City of Angels

City of Angels

"It was a dark and stormy night ..."

...when we got to Hollywood. For the rest of the trip the fabled Southern California
Sun would simply disappear. We wondered why on earth there was this crazy rain in the middle of December? We would learn later about the tsunami and its devastating effects. Till I got this news and the paradigm shift occurred, I was upset with the havoc the rain created in MY holiday plans.
I was quite kicked about the idea of staying on Sunset Boulevard, but when I got there it wasn't anything that I imagined to be. It wasn't one bit glamorous or even touristy. It was just unimpressive. The heart of Central Hollywood between Hollywood Avenue and Sunset Blvd. is chock-a-block with motels, signs, ordinary squat buildings with the paint fading on quite a few of them. Here I was, in the centre of the oldest and most famous movie-making club and it seemed like I'd stumbled on to the set of a B-grade movie with bad actors and an anti-climactic finish.
The next day we went to the very touristy Universal Studios, a misnomer because it's simply an amusement park with a movie theme. The real studio where the real work is done is below where they take you on the studio tour. How much money can you possibly squeeze from a movie? It's all upto your imagination. Waterworld, which was a colossal flop, is one of the most popular live shows. The The Mummy Returns has been turned into another ride with you travelling backwards. 'Animals' from Jurassic Park are used in the Jurassic park ride which recreates the movie as a roller-coaster ride with a spine-chilling finale. I loved the special effects stage where they showed you how most of SFX tricks are done.
You know you are in a popular tourist spot if it is a 'photography minefield'. Minefield in the sense that you have to constantly be aware of not inadvertently getting into other people's photos and making sure others don't get into yours!
The next day we had breakfast at a surprisingly cheap joint on Hollywood Avenue called Shelley's Cafe which seemed to be the hangout of the failed-actor types. Then we did the very standard Hollywood routine. On the Walk of Fame we hobnobbed with the stars of the immortals which also included some disgusting recent additions like Britney Spears. Tried to figure out the reason why some stars face one way and some the other. Would be good trivia to know. Anybody? Then I walked over to Sid Graumann's Chinese Theater and measured myself against everybody's hands and feet. Of course the Hollywood ladies were wearing impossibly high heels so their feet seemed to be just a few inches long. The Kodak Theater was really impressive. Took pictures of the pillar that still had empty places for the future 'Best Picture of the Year'. Not the most artistic of shots, but think it will be kind of fun to see what shows up on those pillars in a few years from now.
The next couple of hours we just drove around in the massive Buick (which I was lucky to get at National Car Rental) all over Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. West Hollywood was more like it! It really lifted my spirits after the acute disappointment with Hollywood in general. This really felt like the Hollywood I wanted to see. The tall walls, the security, the opulent mansions, ornate gates and lack of any nameplates. We did not buy the Hollywood Star Home Map, but did gawk at the homes we passed. Nice!
Tired and acutely aware of our own poverty we left for the Getty Museum. Wasn't too impressed with the museum apart from old manuscripts and antique French and Italian furniture. Categories that are missing from most museum catalogs. Of course, there was a special exhibit on Cezanne which I skipped in order to go on the architecture tour.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is all about Richard Meier and his vision. Known for using his signature color white, the Getty Museum however is in an off-white colour because Meier did not want the building to look out of place with its surroundings. The vistas are simply breathtaking which Meier not only tried to harmonize with but framed them to lead the viewer to what he might miss. The whole museum is made of squares 30 inches wide. Why? Because it maps to Human Scale. ie. you can have one person on every square and they will be close but not too close. There was geometric and engineering precision without compromising on artistic beauty and importantly serving its principal function as museum, library and research institute.
We had lunch in the upscale restaurant which has one of the most splendid views of Los Angeles.
Thumb Rule: How do you tell whether a restaurant is classy or not?
The prices must be high and portions small.

By late in the afternoon the sun broke through the clouds and thanks to the pouring rain the infamous LA smog had been washed out, creating the perfect scene for shots like these. Stories that begin with dark and stormy nights do have good endings.

Complete Photo Album of the Trip

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