Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Los Angeles, The City Of Angels

What does this tell you about the city of Los Angeles? Can you tell why smog is such a problem, often making the sky look yellow and blocking out the view of the surrounding mountains?

A lot of people live in our nation’s second largest city—almost 4,000,000. Add in the population of the entire metro area and the number soars to about 13,000,000. According to one news source, the Los Angeles area is the most diverse metropolitan center in the United States. As you drive around the city, you see evidence of the many ethic groups who live here. As an example, signs in Chinese, Korean, and Spanish can readily be seen.

Usually called by its initials, LA is located in Southern California and is bordered by the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains. The city is divided into a multitude of communities, each with its own post office. You probably have heard of the two famous ones--Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Beverly Hills is a wealthy place inhabited by many movie stars, while Hollywood is most famous for its movie industry.

Do you have parking meters where you live? Do they take credit cards like this one in Los Angeles?
My hotel is located in Beverly Hills, and a quick walk around the neighborhood helped me understand how important it is to the residents to look good. Youth and beauty are prized here. In two short blocks I found a European skin care spa focused on anti-aging products, “Fancy Hands” nail salon, a hair restoration salon, another salon specializing in wrinkle removal, a dance studio, a fitness center, a spiritual and wellness center, and an entertainment company with agents for hire. As I jotted down notes outside one of the anti-aging establishments, a woman came outside and asked in a thick European accent, “Sweetheart, are you interested in any of this?”

As I often do when in place I've never been before, I took a bus tour of the city. This provides a broad overview and helps me decide which attractions I want to explore more thoroughly on my own. The tour guide provided a lot of interesting information and was quick to point out the many ultra-expensive cars. “There goes another Bentley,” he would say. “That one costs about $250,000.”  Or, “There’s a Rolls Royce. It cost about half a million dollars. Is that Martin Sheen’s car? Is that Martin Sheen sitting in that open-air restaurant?” Martin Sheen is a famous movie actor, and apparently it is common to encounter movie and television stars on the streets of both Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

This $2,000,000 car sits outside of Bijan, the most expensive shop on Rodeo Drive.
As we rode down the most expensive street in the United States—Rodeo Drive—I learned that the most exclusive shop of all is a men’s store called Bijan. It is not a store you can just walk into. Instead, you have to make an appointment to be allowed into the shop, and before they will give you an appointment, they run a credit check. You must prove that you have a large enough bank balance in order to shop there. It also costs $1500 just for the appointment. Yes, it costs the customer a large sum of money just to shop even if he does not buy anything! The guide said a man’s suit could cost $50,000. Parked in front of the shop was the owner’s Bugatti, a car costing $2,000,000, one of many in the owner’s fleet of automobiles.

Grauman's Chinese Theater

One of the most famous landmarks in Hollywood is Grauman’s Chinese Theater, opened by Sid Grauman in 1927. One notable tradition at Grauman’s that continues to this day is for famous Hollywood stars to put their footprints, hand prints, and autograph in wet cement outside the theater. Along the sidewalk outside Grauman’s on both sides of the street is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There are now more then 2,400 large pink stars in the sidewalk. Each star has the name of someone who gained fame in one or more of these areas: radio, television, movies, theater, or music. If you are asked to have YOUR star added, get your checkbook ready. There is an upfront maintenance fee of $30,000 that you must pay to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce before you will be awarded your star.

This star and the one in the next photo are in honor of two famous movie stars.
On the ground near this star was a lot of camera equipment. An event was going to be filmed here later in the day.
Famous movie star, Clint Eastwood, will forever be remembered with his hand prints and autograph in the cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.

This is one of the most famous and most recognizable signs in the world. Originally constructed of wood in 1927 this version is made of titanium so that it won't rot. Each letter stands 50' tall and is 35' wide.
Hooray for Hollywood! Also known as Tinsel Town, there are more than a dozen movie studios in Hollywood. Perhaps you have heard of Disney, Paramount, MGM, Universal, or Fox. The next time you watch a movie, look for the studio name at the very beginning. The Academy Awards, often called "The Oscars," are awarded every year for the best movies, acting, costume design, documentary, song, and so on.

Since 2002, the Academy Awards have been presented here in the Kodak Theater, which is used for other purposes throughout the year.
If you watch the Academy Awards on television, you will see the stars ascend this staircase. It was specially built with short risers so that actresses in long tight dresses and high heeled shoes can easily make their way to the top without tripping.

Are you star struck, that is, fascinated by famous people? If so Los Angeles might be a good place for you to visit. In addition to regular newspaper boxes, you can find boxes like this one with maps to the homes of the movie stars. This particular map costs $5. Do you think it's worth it? Knowledgeable tour guides also can take you on bus trips around swanky neighborhoods where movie stars live in homes costing millions and millions of dollars. Maybe you will bump into a star or two yourself as you wander through this expensive part of Los Angeles. Of course, Los Angeles is much more than movie stars, expensive cars, and exclusive shops. In my next blog entry, I'll focus on the other parts of LA which also have much to offer.

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