Los Angeles, USA

Hurray for Hollywood!

Things have been a bit stressful lately, and we both felt we needed to take a couple of days off. We were going to make it a four day getaway, but then our cat Leeloo was diagnosed with cancer so we had to cancel and stay close to home. She passed before our vacation but it was too late to make new arrangements.

Our plan was to do local activities. On Thursday we hung out at Universal Studios, as we have season passes. We got out our Voodoo doughnuts at Universal Citywalk, the best donuts I have ever had and pretty much the only donuts I’ll eat. Our favorite is the namesake, a Voodoo doll with a pretzel pin. Inside is raspberry filling so it bleeds. It is also super delicious.

Voodoo doughnut

The Magic Castle has a member’s only lunch on Fridays. Having a fancy meal in an ornate private club is a long ways from our small desert town roots. The food was terrific, although I might have been more excited about the Prime Rib had my husband not just slow smoked us an entire Prime Rib Roast. He then turned the bones into the most amazing French Onion soup using the Julia Child recipe.

By the way, if you have not seen the new Julia Child biopic series on HBO, you should check it out. Sarah Lancashire completely transforms into Julia Child and most of the time it feels as if you are watching Julia and not a talented actor. It is an amazing performance, supported by a terrific cast. David Hyde Pierce plays her husband. Besides not being given enough credit for just how great an actor he is and so much more then just Niles Crane, he was also a great ally to me when I was working on the SAG Commercial strike. Bebe Neuwirth plays Avis DeVoto. She is phenomenal, and was one of my deputies for a production when I worked at Actor’s Equity. I have been continually impressed by her body of work ever since.

We ran into a lot of people that we knew at the Castle at lunch. Nani Wilson, wife and performing partner of legendary magician Mark Wilson, was there with her grandson. Mark passed recently, and it was great seeing her out and looking so good. She has been at the Castle quite frequently lately.

There was someone my husband wrote about in his book, The Greatest Adventure, who had an impact on him in his younger years but had completely disappeared off the radar. We were in the Magic Castle library, which is not just about all the great books and research materials, it is also where you can get the best gossip and information on what is going on in the world of magic. Geoff asked around about whatever happened to this guy. The response was “Oh, he is upstairs meeting with Milt.” Milt Larsen is the 91 year old co-founder of the Magic Castle. We had not seen Geoff’s friend in over 30 years, but I recognized him immediately when he came down. Like me, he had gotten away from the world of magic, and like me, after many years, he recently returned. He had a very good reason for keeping a lower profile as he had been working in law enforcement. He is now retired and becoming active at the Castle again. It was really great to see him after all these years.

We then went to the Academy Museum, from the same folks who bring us the Oscars. It opened last year and we thought we should finally go take a look. It is described on their site: “The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking.” It is in what used to be the old five story tall Macy’s department store building originally built in 1939. The building is interesting in and of itself, one of the greatest examples of Streamline Moderne (Art Deco) architecture in Los Angeles, and it has been fully restored to its former glory.

There is a strong focus on education and explaining the various aspects of film making, along with a lot of rare one of a kind pieces. The Wizard of Oz area has a lot from the movie, including the Tin Man’s oil can (they actually used chocolate syrup) and Dorothy’s dress and ruby slippers. There is the last remaining version of Bruce, the shark from Jaws. They have the full size backdrop two stories tall of Mount Rushmore from the classic North by Northwest. There is the only remaining of the three Rosebud sleds from Citizen Kane (they burned up the other two). I saw the typewriter that Psycho was written on, and tons of amazing costumes.

Dorothy’s Dress from The Wizard of Oz

I was very impressed by the Toy Story Zoetrope. You can see a Youtube video but it is nothing like seeing it live. It is large and made up of 214 Toy Story maquettes on a turntable. It starts spinning and they turn on the strobe lights (a better solution than the traditional slit) and suddenly the characters come to life. It is something you really want to see in person to fully appreciate.

There are several places in Los Angeles that offer exceptional open air views. One of the best views is from the Getty museum. On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean. I very much like the view from the Griffith Observatory. On famed Mullholland Drive you can get a great view of the Hollywood sign and the surrounding city from the Hollywood Bowl Lookout. I am now adding the Academy Museum’s Dolby Family Terrace. You cross the glass (but slightly opaque so not quite as terrifying) Barbara Streisand Bridge to what is basically the roof of the David Geffen Theater. It has a domed glass roof but is otherwise open air and has a great view of Hollywood and beyond.


The white building near the center of the picture is the SAG-AFTRA building, where I used to work. Between here and the SAG building is the La Brea Tarpits, where I would often stroll during my lunch break, always being careful not to step in the tar which was constantly oozing up from the ground.

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