HOLLYWOOD! and downtown Los Angeles

Published: August 22nd 2012
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17th Aug ’12 San Francisco to Los Angeles, California

The CA Shuttle bus that we were taking today was due to arrive at 11.45am, we were there very early waiting and it eventually arrived at 12.45! All us hot and hassled passengers got on. There was no explanation as to why it was late. We were the first of 4 pick-ups in the city and then it was direct to Hollywood.

Once we got to the last pick up and the bus was full a very jolly Mexican man got on and thanked us all for using his bus service. He then welcomed us to California and ‘our wonderful country of the United States’, no one said anything, he then explained that we would only stop once, ‘at a Burger King in the middle of nowhere’ but we didn’t have to buy anything but it would be a 30 minute break. We were going to swap drivers with the bus coming from Hollywood and we all had to give our driver a $1 tip on the way out – apparently this is stated on our tickets, we then speculated how little the drivers must get paid. Anyway no explanation as to the delay but apparently we will still arrive around the right time as they ‘have a 1hour delay margin’.

Then we were off, the bus was quite comfy and all though it was supposed to have wifi we only managed a signal once for a few seconds (so I didn’t have to eat my hat, ha ha) so I settled in for a blog typing up session – until I felt sick and had to stop, but at least I have caught up with most of it now.

So we drove through the desert until we reached the Burger King in the middle of nowhere, paid over our $1 tips and dashed for the loo. After about 10 minutes the other bus appeared and there seemed to be a bit of a kerfuffle going on involving a bare chested man with a rucksack and no ticket. After much arm waving, choice words and a phone call it seemed to be resolved and we all set off again with our new bus drivers.

About 7.30pm we reached our stop, at North Hollywood and climbed down into the heat and the smell of dope. There was a stall petitioning to keep the use of marijuana legal for medicinal purposes but I suspect lots of non-medicinal useage was going on too. The metro station was just over the road so we wheeled the new suitcase over and soon realised how much easier travelling with just rucksacks is!

Anyway we got our tickets and got on our train which was pretty full, so lots of pointed stares at the suitcase!! Then from behind me some bloke started rapping at the top of his voice, with all the usual sexist, violent lyrics and that made me feel slightly uneasy. Still nothing happened and we got off and walked down the street to our motel, passing a doorway with bluesy type music pouring out – we looked in and it was actually a church.

Got checked into our motel and then found a kebab type place next door for some tea.

Trying to get to sleep that night wasn’t easy due to excitement about the following day!

18th Aug ’12 The Sunset Strip Music Festival, Hollywood!

There was no rush to get up early as the festival didn’t start until 1pm, so we got ready, had some breakfast, got a sandwich to eat for lunch and walked down to the bus stop on Sunset Boulevard just round the corner from the motel.

The bus was full and lots of people were headed the same way as us, which was good as we knew there were diversions as the road had been closed off for the festival. It was all quite jolly until this lady, with lots of bags, started getting agitated and twitchy, she then started shouting out strange things and got louder and louder, the lass next to her got up and moved, the bus driver yelled out shut up but she didn’t. Eventually other people on the bus were telling her to shut it too but it wasn’t making any difference and the bus driver stopped and she had to get off, still yelling.

Five miles later, as we got up to the Strip you could see the cordoned off area and the big signs announcing the festival and we all got out right next to the queue. As it was still about 30 minutes before it opened we just wandered along the road, saw the Viper Room and found a wall to sit on and eat our sandwich.

We joined the queue and a real mixed bag of people it was, clearly this was not going to be a typical rock festival – Howard had looked up a lot of the bands and reckoned there was a lot of hip hop on, on different stages. So we had everthing from full on goth, metal, rock, hip hop, r’n’b, old, young and everything in between.

1 o’clock came and went and the queue still wasn’t moving, it was a bit of a nightmare as the heat and sun were so intense. Eventually at 1.30 we got to the front of the queue and could see why it was taking so long – there were a couple of people searching bags and only 1 man doing body scans on everyone! Ridiculous, the people behind us were upset as they had just had a phone call from their friend to say his band had been on and were off already and they had missed it, despite being in the queue ages early!

Still we got in and our smuggled vodka (all part of Howard’s plan to save money as usual) hadn’t been discovered. We went straight into the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, partly as I was desperate for the loo, partly as it was air conditioned and partly as they had rock bands on and the main stage wasn’t due to start for over an hour. We were searched again before going in and the blokes were even patted down – obviously they didn’t have much faith in one man and his scanner!

What a great venue! Loved it, walls covered in posters, great stage area with a dance floor in front of it, booths to sit in at the back, an upstairs with a balcony and dark and a great atmosphere. The drink prices weren’t quite as lovely, $7 for a small bottle of beer, $4 for a diet coke, but I guess this is Hollywood.

Tempting Fate were the band on and they were a really good start and Deb’s they did an amazing cover of Youth Gone Wild, which only me and one other old bloke seemed to know the words too!!!!!!

After it was time for a wander to suss out the rest of the festival. The first thing that struck me was the number of police who were around and the fact that no one was drinking – I found out you were not allowed to drink in the street, you had to use the official beer garden or the clubs, this created a rather strange atmosphere (well to us anyway as we are used to British festivals). There were stalls selling t shirts, but no other kind of merchandise, a gibson guitar stall, a Jack Daniels Experience van (no free samples) and a main stage at either end of the street. Inbetween was another small outdoor stage and then the Whiskey, the Key Club and the Roxy all with bands on all the time. In one way it was great as you didn’t have far to walk to get to see other stages and also during the day there were no big crowds really in any of the places.

There were a few food places and the festival life saver stall – the curry van which had unlimited supplies of free cold lemonade, which you could drink in the street and which went pretty well with vodka! We must have gone through about 10 bottles of the stuff each – but we did go back and eat there at the end of the night.

So most of what we wanted to see were the bands all on the main west stage so we went up and found that the area was still cordoned off and lots of people were milling about waiting for things to start. So already everything was running 45 minutes late. Eventually the lead singer of Dead Sara shouted let them in, this is crazy, this is a festival and we were allowed to move forward.

They had a good turn out for the first band of the day and being on a road I managed to find a spot on the curb which meant I could actually see! As no one sat down. The band were great, full of energy, she had an amazing voice, very powerful and everyone loved them, I now want the cd!

By now the sun was overhead and so hot, once the band finished I managed to snag a curb spot under a small tree which helped slightly. Black Label Society were next and I wasn’t too keen on waiting about to see them but as it happens I was glad I did, they were really good. Before they came on though the compere guy announced there was another treat for us all, as the world Frisbee champion was with us!! Well this bloke started spinning a frisbee about and dropping it regularly, it gave us a laugh and at least they put some decent music on for him to perform to – UFO! That was the other strange thing about this festival, no music in between bands which meant the atmosphere kind of dwindled.

So BLS, Zak Wylde came on in a massive white indian headdress lol, but it went after a song or two. When it came to his guitar solo I sat down on the curb and the lady who was stood next to us did too. We got talking and it turns out she is the mother of the drummer! She said it wasn’t their (dad was stood with Howard) kind of music but they had flown 1000s of miles to come and see their boy play. The band had a good crowd to see them but as she said in Europe they have played to 100,000 and certainly when they were on at HRH they had a much bigger audience.

Towards the end of the set was the biggest and best surprise – Robby Kreiger from THE DOORS came on and played with them!!! They did Let it Roll and the guitarist from BLS did the singing, the place went wild, it was amazing! I never thought I would ever get to see one of THE DOORS playing live!! Woo hoo!

We then returned to the Whiskey, to cool down, sit down and watch Leif Garret. Unbeknownst to us we were sat in the booth next to the one containing the staff from the Jack Daniels Experience this meant that when they all got shots of JD we were included too, so it was my first experience of the new cinnamon flavour JD! Deb you would have hated it ha ha, for the rest of us it was rather like apple pie! How nice of them to invite us to join in though. We also chatted to Bob who was VIP but had lost his mates, so all in all an entertaining hour.

Then we headed back up to the stage in what we thought would be plenty of time to secure the tree spot for The Offspring – no such luck, there was still 30 minutes to go before they were due on and the crowd was huge. We managed to get pretty well forward and were standing with some ladies around our age who let me squeeze on the curb with them which was great, they also were really into the band and we all sang and danced like loons!

The Offspring were marvellous, played loads of good old classics including Come Out and Play, they only did 3 from the new album which were the heavier stuff and much to Howard’s relief did not play Bumpin’ in my trunk, so when he pulled a face at Pretty Fly I just shoved him!!

Oh yes the other odd thing, none of the bands did encores.

So after all that exercise and as there was a 45 minute gap before Marilyn Manson we went for another lemonade and a tandoori chicken – which was the strangest TC I have ever seen but very tasty.

We didn’t attempt to get anywhere near the front for Marilyn. The other main stage had finished and the crowd was huge and tightly packed. So we stayed back where there was some breathing room and although I couldn’t hardly see the stage I could see the big screen easily. I wasn’t sure what to expect of MM after the abysmal performance at Download, but he seemed to be on form today.

He was saying lots of controversial things in-between songs but the one that stuck in my mind was, ‘this next song is off my new record, I hate records, don’t buy them, just go out and steal them and blame it on some innocent person when you get caught’.

Anyway worried about how on earth we were going to get back to the motel once the festival ended, due to diversions and huge crowds, we didn’t stay right to the end of his set but headed out for the bus stop. It was kind of a case of walk 5 miles or see the end of MM.

At the bus stop us and a good few others stood and waited and waited and no sign of a bus, all the taxis were full and then more and more people arrived. After an hour of waiting and on the verge of starting to walk I managed to flag a taxi!

As soon as it stopped I was in, I was taking no chances on someone else grabbing it. We told the driver where we were going and off we shot. What we hadn’t reckoned on was being in a cab with the biggest Michael Jackson fan in the world……the music was blasting out, he was singing at the top of his voice, the cab was shaking (he was a big lad) and he kept taking his hands off the wheel to do the claps! I didn’t know wether to laugh or cry. Every time a car pulled alongside they were staring over at us! While the driver took no notice and just whooped and wheeped along! He insisted on telling us what each song meant and who it was about, I think he was on a mission to convert us, but bless him he stopped and picked us up and that was worth the ear pounding in my book!

We stumbled into the room in a daze, I could still smell nothing but dope – this is clearly the alternative to drinking at a festival, or maybe it’s just what you do in Hollywood?, my ears were ringing from Michael Jackson, i was slightly sun burnt and with sore feet but what a great day!!

19th Aug ’12 Hollywood

Due to the extreme heat, the free lemonade and no drinking in the streets I am remarkably hangover free today so we decide to get up and go out and see the sights.

We caught the tube to the Hollywood and Vine tube station. The station itself was impressive, the ceilings and walls were covered in film spools with 2 big movie cameras when we got off the tube. then we emerged onto the pavement with all the Stars! Hehehe it was hard to believe I was actually here, we walked a long way looking at the stars and pointing out the names, I seem to have taken an awful lot of pictures of stars!!

Then Howard said look over there, I turned and there was the HOLLYWOOD sign up in the hills!!!!!!! It was all a bit of surreal. Despite the heat we kept on walking, occasionally ducking into a souvenir shop to cool down. We got up to the Chinese Theatre but unfortunately it was blocked off, there seemed to be a children of courage event going on. Limos were pulling up and people were watching but we didn’t see anyone we recognised so we carried on.

We were aiming to get to the Rock Star area, where they have all the hand and feet prints but our map didn’t really show the distances accurately, so we kept on walking until it became clear we were actually still a really long way away. At this point we were so hot and baked we went into a Wendys for an ice cream. It was only when I sat down in the cool that I realised I felt really sick and dizzy, it was purely from the heat, I felt like my insides were being cooked.

After a good sit down and an internal ice cream cooling off period I wasn’t happy to set off again but at least able to. We gave up on the rock thing as it was a long enough walk back to find the metro station. We got there in the end and luckily Howard gave up his idea of travelling out to the coast and other mad schemes, so we decided to go to Union Station and have a short walk there to see some of the famous architecture. The station was very art deco and has these sort of 2 seater chairs in the waiting hall which looked familiar from films I have seen.

Outside we walked up to this lovely shadey square, where there was music playing and you would have sworn you were in Mexico! There were stalls selling all this Mexican, all the signs were in Spanish, the people were all speaking Spanish and I think it was a mariachi band playing. Couples were up dancing and there was a lovely atmosphere, what a truly nice way for local people to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We walked on into the big high rise area, with justice buildings and other huge edificies, I was on the point of screaming enough!!!, when we were suddenly at the central market – although it was after 5 by now, there were lots of people around and some landmark buildings from films whose names escape me now. However I really had had enough and even though he would never admit it so had Howard, so we found the tube and went back to the motel.

The tube journey was yet again eventful, sat behind us was a white man probably in his 20s and he was talking away, at first I thought it was to someone sat with him, then I realised there was no one else sat there. He seemed to be having a very intelligent (if loud) conversation about the state of the world and history. However he got more and more agitated and animated and then started shouting at people and calling them rude names, all the time I sat staring rigidly forward, then he lapsed into his conversation again. He started shouting out what are you staring at bitch to someone and began getting up, at this point I was going to move but Howard held onto me, the guy then got hold of the hand rail and began doing pull ups on it and shaking himself, pumping himself up, everyone had their eyes fixed on him and unlike on the buses where people seem to band together if there is a problem, everyone just sat rigidly still watching him so I wasn’t sure what would happen on the tube. Luckily ours was the next stop but I felt so sorry for the little lad who was just watching this with absolute horror on his face and who wasn’t getting off, I really felt that the guy was going to blow any moment.

I have noticed that there seem to be a lot more people who clearly have serious mental health problems here in LA in addition to the people who are homeless like in some of the other American cities. It’s a sad thing to see but I guess if you cant afford medical insurance then any help you might get would be seriously limited, who knows? There was a lot less begging going on here though. I really enjoyed my time in Hollywood but using the public transport is a bit nerve wracking!

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