|By: Paul S. Cilwa
|Page Views: 1496
|Topics: #Places #California #Hollywood #Cruise #RoyalCaribbean
|All about our visit to Hollywood.
Our cruise over, and Magic Mountain closed, we packed the rented van for the last time and headed back south for Hollywood. Mary wanted to see the homes of the stars, so Karen had spent an hour on the computer copying down addresses. With the GPS, all I had to do was enter in the destination address—the GPS "knew" our current position—and tell it to go. Almost instantly, it would display a map and recite directions, turn by turn. If I made a mistake, it would say, "Recalculating!" without a trace of frustration and gently prod us back onto the correct route.
Our first destination: Alfred Hitchcock's home in Bel Aire.
We found it easily—or, rather, we found the address. But the house itself was hidden from the road; and a gate prevented us from going down the driveway. In fact, it was easier to see other homes on neighboring hills than it was to see the houses from the street.
The former address of George Reeves, the 1950's Superman who was found murdered in his bedroom (a conspiracy covered it up and called it a suicide), was in a more modest neighborhood. The house had been purchased by his girlfriend, Toni Mannix, the wife of a studio "fixer" who was almost certainly involved with the murder and the cover-up) before Reeves dumped her for another woman, shortly before he was killed.
The house is said to be haunted by Reeve's ghost; Toni Mannix struggled to keep it rented for years, only to have tenants abruptly move out, sometimes in the middle of the night.
We then drove to Beverly Hills to see the home Marilyn Monroe once shared with Shelley Winters. But by now it was clear that these houses can't actually be seen; only approached—a singularly unsatisfying exercise. So we decided to visit Hollywood Boulevard, and to perhaps eat in the restaurant at which Karen and Jenny had once worked (they had shared an apartment in Hollywood for a few months in the '90s).
Hollywood is an odd place where even banks take on personas (the building in the photo to the left is actually wearing a costume to make it look like a medieval fortress). It was fun to walk along the sidewalk and see the stars commemorated there. Zach got a kick out of recognizing Donald Duck's name.
The girls' restaurant didn't pan out, because an examination of the menu revealed that it was much more expensive to eat there if one was not an employee. But we did get to visit the former Grauman's Chinese Theatre (now owned by Kodak) and read the pavement slabs engraved by the stars. There were slabs ranging in dates from 1927 (Mary Pickford) to 2006 (Matt Damon). It was especially fun to see John Wayne's footprints; that's the slab that "Lucy Ricardo" and "Ethel Mertz" stole—three times!—on the I Love Lucy show. But Lucille Ball does not have a slab; she was a much bigger television star than she was in the movies and Grauman's only honors the very biggest stars of the silver screen.
There were a number of "characters" hanging around, giving the feeling of being in Disneyland. One of them was Superman, a guy who bore a closer resemblance from a distance than he did close up, where his skeletal frame could not be hidden beneath the Spandex costume. I overheard a couple of guys talking about him; apparently he's such a rabid Superman fan that he's been written up in the local paper. His apartment is crammed with Superman memorabilia and when he's not wearing a Superman costume he spends his time wearing Clark Kent-style glasses.
Oddly, I felt as if I'd already been here; and in a way, I have. At Disney's MGM Studio theme park in Disney World, Orlando, there is a full-size mock-up of Grauman's, complete with foot-printed slabs. Inside, instead of a movie theatre, there's a ride that takes you through life-sized, 3-D scenes from movies such as The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. It's very cool. Still, here was the real thing…even though it's a real thing dedicated to presented fake things. As one wag once put it, Hollywood is a place where, behind all the fake tinsel and glitter, is real tinsel and glitter. Karen and Jenny have noted, based on their stay there, that virtually everyone in town is an actor-slash-waiter or clerk or busboy or sidewalk Superman or whatever. People come there to live out their dream and the dream winds up sublimating reality. The names we didn't see on Grauman's pavement—names like Lucille Ball, or Ben Stiller, or Owen Wilson—people who are missing because, though they are stars, they weren't big enough stars—only emphasize the thousands upon thousands of extras and dancers and singers who also came to Hollywood to be stars, but never even managed to get their names remembered, much less immortalized in cement. Not to mention the millions who came here to be stars, but never even got in front of a camera.
In any case, that doesn't describe us. Jenny and Karen discovered the futility early on and moved back to Virginia. Now, together we returned to our van ($1 to park on the street, where we lucked into a just-vacated slot) and instructed the GPS to return us home.
That, at least, went smoothly. And let me take a moment to thanks Capps Van & Car Rental for providing a lovely vehicle at a very reasonable rate with absolutely no glitches or problems at either end of the rental transaction. They even allowed us to add extra drivers onto our rental at no additional charge!
At the conclusion of a vacation, if one is a writer, one is tempted to try and wrap the whole thing up in a neat conclusion. Overall, this wasn't the most fun I've ever had on a vacation. But it wasn't a disaster; there were far more good parts than bad and I certainly got a chance to load my experience mill with grist for God knows how many stories or essays.
And our cruise on Royal Caribbean is one that keeps on giving. We have to file Michael's medical bills with the trip insurance; and they won't accept a filing until we have first filed with his "regular" insurance. And just today I received a hit on my credit card for over $250 from Royal Caribbean, with no explanation and a call to them provided none ("I'm sorry; I won't have that information until next Thursday.") When Karen mentioned our previous, no-problem cruise with Carnival, the phone person replied tartly, "You can't compare Royal Caribbean to Carnival!" No shit, Sherlock.
So I guess it was more of a diversion than a vacation for me; a packet of experiences to relate that's a lot more interesting than "We went here, then we went there, and we ate this and then that."
On the other hand, that's the difference between living in a dream and living in reality. Reality is a lot more fun to talk about!