Today we have booked a tour with a terrific guy called Tom who runs the Anaheim Tour Company. We are in a mini van with one other family, also Aussies! Oi Oi Oi!
We are looking forward to a day looking at the homes of the movie stars, the Hollywood sign and a tour of Warner Brothers Studios. I am a movie buff from way back when I was a kid and used to watch the midday movies on the weekend – Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Elvis, Shirley Temple – and I am pretty enthusiastic about TV too, both old and new. Yep, I’m a regular square-eyes.
We start off with a trip to Rodeo Drive, which reminds me of the scene in Pretty Woman where her best friends tells her where to shop in Beverly Hills: “Rodeo Drive, baby!” All the big fancy brands are here, the shops are kind of intimidating and I’m pretty sure I won’t be bagging any bargains today. We see the famous Beverly Wilshire Hotel and do the Walk of Style.
A fascinating part of the tour is a trip to the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village and Memorial Park.
It is the final resting place for Marilyn Monroe, Donna Reed, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor, Truman Capote, Farrah Fawcett and many others.
Some of the epitaphs are humorous, and it’s kind of nice to know that the original Odd Couple are spending eternity in close proximity.
Lunch is in an iconic LA restaurant, the Carney Train. It’s a repurposed train carriage. The menu reads like all the American diners I have seen on TV, and everything is cooked fresh to order. The burgers look fantastic, but I opt for a hot dog with cabbage and chilli cheese fries, with house made lemonade. It is delicious!
The drive to the Hollywood Hills is so pretty. Our tour guide Tom knows all the secrets of the area and he drives straight past a “No View of the Hollywood Sign from This Street” sign, up to the most spectacular position for photos.
Our drive around the movie stars’ homes is fascinating, we see Barbra Streisand’s big green hedge, the house where Michael Jackson passed away, and the construction lot where Frank Sinatra’s house has been bulldozed to build something bigger. (Seriously.)
My favourite part of this tour is the more old-fashioned area, where Lucille Ball and Jack Benny lived. It’s much more open, no high hedges here, we can see the beautiful homes themselves.
We see where Mary Tyler Moore used to live, and the house next door where Betty White still lives. And all throughout we are hearing anecdotes about the movie, music and television stars who called these places home. I’m in heaven.
We also go to the Hollywood walk of fame on Hollywood Boulevarde, and seek out our favourite stars. Dad gets his photo with the Tom Selleck star, as Mum used to say he looked like Magnum PI, but we always maintained that he looked more like Higgins.
From here we visit Warner Brothers Studios. I’m a bit embarrassingly excited to be here. We see sound stages, sets and back lots, the Warner Brothers museum which has all kinds of cool costumes and artefacts from movies.
But the best part, by far, was being able to go on the set of The Big Bang Theory. They weren’t filming so we were allowed to go right in and sit where the live audience sits. The set is exactly how it looks on TV, which is to say, the actors literally walk out of Sheldon’s apartment, across a hall, and into Penny’s. We are told all kind of cool insider info about the show. One fact that I love, is that all the equations on the whiteboards are done by a professor of theoretical physics, and that he actually puts clues in there for his real life students. So if they watch the show, they get a heads up on their homework. (As if you need extra incentive to watch The Big Bang Theory.) No photos are allowed on set dammit.
Our day also includes a visit to the awesome Hollywood Bowl, the historic Biltmore Hotel and the Griffith Observatory (the older boys were blown away by how much it looked like the observatory in GTA 5….) We finish the tour very tired but also excited and happy. It has been an absolutely perfect way to see Hollywood for a family with only a day to do it in.