While we were moored up in Marina del Rey we took the chance to do a bit of sight-seeing. MDR is just south of Venice Beach and Santa Monica and was the most convenient place for us to get up into Hollywood and Beverley Hills. We bought a 48 hour hop-on hop-off bus ticket, climbed up to the top deck which was open air and great for rubbernecking and were ready for some Hollywood action.
The bus took us through the back streets of Venice Beach which were full of funky shops and colourful murals. Back in the early 1900’s this area was won in a coin toss by a developer who dug canals to drain the marshes and build a seaside resort and hence it became known as Venice. Santa Monica is famous for its pier and for Muscle Beach, said to be where body-building first got started. There is an amusement park on the pier but it wasn’t a patch on the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz.
We headed into Beverley Hills along Wilshire Boulevard with the tour commentary pointing out all the sites where the rich and famous had filmed, frolicked and faded away. We drooled at the designer shops in Rodeo (-ayo not -eeo) then drove up Sunset Blvd and gawped at the Hotel Marmont where two Johns – Entwistle and Belushi – OD’ed and the Viper Room where River Phoenix died on the footpath outside.
Hollywood was insane; Spiderman, Chewbacca and Wonderwoman impersonators were hanging out outside the Chinese Theatre, we were checking out all the stars in the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard while homeless guys were crawling along the street with the butts hanging out. It was crazy! We had a burger in the In-n-out Burger where Harry Bosch and his LAPD buddies used to hang out then headed up to Warner Bros studios where we had a hot date with Conan O’Brien.
While we were moored at the Del Rey Yacht Club we were invited to a barbeque evening where we met a couple named Michael and Ellen. Michael arranged tickets for us to be part of the live studio audience for Conan, a late-night TV talk show. Although we’d never heard of any of his guests we had a great time; Conan was a witty host, it was fun being part of the audience, clapping and laughing on cue and it was also interesting to see how studio operated. The funniest part was before the show when the warm-up guy invited Neil and about fifteen other people on to the stage. A dance competition ensued and Neil won the T-shirt with an energetic rendition of the Windmill, the Bricklayer and the Watusi, I was aching with laughing!
It took about three hours and three bus rides to get home but we’d had a brilliant day. The next day we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for our Celebrity Homes tour. We made our way back up to Hollywood Blvd – this time we used local buses which were much quicker – we were getting to know our way around by now. We hopped on to the open air tour bus which was like a ute with seats in the back and a very entertaining British guy in the front who was our driver and guide.
It was a lovely drive along Mulholland Drive through Hollywood Hills and Beverley Hills. I was surprised how narrow and winding the road was but the serrated topography was a perfect foil to conceal private hideaways and exclusive mansions. We didn’t see many celebrity homes but we saw plenty of celebrity gates and security fencing.
We were satiated with Hollywood craziness but on the way into town we had noticed a couple of woolly mammoths just off Wilshire Blvd and decided to investigate. The LaBrea Tar Pits are oil seeps which have been oozing for the last forty thousand years and trapping prehistoric animals, insects and plants and their remains have been beautifully preserved in the asphalt. The bones of Pleistocene mammals such as ground sloths, mammoths, dire wolves and sabre-toothed tigers are on display in the museum. It was nice to have a bit of brain candy after the razzle dazzle of Hollywood!
Ciao for now