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Tanya Vital's Blog

Monday, 28 May 2012

Hollyweird Part 2 (The REAL Hollywood)


Culture





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One thing that didn’t sit well with me at all from the starts was the abundance of poverty and the colossal difference between the have’s and the have not’s. We would go from a Millionaire's gated community, like you see on The Real Housewives of Orange County and at the other side of the gate would be 5 people living out of shopping trolleys, like you see on all the old 80’s movies (they tend not to show that so much now).

The worst thing about the homelessness for me was that in the UK, there really are few reasons to be homeless unless you are mentally ill or an addict or chose to be homeless. Don’t get me wrong, as like most cities there were plenty of drug addicts but, I can hand on heart say that not everyone I saw was an addict or mentally ill (I'm from Bradford - I can sense these things). Some were just normal people, who you could tell had once lead good lives, but something just went wrong. I’m not being dramatic when I say you could literally see the despair in their eyes.

cityofangels30.blogspot.co.uk 

I am aware that there is a culture of free spirits and some people chose to be travellers and refuse to conform to living in concrete boxes. Travelling and being ‘free’ is much easier in warmer climates and so many travellers flock to those places – but I ain't dumb and I could tell the difference between a traveller and a lost soul and lost souls - there are plenty.

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The Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard is just grubby, it’s just like Oxford Street in London. There were people literally lined up on Hollywood boulevard – in fact everywhere with signs asking for money. If you’re like me - I give if I can regardless of where it’s going. A good friend from  Emmerdale once said to me about beggars “it’s just someone trying to get by” and it’s true, but you just cant give out there because by the time you got to the end of the road you’d be broke.

Some of the signs were funny and engaging ‘need weed’, ‘need beer and weed’ and some people strangely beg just for the ‘craic’ because they know tourists and people with money go to L.A, but you could see the hopelessness on those who weren’t doing it for fun. One guy was allowing people to kick him up the ass for $1. Showman or not, that’s pretty desperate. It cannot help but to cheapen the stars on the floor and make them seem utterly ridiculous. I’m also told that a Hollywood Walk of Fame star costs $30,000 a year to maintain on Hollywood Boulevard – Meanwhile homeless Joe has no idea of the cost of his ‘home’.

www.flickr.com
There is a strip on the Boulevard outside Man’s Chinese Theatre where the street is full of Willy Wonka, Marilyn Monroe, Spiderman, Catwoman, Batman and Michael Jackson lookalikes. Anybody you could name – there lookalike is there. It’s hard to tell who’s a prostitute and who’s an official lookalike – if there is such a thing. How they make their money nobody knows. We assumed that they charge tourists to take pictures with them, but damn! If you saw them you would shudder.

The costumes are so worn out, they look as if they have been lived in for 10 years straight. It’s just budget! If there is more than one M.J on the strip, they have cat fights as to who stays on which star (part of pavement) and some of them have clearly had lots of surgery to look like their respective likenesses. One of the M.J’s looked like they had dug up poor Michael’s body and propped him up on the Boulevard with his creepy child catcher grin – he was scary! 


One of our group asked Catwoman how long she’s been doing this job – she replied “20 years”. . .  20 years! The look of sheer disbelief on her OWN face was said to be devastating. Almost as if they’d been in some magic induced time warp, like the casino scene on ‘Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief’ and the spell was only broken when asked how long shed been here. You see everybody goes to Hollywood to ‘make-it’ and I doubt Catwoman had moved to Hollywood specifically to be dressed as an Aldi Catwoman for 20 years but, the reality is more often than not other things just take over. So disturbingly sad.

Transport

The transport system in L.A leaves a lot to be desired. It’s very much like it is in the north of England. You can get places but not quick or easily. There is somewhat of a subway system but to nowhere near the extent of the London Tube system and the buses are not as frequent - but it is cheap! $1.50 on a bus to anywhere. You cannot grasp the enormity of the place until you get there. It is just HUGE. One end of a road to the other could be 4 miles or more long. Venice Beach is over 40 minutes drive away from Hollywood, (over an hour by bus). I don’t know about you but I associates ‘holiday’ with beach at doorstep – NO!  It’s far.  Before you go to America everyone tells you it is spaced out and vast but until you get there – you have no idea. That is why NOBODY walks and everybody drives – apart from the crazies who take the bus, which leads me to my next point.

'Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood' 

We (the group I was with) were desperate to get away from the mental Hollywood and the nutty Boulevard so we all decided that we would have a night out and go for food in Chinatown. We only had a very rough idea of how to get to the Chinatown area, no idea of where we would go when we got there but how difficult could it be? We have a few Chinatown’s in the UK so we got this! Right? WRONG!! Never get a bunch of Actors to do ANYTHING, what’s that saying ‘how many Actors does it take to change a light bulb?’ Ridiculous!

We managed to get the Metro (Tube) to Chinatown – at around 9/10pm. This would be OK in the UK but in L.A Chinatown apparently shuts down at around 6pm. So we are wandering round this deserted town and I mean ‘28 Days Later’ deserted! No buses are going by, no cabs, no cars, no people, nothing. Its dark and looking like hell. After walking around aimlessly for about an hour looking for a restaurant to eat, we finally ended up going back to the very first restaurant we passed as we got off the Metro.


Apart from the restaurant having a security guard on the door (what are they securing its ‘28 Days Later’ for crying out loud), the food almost inducing an anaphylactic shock on my friend, dining next to some Triad looking She-Boss (you know the one from ‘Kung-Fu Hustle) playing poker with her henchmen and being exposed to ladies room that would have been well placed in ‘Saw’ - the restaurant experience was kinda cool. We revelled in the novelty of being in a ‘real’ Chinatown - that was in reality just like being in the Flying Dragon down Little Horton Lane in Bradford. We revelled so much we forgot that we turned up late, so by the time we left it was really GOD DAMN LATE!

We swiftly walked back to the Metro stop hoping to catch the last train back – no chance! And for the record, DO NOT think you will get any help from the lovely people on the Metro intercom, she practically told us to F’ off. If you imagine the most stereotypical, rude woman from Compton you could ever see on any of the Friday movies – that's how she spoke to us. So there we are stranded in '28 Days Later', a bunch of English tourists looking like dinner. We set off down the main road to find anything that could save us from certain death and finally it started to dawn on us that we had been really bloody stupid not to plan this properly and yes – we were probably gonna die. I was already choosing who from the group I would offer up as first bait.


Eventually a bus came and we didn’t care where it was going, we got on it and just hoped for the best. The bus driver told us we could get off Downtown and get another bus to Hollywood from there. Great! NO - not so flipping great. We get to Downtown and then we realise we were actually safer up at ‘28 Days Later’ where there were no living people. It was about 1am and we were knee deep in treacherous shish looking for a bleeding bus stop – still looking like prime rib. Hustlers on every corner asking if we wanted this and that, I’m not going to lie I was scared.

Long story – stay with me it gets worse.




We eventually got on the correct bus that would take us back to Hollywood and we all sat in relief. Finally the ordeal was over – we were safe and our bus in shining armour was taking us home. Then everything changed in the blink of an eye. The bus stops and on gets, what I can only describe as some crackhead looking ‘Loc Dog’ from ‘Don’t be a Menace’. It was like slow motion. He gets on, turns his head, locks his eyes onto me like a pray mantis and he makes his decent down the bus. SH*T! He starts to sit down next to me (I sat on my own seat coz I’m ‘ard – not so ‘ard now though). As he tries to sit I’m trying to literally climb over him to get out of what’s about to come. He’s like (in American Friday accent) “Awww don’t be like dat – don’t be like that”. I reply (in my broadest Northern) “well I don’t know ya and ya making me feel uncomfortable!” so he lets me out to sit with my friends and follows suit. 

He then proceeds to try his luck “Awww you baad though, can I get yow number”, I’m like “I ‘ant got a phone”. The boys in our group cleverly come to our aid and begin to tell Crazy that all us girls are all taken and there is no chance of getting our numbers, thinking this would see him off, but it only intrigues Crazy more. Now we can smell the alcohol (and whatever else) on him and he is playing ‘nice’ so far but every so often he would stop smiling and give us all a look so you could just tell he was one of those off key characters. You piss him off and he will stab you up - here on this bus in a breath with the blades he probably carries in his cheeks (which cheeks – u decide!)



He proceeds to try his luck with the other girls, telling us how he could have us – ‘if that was his intention’. He’s offering to sell us alcohol, he’s undressing us with his eyes, leering, he’s sizing up the lads. I’m thinking ‘why Lord, why wasn’t Chinatown enough for you?’ Crazy then shouts aggressively to someone who is getting off of the bus. We look over and it’s a guy. Crazy then orders the guy to come and sit with us immediately - the guy meekly does so. Crazy then explains that this is his ‘friend’ and how his friend is gay but he’s not. Fine, OK - we don’t care. He’s telling us all the details of said friends sexual life and said friend is all apologetic because Crazy is under the influence. Crazy is so far gone, he’s asking us one thing and when we reply he’s hearing another. Somehow this dude heard that I was from Ohio (where he was from obviously *rolls eyes*) and how I look so much like his daughter “but you bad though.” CRINGE! Crazy begins to tell us about all these young girls he has – we now realise yep! This dude is a crazy, psycho, grooming pimp and his ‘friend’ is probably part of the ‘business’.

At this point we are just dying to see anything familiar so we can just get off of the bus and away from this scary weirdo. Finally we see the sign for the ‘W’, a building on Hollywood Boulevard and I swear to God it was like seeing the golden arches of McDonald's for the first time as a child - Saviour! We begin to get off and Crazy knows his time is up so he stands and demands the phone number – I flee, it’s a done deal - so Crazy then does what any other confused, crazy groomer would do and he turns and begins to ask the fellas in our group for THEIR number! I kid you not. We got off keep walking and NEVER look back.


Moral of the story:

We live on media hype and speculation. A lot of people were astonished that we used public transport in L.A because it’s ‘dangerous’.

Let me explain it like this: The amount of people who told my Actor friend (from Bow East London) NOT to go to Chapeltown in Leeds when he came to do a play up there (because it’s known as a ‘bad’ area), was just ridiculous. Chapeltown is no worse than Wembley High Street, but its reputation from the press precedes it. We decided to try the local transport because we all had the intention of POSSIBLY moving out there and we wanted to experience it all. Not only that, we didn't yet have a hire car and we were going mental in Hollywood.


Public transport in L.A is not terrible and there is nothing wrong with venturing out, but common sense must prevail, just be careful and keep your wits about you. In the daytime its absolutely fine, at night yes it can be suspect and probably dangerous (as we found out), but so can any night bus in Central London. If you’re venturing out in L.A you really should try to get a car/cab or at least a cab number, plan the journey there and back before you set out and make sure you do it all at a reasonable hour of the day. Going in a group is always a safer option too.

Food/bars/clubs 

Personally I loved the food out in America. Everything I chose and ate was of a high standard and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t all come on gigantic plates. (Not in L.A anyway because they’re quite health conscious). There is every kind of food you could imagine because the state is so rich of culture and ethnicities which definitely influences the food. The only thing that grated on me was there is a tipping system out there that is more-or-less compulsory. Whatever you see on the price – you must add 10% TAX onto that for the final bill. THEN as waiters/waitresses work all work on minimum wage and make their living from tips – you HAVE to add an 18% tip onto the final bill. So its basically like a 30% addition at the end to the price you first saw – sheer annoyance!



The outskirts of Hollywood from West Hollywood all the way up to Santa Monica, Malibu and Santa Barbara are just lovely. As is the case anywhere, the suburbs or more affluent areas are beautiful and  the vibe is just so nice and chilled out there. Fewer weirdos, more normal folk. If you decide to live out there, west of Hollywood is probably the safest bet, but ask the locals because some of our boys were even  warned off from walking in certain ‘safer’ areas at night (it's not the gang bangers you need to worry about - its the creepy serial killers). Ladies – just don't walk anywhere in Hollywood alone at night and be careful in the day.



There are some really fantastic bars and a number of clubs - some really posh and some cheap, there is literally something for everyone. The only problem for party animal’s is that everything closes at 2am so you need to get your party on fairly early. I’m not sure if this is true for the rest of L.A but in Hollywood – 2am – party done. In a way it seems sensible as I saw no drunken louts (unlike those we have in SOME places *cough *cough), but it is very indicative of America and how many rules there are about literally everything.

On the whole everybody in America was lovely. Even Crazy Pimp was fairly well mannered. There’s none of that “have a nice day y’all” rubbish that we all mock. Most people are just genuinely nice and you really notice the difference when you come back to miserable England. It took me all of 2 weeks to get back to grumpy, moaning Twitter mode.


If you are thinking about going out to Hollywood, the best advice I can give is have a thick skin. Some of my group were less affected than I was about the bad things we saw, so if you’re a soft touch like me – you have to become slightly numb or cold to it. Its not necessarily losing your humanity – as I first thought it was – its more about accepting it for what it is and knowing that you don't have the power to change it all. Find the areas where you feel most comfortable and donate/help local charities to heal the heart.

www.pbase.com

Tips

  • ·  There’s lots to do out there if you have a vehicle and money

    ·  The weather is NOT always warm – depending on the seasons, they get rain and it can be very cold, particularly at night time so wrap up.

    ·   Do not park facing the wrong way, against the traffic.

    ·  Do not jay walk.

    ·  Do not drink in the street.

    ·   If you hire a car make sure you ask the hire company if you need to display anything for vehicle registration.

    ·   Do not forget these people can buy guns at ASDA (Walmart) so just be on your toes at all times!



 If you are interested in going to Hollywood please visit: http://www.industryhollywood.com/




1 comment:

  1. LOVE your powers of description! Tell you what was interesting, I used to live in Chapeltown AND in Wembley (and you're right they are both ok!) lol
    I'm interested in what your final decision was in terms of moving there or not?
    Whatever you do, I Love your writing Sis
    xx

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