Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chinese Theatre Cover-up

Back when I worked at Starline Tours, one of my favorite things was helping tourists get that perfect photo in front of the Chinese Theatre. When you get down close to the ground you can get a great shot upward that gets the whole front of the theatre.............................Not any more.

In an effort to make some extra $$, owners Elie Samaha and Donald Kushner have come up with a unique idea: Green screen the Chinese and have you pay for it.

If you want to enter the forecourt, you are directed to enter thru the "FREE" entrance and stand in front of the green screen to have your picture taken, then you can roam the forecourt to see "all" the handprints. 

After you are finished you can purchase photos at the booth.

Photo package pricing
An "official" photo in front of the green screen

While I applaud them for their ingenuity to get people to pay for a photo that they used to be able to take for free, what bothers me is.............The Cover up!!
If you want pictures of the Icons Bette Davis, Lucas and Spielberg, Betty Grable, Elizabeth Taylor or Edward Arnold.....well, that's too bad 'cause they're under the carpet!

Steven Spielberg & George Lucas
Betty Grable

Bette Davis
Elizabeth Taylor & Rock Hudson

Bottom line, if you have pictures of these Hollywood landmarks - savor them!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Texas State Cemetery

In part two about my visit to Austin I return to my Dearly Departed Tours roots. Today's subject..... Who's buried in Austin.
 The Texas State Cemetery was created in 1851 but not really used until the Civil War. There are about 2000 marked graves of veterans and widows of the Confederacy alone.
Texas State currently has 2,941 interments and space for 7,500. This is not a Military cemetery and has very specific guidelines about eligibility.
In 1929, with the approaching Texas Centennial, Louis Kemp a noted businessman and historian led the effort to have prominent Texas Heroes moved to the cemetery for proper burial. 
Mr.Kemp also noted that the road through the cemetery should be paved and thus was created SH 165 (0.90 miles) the second shortest State highway in Texas.

In the Republic Hill section can be found the final resting spots of some of the Most well known names in Texas History. 
Among the most notables here are, Stephen F. Austin, The Father of Texas.
Governors John Connally and Ann Richards 


U.S. Representative and 1st African-American to be buried in the cemetery Barbara Jordan, Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry, as well as  very moving memorials for Viet Nam Veterans and the Victims of 9/11.
Oh and don't forget the squirrels.........yes they're blond!!!
  See the rest of the photos Here

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wall Art in Austin

I recently spent some time in Austin, Texas and was blown away by this city. The people, the sights, the art, the City itself was just incredible!! 
Thank You Austin for keeping it weird!!
Instead of posting boring travelogues about the trip I thought I would highlight different subjects.
                           Today's subject.........Murals.

It was great to see not just artwork in and around Austin but the coolest street art I have ever seen.

 6th street, South Congress (SoCo) and 4th Street are areas that have a large number of murals.
 Some are inspirational.
 Some are not.
 They can be found in alleys or hidden in parking lots. 

There is great beauty and creativity in Austin.
I am sure that you have murals where you live, I suggest you grab a camera, go for a walk and look around.
 Click Here for more Photos

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Days at "The Bu" Part 2

Malibu......just the name gets you thinking of  surf, sand and sunshine.
 The name Malibu comes from the Chumash Indian Village name Humaliwu, meaning "where the surf sounds loudly". An independent coastal city, Malibu extends for 27 miles up the coast to the Ventura County line.
During my time here in Southern California I have been through Malibu many times but never took the time to really stop and look around. We stayed at the Malibu Country Inn (say Hello to Ivy), a delightful little place located a short distance from Zuma Beach, one of the most famous beaches in SoCal. A quick walk to the beach just in time for sunset and then dinner. 
Since this was my first dining experience in Malibu I thought I must try Duke's, a local favorite right along the Pacific. Ask for Christine, she's been there since it opened, is very good and alot of fun. Duke's was great and the Seafood Risotto and the Ribs were incredible,if you have the chance to dine here....do it.
The adventure begins the next morning with a walk to Point Dume, a great climbing spot and well known filming location.
You climb through and over rocks covered in muscles to the secluded beach and there in front of you is a sight that you've wanted to see your whole life..........The cliff from the ending of "Planet of the Apes"!!! Not that remake piece of crap, I'm talking about the 1968 original!!!!! This was magical for me, I know how this must sound but I really like this film. The wall has white chalk like streaks from bird droppings.......alot of of bird droppings!! After an obligatory homage to the film, we headed back to the car and what do we spot but a set of steps leading to a trail above the cliffs. While we were up there the sun came through adding to the beauty of the views.

We had lunch at another local favorite called Coogies, a great place that offers an intense juice bar as well as local organic items on the menu. 
Then it was on to the next set of stairs.

Walk # 41 in "Secret Stairs"
Pacific Palisades-- Castellammare
This is the most beautiful walk so far but not very challenging, only 518 steps, it does offer some great homes and incredible views of the Pacific as you stroll through a maze of streets and steps.
Start at Gladstone's on the beach and walk down to the bridge crossing the Pacific Coast Highway. The large Spanish structure on your left was, in the 1930's, actress Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe. 
Another one of the amazing sights is, "Villa de Leon". A 12,000 square foot Italian Mansion built for wool magnate Leon Kauffman. The Villa took 5 years to build and was designed by Kenneth MacDonald Jr.
This home  has 9 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms a car wash in the garage and is currently on the market, listed for $14,995,000.00

The real highlight was "Castillo del Mar" the home of  Thelma Todd. "Hot Toddy" was found in her car in December of 1935, the  cause of death was eventually ruled "Accidental". Read about it here: "The Death of Thelma Todd"
Check out All the photos from Part 2, Here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Days at "The Bu" Part 1..... Steps, Nazis and a Waterfall

Wanting to get away for a short vacation and as always following our trusty "Secret Stairs" book, Beverly and I thought we would take the advice of Horace Greeley and "Go West" to Pacific Palisades and "The Bu"(as some locals call it). Our first stop, walk #42.

Pacific Palisades -- Giant Steps 
This is as the book says "a walk of staggering beauty, over public parkland filled with historical interest" but it is much more than that, it's a walk into another world.
Starting in the residential intersection of Casale and Capri Roads you hike along Sullivan Fire trail and into Topanga State Park via the Rustic Canyon entrance.
As you walk along, the views behind you are breathtaking and the view ahead is like walking into Jurassic Park. After walking for about 20 min. you will find the first set of steps (you will need to refer to the book for this as it can be a bit confusing).
Down 40 steps and into ..................The Nazi Compound!!!
Left overs from a compound built for Winona Stephens in the 1930's. Hit the link, it's an interesting story.

 First a huge water tank, now rusting and covered in graffiti, then your second set of steps down and down and down.....321 steps. This takes you to a paved driveway and on to your next set and down another 130 steps and then the final 47 and into the camp.

Whats left of the power station, the fuel station and the guard house is a mess of twisted metal and decaying buildings, but it is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. You could spend hours down there exploring the different paths and ruins. 
After a short hike along the creek bed and an encounter with a rattlesnake we decided to head back to civilization.

Follow the directions in the book for the steps going up. In front of you is the largest known staircase in Los Angeles. It doesn't look so hard but that's because you only see a portion of it, the rest is obscured by the trees.
They go up and up and up, you're looking at about 50 steps till the next bend and then there's 50 more and it just keeps on going and going and continues for 512 steps!!! It is exhilarating, breathtaking and exhausting, and worth the effort.
After this you basically retrace the route back the way you came but........................a few hundred feet before you exit thru the gate there is a set of small railroad tie steps going back down into the canyon, far be it for us to ignore them so we thought ...why not.
No railing, homemade steps, very steep and ending at a bridge with a locked gate. Look to the right and more steps leading around a bend, as you follow the trail the sound of water gets louder and louder. Thankfully there is a rope to help you down to the waterfall.
I would have liked to go to the base of the waterfall but i would have needed a ladder to get back up. A hike back up the the path and back to the road and our starting point. Onward to an evening in Malibu and more steps and history tomorrow.(stay tuned for part 2) 

Part 1 Photos Here 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscar Day.......Done

Once the show was over I made my way to Hollywood and Highland to see what was happening. The crowd isn't anywhere as big as it was before and I made it to the corner only to find a double chain link fence. to shoot pictures through. (note to self.....get a camera with manual focus) Security is Still tight and they use those wand things to make sure nobody's armed.
As the guest stand around a wait for their limos, 2 men stand in the middle of the intersection with bull horns and yell out the numbers of each car that pulls up. It may not be efficient but it seems to be the only option.
Not far away Fox Searchlight was having an after party so I waited out side for an hour and the highlight was a Great pair of Christian Louboutan shoes  and Matthew Lillard (not at the same time).

All in all it was a Great week and maybe next year I can finally get into the Red Carpet Bleachers. Oscar is gone for now and life in Hollywood returns to normal (whatever that is).
Go here for the pictures.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Day in Hollywood

This morning before my Dearly Departed Tour I wanted to catch Hollywood Blvd. before it got all crazy and they closed off everything.
The Boulevard is closed to all traffic for 10 blocks with 4 check points prior to the Red Carpet. The final being a short maze of concrete and through a metal gate that flips up in about 2 seconds in case of terrorists.

Once the tour ended I headed to find out what was available as far as viewing anything. Instead of staying in one spot I thought it best to walk around the entire perimeter of what was off limits.
First my own corner at Cherokee this is the last of the check points, the first 3 are just showing the tag in the window, this is the search under the cars with the Bomb Squad.

Everyone, even the Limos. Chain link fence lines the street and this year they were very picky about letting people up to the actual corner of Hollywood and Highland, so I got what I could and moved on to Highland and Sunset 'cause that's where the Real limos go. 
The westboro baptist church was there and this is my first actual encounter with these "christians" and thankfully they were drowned out by by the normal people. For those of you not from the United States, this is a (In My Opinion) group of christians who are, to use a term that Scott Michaels uses from time to time, "Crazy as a rat in a coffee can". You can look them up if you want but I will not provide a link for obvious reasons. 
The rest was somewhat uneventful although seeing the FBI Bomb Squad was cool.
I've gotta get back out now that my camera is recharged and check out the after party.
More later, I hope you enjoy. The rest of the pictures are here.