Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My First Day in L.A.

Mon July 30th 2007


The plane lands in L.A. at approximately 1:00p.m. and I embark on my dream of seeing the film and television industry up close and personal. I'm finally in Los Angeles, California! I run down the escalator (actually, it was more like a limp and a shuffle), grab my luggage and emerge into the outside world and breathe L.A. air for the first time. Luckily L.A.'s air is not smoggy as I had heard and the day was bright and warm. Tall palm trees and sun as far as the eyes can see. Not bad... not bad at all. I can get used to this! I catch an airport shuttle and the shuttle driver, a Nigerian man, gives us an impromptu tour as he drops us at our designated stops.

Crenshaw, Downtown and West Hollywood neighborhoods flash by as well as Rodeo Drive, all glitzy high end shops lining every street. A half an hour later, the driver announces that we're now in the Los Feliz neighborhood. I snap to attention and strain to look out the window. Images of Spanish styled homes intermixed with Cape Cod homes with lush lawns and more tropical palms glide by us, as we speed along. Wow! God had revealed this neighborhood to me months earlier as the area I would live in when I moved to L.A. and I was happy that it was as beautiful as promised. I ask the driver to tell us more about Los Feliz but he laughs and says, "none of you can afford this area!" ... "it's for the rich and the Hollywood types". What he said was true, as I had heard that a certain star with a boat-load of kids owns a home in the area. However, God had shown me the exact apartment in the exact neighborhood I would be living in.

The driver chuckles a bit more then adds, "The movie stars live here... big shots". The other passengers squirm and shrink in their seats, embarrassed that the driver has pointed out the obvious. People who "have arrived", as they say in the industry, don't share shuttle vans with 10 other strangers. Still, I believe God and I smile as we drive pass Griffith Park heading west.

Soon, the driver announces "Next stop Hollywood Blvd". He drops a few people at the famed Roosevelt Hotel then he makes a turn and suddenly, we're there! We are on the star lined streets I've dreamed about my entire life. A large crowd is gathered in front of the legendary Graumann's Chinese Theater for what we're told is the Rush Hour 3 premiere. I see flashes of the stars as they walk the red carpet, pass a crush of eager and screaming fans. The scene is immediately exhilarating and infectious. Wow, I can't believe it... a red carpet event on my first day in Hollywood! The driver warns us to stay seated and within the van and he threatens to leave anyone who doesn't comply. It took all my restraint to stay in the van and not join the adoring crowds and to touch the red carpet. The driver continues driving us along and though my own hotel is blocks away, I feel like I've arrived.

The driver takes a left unto Cahuenga and drops me at my extended stay hotel which was closer to a motel in quality. I chose it because of discounted rate $750/week which worked well with my budget and would do until I found my apartment. The driver gets my bags and brings them into small lobby/business office with computer to one side. The desk manager checks me in then escorts me to my room but there are no elevators (gasps) and my room is on the second floor!Thankfully, the manager helps me up to the second floor with my 2 bags and a carry-on. He shows me how to access the door security devices and goes on his way.

I swing the door wide open happily and I am pleased with what I find. The room is a good size with a well made queen-size bed that was comfortable (important for a bad back) and had clean linens on it. There was a wall-mounted TV and a small fridge and, most importantly,the bathroom was spotless. The only problem was that the view from the windows was the view of the windows of the apartment building next door (some of those tenants really should buy curtains). I detect a slight scent of cigarette smoke which dissipated when I turned on the a/c. I ranked the room 3 out of 5 but it's decent for the price and its locale in downtown Hollywood.
I don't have time to settle in or unpack because I'm headed back to Hollywood Blvd. for the Rush Hour 3 premiere.

I do a quick change and I hurry back to Graumann's Chinese Theater. Squeeze through the crowd and a few limos but, unfortunately, I can't get by the numerous metal barriers and security that surround the red carpet. I am all smiles and hopefulness as I speak to two of the events security people. I say "It's my first day in L.A. and I just love Chris and Jackie (yes, I'm on first name basis with " Can you ,please, just let me in? They say the theater has let in everyone for the screening already, sorry. It was worth a shot.

Few studio-exec. types and minor stars walk into the premiere, as I stand at the sidelines. Maybe I am naive but I think how terrible it is to be an "outsider" in this industry. Still, not deterred, I pray "God, the next movie premiere or event I attend, if it be your will, I will attend as an insider". Still, I love watching people and I used my sideline time to learn something about what it takes to pull off such an event like this. I watch how the event planners orchestrate the event from the big things (handling talent on the red carpet) to the little things (setting up and breaking down). I watched as they talked on walkie-talkies as they ushered in last minute industry people or reigned in way-ward photogs. Soon the fans and photographers faded away and the events crew began removing the barricades, lights, cameras and equipment. They even removed the red carpet!They simply just removed the tape and rolled the rug up ... Just like that... all the glitz and glamour is all gone. My heart sinks a little bit... I never realized it before but Hollywood is a lot of smoke and mirrors. I felt a bit like Dorothy pulling back the curtain and finding out who the wizard really is.

I try to keep my spirits up as I drift away to see the other sites. It's getting a bit dusk and cooler, thankfully, I'm in my favorite jacket. I walk further down Hollywood Blvd. noting the names on the stars in the pavement as I walk by. Look... there's even Rin Tin Tin. I pass what I know is a man in a dress and heels with a six o'clock shadow. I walk further along and I run into some strangely dressed or costumed people either performing for small groups of tourists or standing for pictures for a $2 fee. The locals explain that this is a regular thing but the one dressed as a winged demon with glowing yellow contact lenses is really creeping me out. Who would want to make a living dressed as a demon all day? I avoid him like the plague and I cross the street.

On the other side of the street, I stroll by the Disney's El Capitan Theater with it's marquee in lights reminiscent of Time Square in New York City. My stomach growls and I realize that I am starving. I spy a Pinkberry's and duck into it for some yogurt. This is my first time in Pinkberry's and it's definitely an experience (are they only on the west coast?). I am not an adventurous eater, so I avoid the wild array of weird flavor choices (green tea yogurt anyone?) and get strawberry with chocolate sprinkles and granola.

As I resume my stroll, I stumble unto some of the most tragic-looking homeless and addicted street people I have ever seen in my entire life! This is a strong statement, as I worked as a medical doctor in the poorest area of Washington, D.C. for years. I have also been to large metropolitan cities like New York City and had not seen homeless and street people in as bad a shape as this. I realize that I wasn't "starving" when I bought the yogurt and an incredible sadness fills me. I give them what I little I could and quietly prayed and asked the Lord to really bless them.

I am a few blocks from my hotel when I encounter a group of self-confessed male alcoholics in their 30's and 40's. They said that they were homeless and they were huddling together to stay warm, as the temperature had dropped over 20 degrees. One of them greets me very politely and asks me for some money. I really don't have any more cash but I speak to him about how much God loves him. I tell him to pray, in Jesus' name, for help. He told me, with a very serious face, that he prays to Jesus every single day and still he can't stop drinking. I have no ready answer for him but I try to be encouraging. I try to remember a Bible verse that would be of help but my mind is blank. Instead, I tell him about my own struggles and how my faith has helped me overcome.

Suddenly, someone bumps into me from behind! Luckily, it was just someone who innocently brushed into me as they walked by but I realize that I am on a street at 9:30 p.m., by myself, in one of the largest cities in the world, talking to a group of strange men. Another man in the group gets a little loud and belligerent and I know it is time for me to go. I promise the man that I will pray for him and quickly head back to my hotel.

I get back to my hotel, I get on my knees by the bed and I immediately start praying. Soon, tears are in my eyes and I find that I am weeping almost hysterically. I realize I was crying for the man I met on the street and for myself, as we struggle through afflictions. I was crying for the film industry, which thrives amidst such extremes from chauffeured cars and red carpet finery to object poverty no more than a few blocks apart. I was crying for a city that attracts so many to it and seems so unable to help them. As I end my tearful prayers, I ask God, "please, do not forget Los Angeles, the City of Angels". Please, pray for us.

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