A tourist in America’s second largest city.
Star-struck…excessive…smoggy…superficial…There’s a modicum of truth to each of the adjectives regularly applied to L.A. But Angelenos — and most objective visitors — dismiss their prevalence as signs of envy from people who hail from places less blessed with fun and sun. — Fodor’s 2011 Los Angeles
The opportunity to visit our daughter and attend WEFTEC, the largest water conference and exhibition in North America, in Los Angeles spurred my wife and me to visit this storied city for the first time. L.A., baby! Here we come.
We came, we saw, we ate well and basked in the fantastic weather while suffering the traffic and high prices. This latter problem may have been aggravated by the fact that we were spending a lot of time — and money — in Beverly Hills and the Westwood area since my daughter lives and works in the vicinity of UCLA, a pretty tony part of town. You almost forget that California’s state government and economy is suffering. But it is a big place. There are more Californians than there are Canadians.
One morning I called down to the valet service desk to have my rented Mazda 6 brought around to the front of the hotel. I saw my nice little car in the driveway, surrounded by Bentleys, Aston Martins, various high-end German models, and a Ferrari. The hotel had given me a convention rate, but I was clearly out of my league. Having forgotten my claim check, I apologized to the valet, showed him my room key and driver’s license to gain access to my vehicle without going back upstairs.
“No problem, Mr. Mehan,” said the cheerful attendant. “You wouldn’t want to steal that car.” Ouch.
California is quite a place, entirely unique in terms of geography and culture. A friend of my wife from South America, who lived in Manhattan for many years, recently moved to L.A. When asked how she liked California, replied, “It is near the United States.” Many commentators, however, argue that California prefigures what America is becoming at any given moment in time. Whether you find that a positive or negative proposition, I tend to think there is much truth in it.
Pop Culture, for instance, does permeate life in LaLaLand: a massive economy employing millions of Southern Californians is built around it.
No trip to Tinsel Town would be complete without a movie studio tour. We had booked tickets in advance for the Warner Bros. Studios “VIP Studio Tour,” to get a sense of L.A.’s premier industry. This is the quintessential tourist destination and, in truth, it is not to be missed.
Arriving in “beautiful downtown Burbank,” as Johnny Carson used to quip, we were struck by the size of the Warner Bros. corporate complex. This was a visual and useful reminder of the economic magnitude of the entertainment industry, a thought which, immediately, brought on a bout of cultural angst: Is it really a good thing that this town, this industry, these people have such a huge impact on the cultural and moral consciousness of the nation, nay, the planet? Get a grip on yourself, man. You’re on vacation.
Being intermittent, yet dedicated moviegoers, my wife and I were looking forward to a warm bath in film nostalgia. What we got was a tightly focused marketing effort promoting Warner Bros. TV shows produced for CBS, Fox, and the like. The tour guide, a young fellow who must watch television 24/7, was chock full of information, anecdotes, gossip, plot lines, recitations of past episodes and various other trivia relating to numerous prime-time shows very few of which my wife, daughter, or I had ever heard. When were we going to see where they shot scenes for Casablanca or gaze on Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino?
Evidently, they shoot one episode of a sit-com in five days. Most of the cast make something like $300,000 per episode. Moreover, they work three weeks on, one off. Off the record, we were informed that that unfortunate man (my term, not the tour guide’s), Charlie Sheen, made millions for one show of Two and a Half Men.
Also, re-runs of Friends, worldwide, bring in a billion dollars a year. Those protesters occupying Wall Street should Occupy Hollywood next time.
We saw the sound stages for The Mentalist and a replica set for Friends. We also learned about optical illusions to create a sense of perspective on the small sets.
The studio does understand marketing. We just watched our first episode of The Mentalist, a gruesome, compelling crime show with an edgy character, Patrick Jane, played by the Aussie actor Simon Baker. He appears to emulate the great Jeremy Brett who immortalized Sherlock Holmes in that masterful, over-the-top role for PBS. Both characters are nuts — but in a good way.
Fortunately, we did get some exposure to the venerable film history of Warner Bros. We saw the Paris café where Bogart and Bergman romanced each other, a bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde, a fire escape from Annie and the pond (sometimes a lake, sometimes an ocean) where the Budweiser frogs were created. Yes, we did get to see Clint’s Gran Torino, which he still owns but lets the studio keep for public display in the same building with other famous vehicles including one from a Batman movie. There is also a whole floor dedicated to Harry Potter costumes, props, etc. Back lot, front lot, it is all a theatrical wonderland, truly the Dream Factory.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?