Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Bad Costumes

She thinks she's a glamourpuss. They think she's a sideshow. At least they're too kind to tell her the truth. Her campy delusion has made her one of the most iconic features on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Out-of-work actors, the jobless, even the homeless have stalked Hollywood Boulevard for years. Dressed as superheroes and movie stars, they charge tourists a buck to have them pose for pictures with them. It's their living.

And a hard living it is, as demonstrated by the bizarre and sometimes sad documentary, Confessions of a Superhero. Exposing the dark and lonely side of failed actors hustling on the Boulevard, these characters are becoming more and more disturbing. Blame it on the economy, but it looks like mental patients are rolling out of bed, pulling on a dirty Rite-Aid Halloween costume and bullying passersby. Some are drunk, some heckle and some get arrested for violence. There was a Pocahontas who has been referred to as Crackohontas. Batman was arrested once or twice for lashing out at tourists. If you plan on visiting, know that you're not legally entitled to pay for a photo with them. But if you don't, they might cut you.


...Just sayin'

It wasn't me - I found this billboard.

And for the record, I'd be pissed if my espresso machine busted too. She calls it a "cappuccino maker" - so 80's.


Class All the Way

"Fifty dollars for a movie ticket?!?!"

That may be your first reaction when hearing about Gold Class Cinemas, the all-new movie theatre experience. Being someone who would rather park and walk two blocks than fork over $15 for a valet, I would naturally steer clear from the "It's like flying first class in a movie theatre" gimmick. But opportunity came knocking, and even though my friend Dawn and I had to sit through a Twilight movie, I took it.

It was worth every penny.

First of all, it's not the movie you're paying for, but the all-round experience:

- Free drinks in the uber-trendy lounge (90 wines and draft beers, including Chimay!)

- Free hors d'oeuvres in the lounge (lobster, goat cheese stuffed tomatoes, etc.)

- A host carrying your cocktails to your reserved seat on a tray. They don't want you to be troubled with the hassle of balancing your drink en route.

- Giant, plush reclining seats and wide walking lanes so you're not stepping over people.

- Staff brings you blankets and pillows

- Huge side compartment to place shopping bags, purses, etc.

- A silent button is on your table; press it and get an instant response from the staff. More beer, please!

- Dinner: Seared tuna spring roll, Kobe beef sliders, Asian ginger salad, and fried potatoes.

- Dessert: Chocolate mousse trifle, cream puffs and chocolate covered strawberries

Did I mention the gift bags? Yea, you won’t be getting those but I received a cornucopia of goodies in mine, including Gran Turino on DVD, a facial from Aveda and more!

All I’m saying is, if I can love the experience while watching a torrid love triangle between a girl, a werewolf and a vampire, you can appreciate it too.



Hollywood & Highland

I don't know what kind of "stuck in the 80's porn scene" freak created this mannequin, but having the San Andreas Fault run down the middle of your cleavage is not okay. This is, after all, what made Tori Spelling's bad boob job so infamous.


The Magic Castle

The brilliant but ill-fated show Arrested Development helped shed some light on the world of magicians. Back in Houdini's day they may have been shrouded in mystery, but these days, it's pure cheese. Tuxedos and bunnies? Seriously?

One of my goals upon moving to Hollywood was getting into the Magic Castle, only because I couldn't. It was invitation-only. Their marketing scheme was very clever - make it seem exclusive, with invitation-only guests, mandatory black tie dress code, and touting a "secret society." It also helps to have an old mansion perched on a grassy knoll in the Hollywood Hills.

I'm not saying it wasn't a good time because it was. But with all the history surrounding the place, (Copperfield and others got their big start there), I would expect it to have an air of spookiness or intrigue. And even though the place was awash with red velvet curtains and stone walls, it had the generic magic kitsch that you'd find at a Chuck-E-Cheese show.
  • The front entrance is actually a gift shop, selling branded mugs and plastic magic wands for kids.
  • The magic word to get the secret library wall to spin open and grant you entry? "Open Sesame." Creative.
  • Instead of having photos on the walls of magicians past, they framed toy-like silver holograms. If changing your angle, smiling faces would turn to skulls and eyes would follow you. When I was kid collecting Lazer Blazer stickers, they did he same thing too.
  • Amateur magicians in jeans making mistakes and dripping sweat all over their deck of cards
  • Tuxedos, top hats, white gloves, bunnies, and girls getting sawed in half galore.
In a recent and desperate effort to make money in this economy, the Magic Castle has resorted to refusing entry for anyone who has not made reservations at their overpriced, in-house restaurant. It doesn't matter if you drop hundreds on cocktails at their various bars; eat you must. And if you don't get a ticket from the restaurant proving that you plopped down on a meal, the all-new "ticket checkers" will not allow you to take in the main magic show.

But just as I was about to write the place off as classless, a lady approached my friend Gina, who had broken the heel of her shoe. "Please come this way, Miss," she says. Filled with trepidation, we followed her, wondering if we were about to be cited for "drunk in public," as no doubt cash-strapped California would provide a kick-back to the Magic Castle for a scheme like that. Instead, she says to my friend, "What size shoe do you wear Ma'am?" Gina replied "Nine," and out of a shoebox the lady pulled out a brand new pair of designer shoes in just her size.

"Oh my gosh, do you guys have these in every size, just in case?"

"But of course."

"That's amazing."

"This is an exclusive club, Ma'am."

My friend promised to return the shoes and we headed back to join our party. Just as I was about to tell my friends that the place wasn't so bad after all, the lady stopped us and said, "Ma'am, please give us your credit card for collateral, in case you leave with our shoes."

...aaaaand we're back.


East Fifth Bliss at the Newport Beach Film Fest

Woody Allen gave us the taste for cerebral movies shot in the Big Apple. But these days, satisfaction comes sporadically. Most New York comedies since the late nineties feature a gorgeous leading lady with an unrealistically glamorous job and more issues than Bangladesh. Think Katherine Heigl in...anything. Woody Allen made us yearn for something more textured and familiar.

Producer John Will
Enter East Fifth Bliss, which kicked off the 2011 Newport Beach Film Festival. Starring Peter Fonda, Michael C. Hall, Lucy Liu and Chris Messina, the well-written film was warmly received by the sold-out crowd. Michael C. Hall stars as Morris Bliss, an unemployed 30-something living at home with his widowed "Daddy." He plays a lost soul, and is a good listener as the neurotic characters whirl around him. Chris Messina plays a cash-strapped dreamer, but his fast wit and pleading eyes break your heart. Peter Fonda gives a nuanced performance as Morris' father, with a breakthrough scene that showcases a flash of that raw sensitivity he's known for. 

Largest screen west of the Mississippi

But the scene stealer in this film was no doubt Morris' girlfriend Stephanie, played by Brie Larson. Capricious and unpredictable, I found myself holding my breath when she walked on screen. She was always on the verge of smashing the delicate house of cards that was Morris' life. Delicate as in land mine, not china doll.

I was thrilled at the opportunity to see this film before the general public did, but it won't be long until it gets picked up, premiered and blown out internationally. Let it be known that I sang its praises first!