Archive for March, 2016
Our Private Tour Guests Never Get to See This
Carmageddon – This wonderful word was coined back in 2011 when the 405 Freeway through West Los Angeles was shut down for construction of a new bridge crossing at Sunset Boulevard. Warnings of possible traffic gridlock began six months before construction and increased in frequency and tenor as the shovel date approached. Los Angelenos made arrangements to change their work schedules to accommodate different routes between home and office. They scheduled vacations. They arranged for additional yoga and Pilates classes in their neighborhood. Life was doomed. Or so everyone thought. Nah, nothing bad happened at all. Traffic flowed smoothly everywhere much as what happened during the 1984 Olympics. We know how to deal with detours and road construction. Happens all the time. As you can see, just as the freeway reopened there was a shiny new bridge crossing for Sunset Boulevard just below the Angeleno Hotel where we were meeting our private Los Angeles tour guests that morning. What a beautiful sight it was. Not the shiny new bridge but the vast expanse of empty pavement on the highway…no traffic.
Funny, but the same thing happened the next year when the Mulholland Highway overcrossing was demolished just a few miles north of here. Again, no problems.
Our Private Tour Guests Really Feel Like They Are in Hollywood
Of the major Hollywood studios only Paramount Pictures remains in Hollywood. Others that began here or nearby have since moved and expanded, studios like Disney and Universal. The Chaplin Studios remain but are now the Henson Company. Sunset/Gower Studios and Raleigh Studios are a part of Hollywood and movie history but do not possess the historical gravitas of Paramount Pictures. The main entrance to this grand filmmaking facility is the Melrose Gate though our private Los Angeles tour guides like to show their guests the less glamorous ways to get into and out of the studio. When the tour stops here, as a custom tour might if our guests wish, we can point out the Marathon Gate, also a famous Hollywood landmark as seen in countless photographs of Hollywood but also, as always, used in movies and later television whenever the director thought the look appropriate for filming. Our Star Trek fans love getting to this point of the tour to see where Star Trek was born (Desilu Studios) and continues to be made (coming this summer, Star Trek: Beyond). Our guests learn about RKO studios and Famous Players and the creative people who started Hollywood and led ultimately to this grand studio facility. We talk about the former restaurant, Nickodell, once a part of the studio and Lucy’s El Adobe still going strong right across the street after more than 50 years. Finally, there is Hollywood Forever cemetery just behind the studio’s back wall where some of the most famous names in the movie world are buried. We can drive or walk through this old graveyard and talk about the resident population as well as a popular summer feature of the memorial park, movies shown against the wall of the mausoleum beside the Fairbanks monument. Not creepy at all watching a movie into the night surrounded by gravemarkers.
Our Private Tour Through Bel Air Pays Respects to Nancy Reagan
Memorial wreaths, flowers and mementos on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are regular sad sights on a private Los Angeles tour with us. We make it a point to locate those stars who have recently passed away and show our guests the regard that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, residents and visitors have for the entertainment figures honored with stars on the famous sidewalk. We were a little surprised and pleased to see flowers appearing as we passed by the estate of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in Bel Air soon after Nancy’s passing was announced. In this verdant neighborhood of Los Angeles (despite the drought) the small floral arrangements appearing around the perimeter were eyecatching and pleasing. We had been fortunate over the years to see Mrs. Reagan from time to time when we stopped for lunch at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She never lost her “Hollywood” dazzle and attracted our gaze from the moment we saw her in the busy restaurant. We will certainly visit her (and Ronald Reagan) where they are buried at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Many of our luxury tour guests request that we make the drive up from Los Angeles to see what we think must be the best of the presidential libraries. The facility is a must see for our guests interested in California presidents and American history.
Our Private Tour Guests Get to Know Bel Air
This six square mile neighborhood of Los Angeles between Hollywood and the beach – one of the least densely populated areas of the city – is essentially a residential area with winding forested streets along large well-landscaped properties adjacent to UCLA. When we are pointing out homes of past and present celebrities we find ourselves quite busy around here. We also love to take our guests up to the Hotel Bel Air, secluded and quiet, a perfect getaway for movie stars and statesmen wanting to be away from the busy hubbub of Beverly Hills and other parts of Los Angeles. It is a nice place for a secret rendezvous or simply a meal at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Our private Los Angeles tour often begins at this hideaway in the hills when our guests are also guests of the hotel. From notables like President and Nancy Reagan to more obscure heroes of moviedom like Irving Brecher we point out lots of homes, some even recognizable from their use in movies and television. Two large gates lead into the neighborhood from Sunset Boulevard and we make use of a couple of less obvious ingress and egress roads depending on what we are showing our guests. What we are not certain of, however, is whether there is or is not a hyphen in the name Bel Air.
We believe that the name of Marilyn Monroe will never fade from the minds of movie lovers. Despite not having a large filmography the beautiful blond star left a lasting impression on Hollywood history and in the minds of fans born long since her passing. Our custom luxury tour around Los Angeles can include stops at any number of important cemeteries to find the final resting places of filmdom celebrities from the very beginning of the industry until recently. One of our favorite stops is Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery. This tiny graveyard sits behind a movie theater (how appropriate) and a tall office building hidden from the passing street and business traffic. Despite its small size there are big names here to fans of movies and early television. The visits to cemeteries are not the least bit sad on our tours because the names we see bring up happy memories of wonderful films, television shows and music. This cemetery is popular with our guests because so many of the epitaphs are as memorable as the people brought to mind. Forest Lawn, Hollywood Forever and Hillside Memorial are usual stops for us as we take our guests to their pay respects to their favorite movie stars and celebrities.
Private Tour Guests Treated to Classic American Car
This 1958 Dodge Coronet is not even a movie car. It is purring smoothly as it glides down Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of Tinseltown. We have just been up to the Hollywood Sign and are coming into town with our private Los Angeles tour guests to walk around the Walk of Fame. On the way to Grauman’s Chinese Theater this cherry antique drives right in front of us. One of our guests had been asking us about all the great cars seen in television shows depicting the past (Fargo, Agent Carter and recently the Coen Brothers’ film look at old Hollywood, Hail Caesar!). Where do these great cars come from? Well, when you see classic automobiles everywhere around Los Angeles on a day-to-day basis they can understand that cars do not die here in Southern California. Our great weather and car culture keep these machines running and well maintained. We have a whole industry of car buffs who collect the vehicles from the earliest days of cars and provide them to film production companies. Antique autos, buses, vans all the way up to modern day vehicles. There are even collectors with science fiction vehicles like the Batmobile. No cars are ever junked or discarded because someday a film is going to need them. Perhaps the owner of this Coronet is in someone’s contact list who needs a car for a remake of Grease.
Our Sideways Wine Tour Enjoys Fruit of the Vine
Los Angeles boasts a number of local vineyards and wineries so we can please our wine loving private tour guests and visit the immediate area for wine tasting on a sightseeing tour. However, we can also pull out all the stops and take our custom tour VIP guests up to the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara and retrace the route of the the characters of Rex Pickett‘s wonderful book (and Alexander Payne‘s award winning film) Sideways. As we are on a custom tour we can pull up to the signposts at the head of the valley and decide from there which wineries to visit as we sample the vintages across the valley floor. The tour is always open ended so we can visit as many tasting rooms as our guests desire. We also know some special dining rooms if a lunch or dinner stop is requested. We have plenty of room in our luxury SUVs for wine purchases. The drive up to the Santa Ynez Valley is beautiful with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the coastal mountains on the other. Lake Cachuma above Santa Barbara is as blue as the sky. Speaking of sky, we do not have to drive to this fabulous wine region. We have luxury twin-engine helicopters at our disposal to get us there in a jiffy. Of course, we will drive once there but flying means more time for wine tasting.
Our Private Tour in Los Angeles Keeps Kids Smiling
One of the many destinations we keep in mind with young folks aboard a private tour of Los Angeles is the Henson Studios in Hollywood. In the beginning this was Charlie Chaplin’s studio built in 1917. Two buildings and Chaplin’s former swimming pool have been converted into recording studios. The facility still maintains a small, homey atmosphere. What captures the eyes of our kinderfolk is the green statue of Kermit the Frog standing above the studio entrance dressed as Chaplin’s tramp character and doffing his bowler hat. The studio possesses a considerable amount of Hollywood history from Chaplin, Red Skelton and Perry Mason to Herb Alpert and then The Muppets (Jim Henson Company). Our guides will fill everyone in when they stop here for photographs on their luxury tour. Nickelodeon has studios nearby for another nod to the culture of kids and places to go on a tour over Spring Break and Summer Vacation. Besides the studios there are playgrounds and museums, celebrity dog parks and other places, some little known, that are special for young people when sightseeing in Los Angeles, Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Anyone on Our Private Tour Knows Right Where They Are
You do not have to remember The Beverly Hillbillies or even Beverly Hills 90210 to have this particular image emblazoned on your brain. Years and years of movies and television have identified the uber city of Beverly Hills with columns of palm trees (a number of varieties) lining the streets. Blue skies and well groomed landscapes add to the imagery of opulence and success that visitors enjoy seeing when they join us on a private Los Angeles tour. We, of course, point out a number of familiar places known to most of our guests, certain houses and landmarks associated with celebrities or famous movies and television shows. We introduce our luxury tour guests to the hierarchy of addresses (humorously referred to in Clueless): north of Sunset, above Wilshire and below Wilshire. We drive everywhere in this tiny city and so can venture far up into the hills of Beverly to identify a particular star’s home that our guests are wishing to visit. Ah, the beauty of a custom tour. We go everywhere.
Still a Private Tour Destination in Hollywood
Even if the next generation of visitors to Hollywood are unfamiliar with the sirens call of Hollywood and Vine there remains a considerable amount of Hollywood history to share at this famous intersection. We are thankful that loyal watchers of TCM (Turner Classic Movies), Hollywood and film history buffs and their offspring still know that the phrase “Hollywood and Vine” is significant. The silent movie studios that were near here are long gone and the major studios are miles away from this once central point in the new industry springing up in sunny Los Angeles a hundred years ago. For several decades the movie stars lived, ate, drank and played all around here such that Hollywood and Vine was more than a busy intersection in a growing city – it was a destination. And it still is. Besides talking about some of the old buildings adjacent to the corner (see the Taft Building in the photograph?) there are now new buildings and businesses appearing as Hollywood continues its makeover that started with the new century. A fine boutique hotel (the Redbury) is here as well as new restaurants (33 Taps, Katsuya and Wood & Vine). There is always a blockbuster musical on stage at the historic Pantages Theater and the only restaurant remaining from the earliest days of Hollywood, Musso and Frank Grill, is still serving fine steaks and the best martinis just a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard. For all of these reasons we like to suggest to our private Los Angeles tour guests that we stop and take a look around Hollywood and Vine.