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Tripping up La La Land

Getting behind the scenes — and under the skin — of Hollywood

In a hat tip to California’s cannabis legalisation, Los Angeles’s Hollywood sign was changed to read ‘HollyWeed’ in a 2017 prank. Another time in the ’80s, it was altered to ‘Holywood’ to honour the Pope’s visit. As far as recognisable city motifs go, the white H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D lettering splayed across a hillside is pretty hard to beat.

Catching a glimpse of it from Griffith Park on my first, disoriented morning in LA gives me a sense of place. That, and all the Hollywood info that Elizabeth, a guide from Bikes & Hikes LA, shares. Griffith Park is a massive, rugged wilderness, stretched across the canyons and peaks of the Santa Monica hills. In a city known for its glamorous districts, it is wonderful to have a green outdoor space within city confines, where Downtown’s skyscrapers are replaced by sky-poking, spindly palm trees. Mount Hollywood, somewhat confusingly, isn’t the mount bearing the Hollywood sign (that’s Mount Lee), but the place from which you can best see the sign.

An eight-kilometre hike to its summit holds the promise of trademark sunny California skies and Hollywood gossip. “The letter ‘H’ on the sign is owned by Hollywood’s very own creepy uncle, Hugh Hefner,” Elizabeth says. Paying big bucks, the Playboy founder played a major part in the sign’s restoration and survival over the years.

Calling Batman: The bat signal of the Batman movies

We cover trails lined with purple blooms, sweet-smelling coastal sage and fat geckos camouflaged on the rocks as Elizabeth keeps up a stream of showbiz trivia. My ears perk up at the mention of the ’60s Batman TV series starring Adam West. Growing up in the ’90s, I’d religiously watch the “dynamic duo” hurtle in and out of the Bat Cave, which, I’m embarrassingly thrilled to learn, was set in Griffith Park’s Bronson Caves. We cross a tunnel that featured in an old favourite film, Back to the Future, in an iconic scene where Marty McFly chases Biff Tannen for the almanac.

In LA, you’re never too far from a great yarn, like I learn at the historic Hollywood Boulevard restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill. Who wouldn’t want to believe they sat at the same dimly-lit leather booth as Frank Sinatra and ordered the famed liver and onions side dish that the Rolling Stones “always come in for”? Here in Hollywood, everyone — waiters and tour guides included — is a skilled actor, and delivers lines with utmost conviction.

Of course, there are verifiable claims as well. The fact that those uber cool Batmobiles are working cars that you can drive, is something of a shocker. It’s hard to exit the Batman exhibit at Warner Bros Studios, filled with swoon-worthy automobiles and the eminently recognisable bat signal from the movies.

Warner-be: The coffee shop from Friends

Among the biggest Hollywood studios, Warner Bros offers informative guided tours, well worth the time for any cinephile, to understand sets, filming, and see recognisable locales from their favourite shows. We trundle through make-believe suburban neighbourhoods and the forests of Jurassic Park, stopping at houses from the Gilmore Girls, and a John Lithgow show I enjoy — Trial & ErrorLa La Land is the movie at the top of everyone’s minds, and our guide John points out scene locations from the film. When the original Warner brothers were at the studio, they had a saying, “Anything for the picture”, which meant that every location and building in the complex is also a set. Production and accounting offices are hidden away behind façades cleverly dressed as motels or schools. Spaces also double as museums housing original costumes and props from DC Universe and Harry Potter films.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Malavika Bhattacharya on The Hindu Business Line

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Published: May 25, 2018

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