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Hollywood, California, October 9-12, 2003
& a side trip to San Diego
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Flying to LA, Johnny Cash on the headphones, his ghost still a
powerful force, enough to make my eyes water. I suppose I should rejoice
– the man’s work will stand like a monolith while my paltry efforts will
blow away with the breeze.
The desert analogy is well timed looking down over southern California – nothing but brown. Brown rock, brown grass, brown scrub, brown earth, the details slowing refining on our slow decent, the suddenly erased with gray clouds, fog or smog as we descend into the valley.
“Welcome to sunny LA,” SW jokes in the chilly, gray afternoon.
|We picked up our rental car, a Nissan lozenge, and hit the highway, hosting some of the country’s worst traffic. It’s stop and go much of the way across town, at 1 in the afternoon.|
Hollywood is a pretty cool area, even with the touristy strip of Hollywood Boulevard. The rest of the famed road is packed with tasty ethnic cuisine, cool dive bars, thrift stores and the like.
|We wandered across the street from the Day’s Inn to Palm Thai Restaurant, 5273 Hollywood Blvd. (323) 462-5073, and stumbled into a lucky find. Not only is their food rated in the Best Of lists of several local publications, but the place hosts a Thai Elvis impersonator nightly. We had some great food, then SW needed to stave off the jetlag so she headed back to the hotel for a rest while I stuck around for Thai Elvis.|
|He’s got the accessories and some impressive karaoke equipment, but lacks the traditional impersonator exaggerated Elvis histrionics on stage, so he’s not much to look at once the show begins. In fact, almost nobody gives him so much as a glance, so it’s sort of a surreal experience, like something you’d see in a David Lynch film and say “No, there’s nowhere like that for real.” But there it is, and Thai Elvis does a fantastic job with the songs. His accent rarely comes through and he’s got the King’s vocal styling down pat.|
|Thursday night was the Tease-O-Rama pre-show meet-n-greet at Bigfoot Lodge, 3172 Los Feliz Blvd. (323) 662-9227, a place almost identical to its sister bar in San Fran, done up in faux wood cabin style with taxidermied animals providing a hunting lodge feel.|
The performers mixed and mingled with friends, fans, hangers-on, well-wishers and retro-hipsters. It was a friendly, festive atmosphere that almost lifted me from my usual shyness, but jetlag kept me mostly dazed and mute.
|In the corner someone was interviewing the performers. Movies
flickered on another wall, a strange old black and white short about
Florida vacation destinations that looked like it came from the
The place emptied out relatively early, with many performers saying they needed their rest in preparation for the show. “I’ve got to get the girls some sleep,” said one of the ladies, cupping her breasts.
“Well, the boys are still wide awake so I’m staying,” I said, clutching the appropriate area.
I think I preferred the arrangement of TOR 2002 where they had the pre-show night at a venue where they could have random bouts of burlesque while the hobnobbing went down, but Bigfoot Lodge provided a nice, intimate setting.
We were invited to a party a few blocks away but decided en route to
grab a bite instead. We hit a
Burger, what we thought was just another burger joint drive-thru
only to discover they serve some kind of strange chili burger thing
that’s something like a sloppy joe meets a cheeseburger, not for the
weak of stomach.
Friday we got breakfast at Angelz, right in front of the Day’s Inn - eggs, pancakes, etc., nothing unexpected except the amount of Español. Hardly a word of English in the place except between me and the waitress. Amongst others, they had autographed pictures of perhaps my 2 favorite movie stars on the wall, Salma Hayek and Robert Mitchum.
We did some thrift shopping, including a huge Goodwill on Hollywood or Sunset Blvd., next door to Wacko, the biggest pop-culture store I’ve ever seen. Wacko puts Atlanta's "Junkman’s Daughter" to shame. They even have a gallery in the back for modern, pop-flavored art.
We grabbed a burrito at one of the countless Mexican restaurants, then headed down Hollywood Boulevard to the section sporting the Walk of Fame. The Kinks’ Celluloid Heroes played in my head the entire time.
Some of the plaques are marred, cracked, gum-encrusted or worse, but it’s a moving experience for a while as you stumble, sometimes literally, across your favorite star. The odd thing is they’ve included stars radio, TV, music and stage, in addition to the expected silver screen icons, so if someone appeared in multiple mediums you might get a sense of déjà vu. Gene Autry has the sole honor of appearing 5 times on the walk.
One of the starts that's attracting a lot of attention these days is their new governor's. I'm surprised some protestor hasn't damaged the thing in some way.
Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
|There are tons of nifty clothing, shoe and costume shops along Hollywood. The boulevard used to be a bit more degenerate, hosting strip clubs, porn movie theaters and the like but it has undergone significant gentrification and there's more coming. There is still a strip joint or two and you can buy the tackiest stripper shoes and clothing from any of a dozen stores along the boulevard, in addition to the touristy attractions, like the Hollywood Wax Museum where they get various look-alikes to lurk around out front, trying to lure you in.|
The biggest surprise was the architecture – lots of art deco and detail
work, with carved figures peering down from many doorframes. Very cool.
And the whole walk has a strange, surreal quality to it. You’ve seen these landmarks all your life – on screen. They had taken on a mythological, iconic role in my mind, yet there they are, for real. It’s like you’ve walked into a movie.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack for this movie – Los Angeles’ radio - absolutely SUCKS. Lots of classic rock (as if you don’t already have all these songs memorized), less hip hop than I expected, and a few Latino stations like La Raza where the ads yell out Laaa Rrrrrrrrraazaaa with a rolling R that rolls on for a good hour or so. But there’s no college radio we could find, only one NPR station that was mostly talk, and very little "alternative" music, much less actual alternative music. I will never complain about Atlanta radio again.
|Speaking of sucky music, Clay Aiken was shooting a video right on Hollywood Boulevard. A small crowd of extras were directed to cheer louder, lift their hands, etc., while Clay lip-synched his way through some crappy tune. I wanted to get a better picture, but the cops were keeping the sidewalk clear and I didn't care enough to slide around for a close-up.|
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