New York has the Statue of Liberty. Memphis has Graceland. Here in Los Angeles, we have the TMZ Tour.
We’ve seen the vehicles from afar and on occasion wondered what is going on; however, hello, we’re busy and willing to keep away from the throngs of vacationers, the nightmarish Hollywood Boulevard traffic, and those unsettlingly blue cocktails in megastar glasses on the Hard Rock Cafe inside the Hollywood & Highland mall.
But with #Oscars2018 just days away, Times photographer Kent Nishimura and I determine it’s time to “discover the actual Hollywood” on a “2-hour movie star safari” where we would even have a threat to “win extraordinary TMZ prizes.” So with a couple of cameras and a notepad, we set out in hopes of spotting Harry Styles or Kylie Jenner. Or at least one of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s ex-husbands.
Our adventure starts at TMZ’s storefront office at the Walk of Fame — which occurs to sit down across Hollywood Boulevard from the Dolby Theatre, wherein the Academy Awards will be held. This week, the boulevard’s frenetic site visitors have been changed using frenetic creation as people put together the red carpet and review stands for the Oscars. Of course, this is all surrounded via an army of safety guards and yards of chain-hyperlink fence, giving the entire area the aspect of a totally glamorous demilitarized quarter.
Right before the TMZ office is living the sidewalk celebrity of the brilliant silent movie director Erich Von Stroheim, whose performing turn as Norma Desmond’s allowing ex-husband in “Sunset Boulevard” earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1950. Above his famous person is a video ad for TMZ that shows Tyson Beckford commencing his shirt on a TMZ excursion bus.
A Superman and a Darth Vader walk past, providing photographs for a fee — observed by a Chewbacca in want of deep conditioning. A woman coming inside the contrary path sees my status in his route. “Careful,” she says in my direction. “Chewbacca is a creeper.”
I am infrequently a dedicated viewer of TMZ’s tv display. (I can watch journalist-nerds accomplishing expository dialogue approximately entertainers at work.) But I do sometimes check the website for the trendy Kanye West-combating-the-paparazzi news. Above all, I’m curious what sort of tale TMZ might tell approximately Los Angeles — a city that in the famous creativeness is all glitz and glamour and high-pace expressway chases (on the expense of the whole lot else).
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“You’ll be entertained for 2 hours, and you’ll see some celebrities!” says the younger man who leads us to a tour van with a license plate that reads “TMZ 1.”
“Maybe,” he adds softly after a strategic pause.
Then we are off.
Our tour manual — the exuberant Kristyn Mendieta — begins declaring the points of interest: the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, wherein the first Academy Awards were held in 1929; Hollywood High School, which boasts a superstar mural on its jap facade; the In-N-Out Burger on Sunset Boulevard, wherein the celebs visit feed post-Oscars.
“Remember, you’ve got been working out,” quips Mendieta. “You’ve been drinking lemon water. You have not eaten strong meals in weeks. So it is time for a Double-Double and some fries.” She also helpfully notes that this was the website online of Paris Hilton’s infamous DUI arrest in 2006.
Soon, we are cruising beyond the Seventh Veil strip club, wherein Mötley Crüe shot “Girls, Girls, Girls.” In between the real tidbits provided with the aid of our guide, segments of TMZ video play at the couple of video display units that hold from the ceiling of our open-air van. All of it’s far narrated in that signature TMZ tv tone that appears to channel monster truck rallies and net boards wherein absolutely everyone sorts in ALL CAPS.
“Since that video turned into the shot, the Seventh Veil has long gone a piece downhill,” says the hyper-masculine action voice, “except you are into C-sections, eye patches, and the smell of Metamucil. LAP DANCE, ANYONE?”
Mendieta takes us through the major sights I like to call the Bermuda Triangle of Entertainment: Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. There’s the Chateau Marmont (where John Belushi overdosed), the infamous nook of Sunset Boulevard and Courtney Avenue (where Hugh Grant changed into stuck soliciting offerings from Divine Brown), the Montage Hotel (in which Justin Bieber regularly remains), the salon where Jennifer Aniston was given “the Rachel” haircut (which she hated), and the myriad hangouts of “Real Housewives” star Lisa Vanderpump (sorry, I best watched the Orange County ones).
All of that is accompanied through video: Paris Hilton’s hit-and-run, Britney Spears doing horny dances inside the home windows of Mr. Chow, celebrities popping out of the Hollywood police station after sundry arrests, a man in a SpongeBob Squarepants costume moving into a fistfight in the front of the Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard.
Name-checked in the course of the tour is “Harvey” — Harvey Levin, the founder of TMZ — who looms so huge in our excursion bus universe, he is mononymous.
As we swing through Cedars Sinai Medical Center, we watch a slideshow of movie star births and deaths. “This is in which celebrities like to use excuses like, ‘I’m dehydrated,'” says Mendieta.
During lulls, we play video games — consisting of “The Finger or the Wave,” wherein we watch ancient TMZ photos and bet whether a given celeb will wave at the digital camera or supply it the finger. Kent wins a TMZ travel tumbler for efficiently guessing that Emma Watson could wave at the digital camera. The rest of us had her pegged as a birder.
But the fine parts of the tour are the moments that highlight the most mundane bits of the cityscape: the website of the defunct El Pollo Loco on Sunset, wherein Brad Pitt once dressed up in a bird in shape to draw clients, and the street sign subsequent to Alfred Coffee in Beverly Hills, where Kanye West bonked himself in the head in 2013.
The TMZ view of Los Angeles is slim and shaky, and grainy. It’s costly baby garments and swank eating places and past due-night time perp walks and the occasional meltdown. It is fame and fortune, downfall and misfortune. It is Kanye in a perpetual nation of anti-photographer rage.
Mendieta reminds us to hold our eyes peeled for fancy automobiles, highbrow boutiques, and eating place patios throughout the tour — we can also, simply may, spot a movie star.