driving up the 110 Freeway (the world’s first), I told him the true story behind Roger Rabbit; this very freeway was the result of behind-the-scenes collusion between the auto manufacturer, oil refinery and tire manufacturing companies that had filled the city council and county board of supervisors with their hand-picked stooges, who voted to destroy the Red Car trolley system and replace it with “fast, clean freeways,” just as was shown in the movie.
We got off the freeway in South Pasadena so that we could swing by the Michael Myers house, a sinister-looking home that was the setting for John Carpenter’s Halloween. It was an abandoned derelict when he filmed there, but since then, it’s been moved about half a block and refurbished; it’s now a chiropractor’s office.
We’ve lived about a mile from Doc Brown’s house (from Back to the Future) for the last 15 years, and yet it’s still fun to give it a glance and nod when passing by or point it out to visiting friends and relatives. We pulled up in front and gave it a good look on the way home. (Okay, it’s better known as a pioneering example of the Craftsman style as practiced by legendary architects Greene & Greene, and even better known as the former home of the Gamble family of Procter & Gamble fame, but for me it’s Doc Brown’s house.)
Come back next time, we’ll visit the luchadore store and more.