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Welcome to La la land

It’s home to the Oscars, Spiderman and Tom Cruise. With the Academy Awards just a few days away, we take you on a guided tour of Los Angeles’s prime tourist attraction — Hollywood.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2011 13:36 IST
Serena Menon

The relationship between the US movie industry and Mumbai’s own is quite obvious. After all, the term ‘Bollywood’ was sculpted from Hollywood. And just like people with untold stories and unsold scripts lurk in Mumbai’s nooks, in Los Angeles (LA), home to Hollywood, everyone’s waiting for their big break. If there is one major differentiating factor, then it’s their systems of organisation. With the Academy Awards only a few days away, LA’s busiest streets - Hollywood Boulevard, Vine Street and Gower Street - are going through a bit of an overhaul. Traffic is being diverted, tourists are being shoved out of the way and the magnificent Kodak Theatre is being readied for the night of all nights — the Oscars. Apart from having hosted some of entertainment’s biggest events, the 10-year-old theatre, appropriately situated on Hollywood Boulevard, is known to be the Academy Awards’ first permanent venue. On the same street lies one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions — Grauman’s Chinese theatre. This historical stage has also hosted the Oscars a few times.

Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street offer you an insider’s glimpse of the movie industry. Together, they constitute a major section of the tourist attraction, Walk of Fame, a 2.74 kilometre long stretch featuring terrazzo slabs with the names of famous artistes engraved on them, alongside symbols depicting their fields of excellence. You’ll spot famous names from director Martin Scorcese and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe to Pulitzer prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert. To know that once upon a time, these legends stood where you now stand is a spooky feeling for many.

An hour’s walk on the same stretch will take you past the LA Film School, Nickelodeon studios, hotel W Hollywood (home of the hip nightclub, Drai’s) and the newly opened Madame Tussauds wax museum, which houses many famous figurines. Of the other significant places to visit in the city, the Getty center scores the highest points. It presents a collection of original artworks, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts and a lot more. And it’s for free. Most locals love to tell this story of how Jean Paul Getty gave his collection to this center in LA on one simple condition – that viewing and experiencing the art should be free. It still is, but we’d suggest you take the subway if you want to keep it that way, as car parking is really expensive. Los Angeles is also home to almost all of Hollywood’s actors and technicians; with a few exceptions like Woody Allen, who prefers living in New York. Their homes lie nestled between the bungalows at Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills. Though tourists can drive past the mansions of personalities like Julia Roberts, Al Pacino, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, even a slight attempt to walk past the gates or trespass on their property is enough to land the culprit in federal jail.

A major part of the sprawling city is divided between studios like Warner Bros, Disney and Universal. Visiting them might not always be an option for tourists who don’t schedule a trip well in advance, as Mickey Mouse, for all the humour he’s worth, does not like surprise visitors. Though if you want to spend a day with him and his friends, Disneyland is two hours away and will only cost you around $80. One thing that Hollywood has managed to do well, something Bollywood has not yet attempted, is commodifying itself. The streets are of full of collectibles and bound scripts of Godfather classics and Harry Potter are sold for $15 in stores. You can even get your name Photoshopped onto a fake Walk of Fame star for a price. The many sex shops and strip clubs on Hollywood Boulevard are also customised to serve your filmi fetish.

If you’re a fan of American cinema and want to consume Hollywood, a three-day trip to LA should be more than enough to satiate you.

Los Angeles is also the home of almost all of Hollywood’s actors and technicians; with a few exceptions like Woody Allen, who prefers living in New York.