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July 2015
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Charlie Chaplin seen on a door at the Henson Studios in Hollywood

Our Private Tour Smiles at Chaplin Memories

Even if it were not decorated to impart memories of Charlie Chaplin, the Henson Studios in Hollywood catches the eyes of our private Los Angeles tour groups as we drive along La Brea.  The brick entrance gate and shingled roof occupying the corner of the block suggest that something important is happening on the other side of the walls.  It is a movie studio…a historic studio at that.  Charlie Chaplin’s studio.  Later owners included Red Skelton, CBS (Perry Mason was filmed here; Raymond Burr lived on the lot), and Herb Alpert (home to A&M records and We Are The World).  Now the Muppets call the old studio home as Kermit the Frog, atop the wrought iron gate, assumes the iconic character of Chaplin’s Little Tramp and Charlie himself is painted on the door leading into the studio.

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A helicopter's eye view down into the Universal Studios backlot in Los Angeles

By Air or By Tram the Universal Backlot

Thrills our Private Tour Guests

Our guests wanted to see the Hollywood studios, all the studios, and wanted to see them from both our helicopter and by car on a private tour of Los Angeles.  Our pilot was happy to comply.  The studios are used to seeing helicopters hovering overhead believing them to be film crews.  We were filming but using instead our digital SLR camera to capture extraordinary images for our guests’ tour photo album.  The Universal Studios backlot is enormous and occupies the side of a mountain.  Several levels are home to tiny neighborhoods (Whoville) and suburbs (Mockingbird Lane) and set pieces from movies (the jet crash from War of the Worlds and the Bates Motel and Psycho house).  The Universal VIP Experience which we recommend to all of our guests takes a small group of people through all these parts of the studio backlot including the somewhat European neighborhood in the center of the photograph here.  Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony (MGM) also have active backlots that are fun to fly over or visit later on a studio tour.

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Another classic car spotted on Sunset Boulevard – Lincoln Continental Mark II

Our Private Tour Guests Had Never

Seen This Beauty

As we so often remark when we post about a vintage or interesting automobile sighting on the streets of Los Angeles, old cars never die in southern California.  Our warm, dry (very dry lately) climate, wide streets and car-crazy culture see vintage, custom and all sorts of rare and unusual vehicles out on the streets at all times.  Those who can afford the cost and time to maintain these wonderful machines love to take the opportunity to run them about the city for everyone to enjoy.  As we cruised along the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood toward Beverly Hills with our private Los Angeles tour guests this day we noticed the Lincoln Continental Mark II immediately.  It stands out today as much as it did in 1955 when the model was first available.  This stylish coupe sold then for about $10,000 (roughly equivalent to one Rolls-Royce or two Cadillacs) with the only option being air-conditioning ($595 more).  Just 3,000 were built in the three production years leading to the introduction of the Mark III.  An interesting note related to topics we like to cover is that the chassis for this American classic was used for the Lincoln Futura, the car adopted by the Batman television series and modified to be the Batmobile.

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3:00 23 June 2015

Hollywood Bowl Nights

Summer night fun and music at the Hollywood Bowl

Make the Hollywood Bowl a post-

Private Tour Destination

The Hollywood Bowl is an impressive outdoor amphitheater that we love to take our private Los Angeles tour guests to see during the day when we can.  As the bowl is a city park we have pretty good access even during the summer concert season unless there is a rehearsal in progress or something special and secret is happening in which case smiling staff will usher us away while telling us to come back later.  Our younger more energetic guests like to climb the stairway to the top of the bowl for the exercise and for the views over the top of the band shell into the Los Angeles basin.  You can even see the Hollywood Sign from the very top.  Most of our guests want to walk close to the stage where so many world-renowned performers, groups and orchestras have entertained an enthralled audience over the years (since the 1920s).  During the off season when the amphitheater goes unused we can tread the boards ourselves and ask our starstruck visitors to belt out a song or tell a good joke.  Coming up this week on the concert schedule is British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.  Coming up Friday is one of the most popular annual events held at the bowl, the Sound of Music Sing-along.  Appropriately costumed film lovers will bring their sausage and beer filled coolers and as they watch the film join with the cast singing all the great tunes in the show.  This year is even more special as it is the 50th anniversary of the movie.

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3:00 22 June 2015

Jimmy Kimmel Time in Hollywood

Jimmy Kimmel fans awaiting entrance to his studio on Hollywood Boulevard

Our Private Tour Guests Wonder if All

Studios Look Like This

When we arrive in Hollywood at the area on Hollywood Boulevard where we park to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Walk of Fame and maybe get a snack somewhere in the Hollywood and Highland Center, we can also take note of the large audience awaiting entry into the historic Masonic building to enjoy a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live.  The grand building was constructed back in 1921, years before Grauman’s Chinese and the Egyptian Theater arose on the famed boulevard.  The Masons made use of their building until 1982 after which it changed ownership and purpose a number of times until the Walt Disney Company purchased the property in 1998.  Disney also owns the El Capitan Theater next door.  The fact that the theater only shows Disney movies and the temple is now the home of an ABC late night talk show not so subtly reminds us that The Mouse prevails on Hollywood Boulevard.  The arrival of Jimmy Kimmel Live just adds that perfect “it’s a happening place” touch to this part of Hollywood Boulevard as does the Dolby Theater across the street where the Oscars take the stage every winter.  We eagerly suggest to our star struck private Los Angeles tour guests that they make arrangements to join the audience to see Jimmy Kimmel’s rocking show just because it films in an historic building in the center of this burgeoning entertainment neighborhood.

 

 

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A Venice Canal and a black swan boat (Los Angeles)

Our Private Tour Encounters Peace and

Quiet on a Venice Canal

The history of Venice Beach is perhaps extravagant and venal but what stands today is a tiny community of creative individuals who enjoy a lifestyle that can be found no where else in the U.S.  The beach resort town started in 1905 by millionaire developer Abbot Kinney was supposed to be the “Venice of the West” with homes and businesses constructed around several miles of man-made canals and a huge entertainment pier reaching out into Santa Monica Bay.  At that time the little town was isolated from the fast growing metropolis of Los Angeles but the Red Car trolleys gave the city easy access to the shore for cool weather and excitement on the pier.  Eventually Venice was incorporated into Los Angeles and over time the sprawling city overran little Venice.  Much of the canal system disappeared, the pier was reduced and then ultimately removed, and the resort town envisaged by Mr. Kinney became a bohemian enclave with a fun beach boardwalk.  Most of our private Los Angeles tour guests visit the boardwalk but we always suggest a walk through the remaining canals.  Those who do are considerably charmed by the placid atmosphere so close to a bustling city.

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A look down to the backlot at Paramount Pictures

Our Guests Include a VIP Tour of

a Hollywood Studio

When we are asked if it is best to schedule a private tour of Los Angeles first thing upon arriving in town or later during their stay we always tell our guests that by sightseeing with us we can not only introduce them to neighborhoods, businesses and activities that will be fun to experience but we can also answer a lot of questions about things to do in the area and scheduled events as well as tell them about restaurants and nightclubs.  For the same reason we like to suggest that if they want to schedule a VIP tour of one of the film studios in and around Hollywood that we first fly over on a helicopter tour or drive by on a ground tour so we can describe each of the studios and their tour offerings.  For instance, if we are with a family with children or young teenagers, Universal Studios VIP Experience is our first recommendation.  The attractions and rides will entertain young people if the tour of the movie studio and its history seem less interesting to them.  For movie buffs, we point to the VIP tours at both Paramount Studios (above, in Hollywood) and Warner Bros. (Burbank) as well as the lovely tour of the old MGM studios, now Sony Pictures (Culver City).  As we get to know our guests we can make particular recommendations among those three studios.

 

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Our private tour family at Hollywood's Chinese Theater

Grauman’s Chinese Theater Is a Temple for

Our Private Hollywood Tour

The building is iconic.  Like the Hollywood Sign, like the Walk of Fame, like the Capitol Records building, our private Los Angeles tour guests want to see these landmarks no matter what else we offer to show them in Los Angeles.  Thus a beach tour from Marina del Rey to Malibu or from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach will almost always see us heading at some point into Hollywood.  As cliched as it may be to photograph our families standing in the courtyard of the 1927 structure known for its Hollywood movie premieres and famous courtyard strewn with celebrity signed cement hand and footprints, we pose our groups in several locations around the building and get wonderful “greeting card” shots for their tour albums.  No matter who they share the photograph with those viewers will know exactly where they have been.  At the same time we tell stories about the handprint ceremonies and suggest a 20-minute walking tour inside the historic theater where Hollywood history blends with the latest in digital theater presentation.  The newest IMAX Laser projection system can be seen by the largest IMAX audience in the world (932).  No wonder film industry leaders want to premiere their movies in this veritable temple of the film gods.

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Our after dinner private tour gets this view of Los Angeles

Our Private Los Angeles Tour Stays Up

When the Sun Goes Down

We understand that most of our guests want to see Los Angeles in the daytime.  They are more awake, the sun is up, the day is nice – everything is there for a spectacular sightseeing adventure on a custom private luxury tour of the city.  However, consider this: traffic, crowds, heat, noise, bright sunlight and more traffic.  These are unavoidable aspects of a busy modern city that is a major destination for visitors from all over the world especially in the summer.  We find that our guests who, because of their schedules or ours, decide to venture out of their hotels with us early in the evening, during or right after dinner enjoy sights of Los Angeles, Hollywood and Beverly Hills that our daytime guests do not get to see.  Summer sunset in Los Angeles is around 8:00 p.m. so a tour starting at 7:00 p.m. will enjoy a full hour of daylight (the Golden Hour) and then the beautiful dusk as night falls.  We know the absolute best places to see the city as it transforms into a glittering jewel by the sea.  For an even better adventure join us for a combination helicopter and ground tour after dark.  With a departure from a downtown skyscraper this private Los Angeles tour becomes the ultimate experience.

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3:00 15 June 2015

Dodger Stadium is Los Angeles

We flew our guests over Dodger Stadium before the game

Our Private Tour Guests Love Baseball

Baseball is a big part of the Los Angeles sports scene in the summer.  Our guests this day, from Germany, were intrigued by the American pastime so we made sure we got a good look at Dodger Stadium while we were up in the air enjoying a spectacular combination helicopter and ground tour of  the city.  Flying over Griffith Park toward downtown Los Angeles we cruise right over Chavez Ravine and the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1962.  Our guests already knew that the Los Angeles Dodgers were originally the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The team is off to a hot start this season in the National League West and is already entertaining the fans with thoughts of post-season glory when summer winds down.  Not too far down the highway is Anaheim Stadium and the Angels team of the American League.  Several minor league teams have stadiums close by so that professional level baseball is available all through the area.  Dodger Stadium is now the third oldest in Major League Baseball and has the highest seating capacity of any stadium.  Despite its age Dodger Stadium remains popular with its fans.  Vin Scully continues as the voice of the team for Dodger lovers watching games on television or listening on the radio.

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