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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Day in Hollywood, LA with a rising Star- Guest post by Anu Menon

Guest Post- As I’ve never been outside India, I’ve been trying to bring in some international content by means of guest posts. Here’s a guest post that narrates the tour of Hollywood studios in Los Angelis and a rising Star she met. The post is contributed by Anu Menon. Anu Menon blogs at Truth Personified. Her posts were enjoyable due to their straight from the heart nature. Once a Hyderabad based IT professional, she is now settled in the states. Without taking much of your time, let us jump to her guest post. It is a bit lengthy and I’ve hardly edited it, do give your feedbacks -Shrinidhi

A Day in LA with Stephen a rising Star- by Anu Menon


It’s always the visitors who know more about a place than most locals do. The simple logic is that when you live in a place you take it for granted and don’t really care about knowing the history, the places to see etc,. Whereas, as a visitor, you always want to cover as much possible in as little time so that you don’t miss anything in case you don’t get another chance to get back. So was the case when I, having lived my entire life in Hyderabad had to take friends and relatives who visited us on a tour. I could take them shopping anytime but sightseeing was a pain to plan out and execute. Try telling this to Stephen Schochet, a tour guide for the past 20 years.

Having met Stephen at the gym we got talking about our common interests – Writing of course! Within a few minutes of conversing with him I got to know that he was two audio books and one hard cover old! Over the years Stephen Schochet, as an LA tour guide has shared many interesting tidbits and stories with tourists which led to amassing knowledge about the history of Los Angeles. He knows almost every nook and cranny in LA.

Stephen has 2 audio books Tales of Hollywood and Fascinating Walt Disney to his credit and Hollywood Stories is his first non-fiction paperback . It has already received raving reviews and he has been busy with radio interviews and book signings. As a tour guide in LA Stephen has been sharing snippets of interesting trivia with tourists for over 20 years now. The trivia includes real stories of Hollywood stars carefully put into interesting stories. Being fastidious he made sure that he got all his facts right while making sure that it brought a smile to the reader.

While I would be sharing a review of his book in a later post, in this post I would like to share the tour experience with Stephen. You can order his book here.

Trip duration: 5 hours
Cost: $55 + tip( Ideally between 10 – 15%
Pick up and Drop off at hotels/VIP tours office
Tour highlights: Venice beach, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Farmers Market

The day tour stars ideally at 9:30 am and goes on till 2:30 at the max given there are no traffic related delays. Stephen has told me of experiences where in an afternoon tour has been extended till night 9 because of the President’s arrival in town.

The tour covered some generally unseen locations, for example, who knew Los Angeles has places like Kerala backwaters in India? Venice Canals is very scenic location with quaint houses with canals for backyards. Every house even had its own little boat.
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The streets are tiny and very well maintained. While showing us these beautiful places Stephen added a Hollywood tidbit of his own - ‘In olden days when movies had just started to be shown in theaters they didn’t have much. One entire movie consisted of - Two girls getting to a lake. As they get ready to take off their clothes a train passes by and the next scene shows the girls playing in the lake. One man went and watched this movie every single day as long as it aired and when asked why he kept going and watching the same thing over and over again he said he went with the hope that one of the days the train would be late’.
Coming back to the tour, a very brief history about LA is in order. Information source: Stephen and Google.
Los Angeles County has 88 cities and is the most populous county in USA. Thousands and thousands come here with the Hollywood dream and to make it big in films.

The Venice beach which was the first stop, lasted 25 minutes and it covered the canals, the beach, the sidewalk shops and lots of interesting people. I even met a guy who said ‘Namaste. Do you know Gabbar Singh? He is my brother. Have you seen Sholay?” Well what can I say, the answer is NO I haven’t watched sholay even once but that’s another story. Venice was founded in 1905. After being subjected to neglect over the years Venice bounced back with panache.
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It was a pretty foggy day at the beach so the water evaded us and so did the mountains… But the weather is unpredictable too. The moment we moved onto the freeway and the sun came streaming right in – thank god for the air conditioning.
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The beach also has the Muscle Beach where there are pictures of Arnold and his body building. It used to be frequented by Dave Draper, Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Trejo. On Labor Day 2006, California governor and several-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Weider protege, presented Joe Weider with the Venice Muscle Beach Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement award. Joe Weider is the co-founder of the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB), creator of the Mr. Olympia, the Ms. Olympia, and the now-defunct Masters Olympia bodybuilding contests. These days most Television and Movie stars go to Gold Gym.

Two walls are painted with how Venice looked eons ago and there are some public places where graffiti is permitted.
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LA is home to many celebrity owned restaurants like Ago, House of Blues, Geisha house & Ketchup(for the Ashton Kutcher fans). XIV is a celebrity spotting restaurant. Some celebrities swear by small time restaurants… Most of us know the Randy’s donut place because of the movies it’s been featured in.
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Most of us are familiar with Beverly Hills 90210 which is also part of the tour. The Rodeo drive is a host to expensive shops and the hotel where the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ was shot. The interesting part is that there is no Richards – Julia suite because all their scenes were shot in the Walt Disney Studios.
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The next stop was Hollywood and this stop lasted about 40 minutes. Tourists were given coupons to buy souvenirs at the Hollywood Souvenir store. The stretch of Hollywood is home to the Kodak theater which has been hosting the Academy awards/Oscars since 2002 and all businesses are shut down and the red carpet laid out to welcome the stars. The Madame Tussauds, the Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ripley’s Believe it or Not are all on this stretch. You find hundreds of people dressed up as their favorite stars ready to pose for you. The most famous star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame is ‘Michael Jackson’.

Last but not least is the Farmers market which attracts the rich and famous as much as it attracts common man. The farmers market generates the most revenue given the tourist it draws. Food of every type, vegetables, fruits, pastas, flowers you name it…
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I got myself some pasta and fresh golden raspberries on my way out…
Having spent a typical Stephen Schochet Day on his tour I would like to add how much it matters to a tourist that the guide is as fun loving as he is informative. Stephen is a perfect mixture of both so tours with him never hold a dull moment be it LA traffic or the sometimes monotonous freeways.

Stephen Schochet also has 72 videos on his youtube channel. Reviews of his book ‘Hollywood Stories’ can be read here.
Snippets that might interest you:
o Steven Spielberg gets 2% of the Universal Studios revenue.
o Marine Del Rey is the 2nd largest man made small boat harbor.
o Ages before, as shown in the movie Changling, the public transport in LA was cable cars. Over a period of time as the number of buses and cars increased it killed the public transport. Read more about the scandal here.
o LA initially was mostly a swamp until the discovery of Oil.
o Home to many earthquakes(nearing 10000 a year) Los Angeles is literally on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Places to visit in and around Los Angeles: Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Kodak Theatre, Griffith Observatory, Getty Center, Getty Villa, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Boulevard, Capitol Records Tower, Los Angeles City Hall, Hollywood Bowl, Theme Building, Watts Towers, Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, and La Placita Olvera/Olvera Street.

Pictures of the trip here.

End of post. Other guest posts: Lifestyle in Singapore * Petronas Twin Towers * Singapore flyer * Singapore Underwater World * Jurong Bird park, Singapore *

4 comments :

Anonymous said...

made a good read, a bit lengthy though...

KK said...

It could have be in parts - that way would have missed out on information...!

A good read!

The Fallen Poet said...

good one...enjoyed it...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Anon, KK and TFP for your comments.