Sunday, September 21, 2003

L.A., Day 3

Saturday was a driving day; but mostly intown. After an in-room breakfast of Starbucks and pumpkin scones, we headed west toward Westwood Village, the UCLA commercial village. It's a cool area with plenty of coffee shops and cool architecture (apparently Westwood Village was developed in the late 20s). There are a number of old-school movie theaters, and word on the street is that a whole lot of L.A. movie premieres happen over there.

But Broad Street in Athens or even Chimes Street in Baton Rouge it is not. I guess UCLA kids have enough money to not need cool, cheap record stores and the like.

From there we headed down Wilshire to Santa Monica. The Santa Monica pier and the beach underneath were packed with folks who came out for the Red Bull Flugtag, in which people build "flying" machines and hurl themselves off the pier into the pacific ocean. We couldn't get close enough to see much of the action, but we checked out some of the crafts in the staging area, and saw the video on the news later. Somewhere in the crowd was emcee Danny Bonneduce.

We hit Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade afterwards. By far this was the most disappointing part of the trip so far. Third Street is about 3 blocks of old downtown storefronts and whatnot turned into a pedestrian avenue. Sound pretty cool? Well, it might be if they had not leased each and every space to standard mall retailers (Sketchers, Gap, Pottery Barn, you name it). What a wasted opportunity.

[Santa Monica side note: It is illegal for anyone other than senior citizens to use the shuffleboard courts at the Santa Monica senior recreation center.]

After bailing from Santa Monica, we decided to become the worst kind of Hollywood tourists - celebrity hunters. We bought a cheesy Map to the Stars' Homes and - after realizing the paper map was useless as a navigational tool and swinging by the hotel to plug the addresses into MapQuest on the laptop - started some stalking.

First on the list was Britney (of course). She's actually sold her L.A. house - to Brittany Murphy - but a good thing to see nonetheless. It's at the end of a tiny road winding up from Sunset Blvd. into the Hollywood Hills. An ugly place, really. I guess she gave up style for security.

Other stalking highlights:

• Halle Berry lives kind of near Britney, also on a tiny street. The wife recognized her house from the news footage of her SUV being pulled out of the garage following her hit-and-run incident.

• We saw the fabulous walls and gates of Madonna, Aaron Spelling and Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston. The city actually makes it illegal to stop in front of the really big celebrity homes. The Pitt house looks really awesome, with kind of an ivy castle effect working.

• We saw the L.A. home of Elvis. Pretty cool place; looks bigger than Graceland. There was a Jettafull of kids gawking through the gates when we drove up; making me believe it must not be the Elvis house. But it was. Props to the kids for respecting The King.

• Anthony Kiedes from the Chili Peppers has to be the coolest star in Hollywood. He lives in this old Hollywoodland (as in underneath the sign) house on this tiny, winding road.

It's amazing how the streets in the Hollywood Hills are so damn small and the houses are - from the outside at least - so unimpressive. The views, of course, are great. And the hills are the place to be for up-and-coming stars. I'd also imagine more tourists would stalk the stars if they were easier to get to.

After all the stalking, we were pretty well beat (again). So no 3 a.m. Viper Room trips.

Star sightings: Ray Liotta having dinner at a cafe; faux Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones driving a Boxter down Melrose Ave. (good enough faux couple to count as a sighting)

I managed to avoid seeing or hearing about the LSU / Georgia game (and I'm not checking email lest some bonehead wrote me about it). I shant look at newspapers or surf past ESPN today. With any luck, I'll be able to watch the game fresh on the PVR when I get home tomorrow night.

Today we're hitting the Melrose Ave. strip (we did a drive-by yesterday, and it looks very Little 5ish) then heading out to the coast. We've got the addresses of Malibu homes plotted (Johnny Carson, David Geffen, Axl Rose, etc.) and we're gonna drive the PCH awhile.

The Emmy awards are tonight, but that's not our stalking style.

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