Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

My Weekend With Marilyn

Goodbye Norma Jean!

So, this is where Marilyn finally found her rest from the lascivious attentions of the manipulative men who hounded her to her death.

Unsignposted and in an unassuming square at the back of a Los Angeles office block lies the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

But who’s this lying next to her?

Norma Jean

Only Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who bought the drawer next door for $75,000… he was surely the last man she would have wanted to spend eternity with.

Marilyn and Hefner had history.

It was Hefner who bought the nude pictures that she had posed for in her sallow youth before she became famous for just $500 and put them on his first cover of Playboy.

She never got a dime.

Stars align

Marilyn doesn’t deserve this company.

She should be shining brightest in a galaxy of stars.

And on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is.

The actress is one of 2,600 famous characters, human, animal, animated, immortalised on a mile and a half of sidewalk along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street.

Her hands and feet are outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the imprints of a century of Hollywood celebrities. 

Hers are worn out from the millions who have wanted to touch a bit of her.

If you feel her presence on the stairs of the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held then her spirit is playing tricks on you as her only appearance was at the nearby Pantages Theatre.

Still we all pose for a diva’s shot in homage to her anyway.

Marilyn seems to be everywhere I turn. I see her looking down, smiling from out of a window on Venice Beach.

And I’m wearing Bandanas by Murty

Brightly dressed and warm as the sun. We lift our heads from our catch of the day in Larry’s diner off the boardwalk, in my case the lightest calamari, and smile back.

Jim Morrison is all swagger on the other wall. 

Today’s Venice Beach though has its own characters, a rasta artist on rollerblades playing guitar, an old man who wheels his grand piano up the strand to tinkle the ivories.

And a random Latino Conor McGregor who is punching and kicking the hell out of a punchbag in the square.

In Southern California, or SoCal, it is all about the image, the Body Beautiful.

My kicks on Route 66: The end in Venice Beach

And this is where Californian body builders come to work out, at the outdoors Muscle Beach Gym, once the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘The Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno.

There’s always a show on, even if it is only the tourists posing by a muscleman mannequin on the boardwalk. Guilty!

Up the road in Santa Monica the busy pier gives little clue that this is the beach used for Baywatch.

All these nuggets and more are at the fingertips of our driver Chris from Starline Tours provided by our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct.

Muscle man

He tells us of a loose association with David Hasselhoff and a girl who was the Hoff’s Proms date.

I would be more impressed if Chris had dated Sandy… well, we do pass Rydell High.

And he shows us too the site of the party hotel, the Garden of Allah where Joni Mitchell hung out, and ‘they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.’

You’ll find today’s Hollywood celebrities hanging out in West Hollywood, so where better to bunk down?

Aye, aye Cap’n

The La Peer Hotel, just a couple of blocks down from Beverly Hills, its cop shop and Rodeo Drive, is a Kimpton.

It is a boutique hotel which is much more than that as befits West Hollywood, with its heated outdoors swimming pool as an extension of the bar.

The hotel’s restaurant Viale dei Romani serves up the best Italian food if you want to stay inhouse.

And I’d also recommend the Wood Grilled Octopus and its garden of warm potato salad, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and saffron aioli.

Hollywood party

But there are no shortage of great restaurants too to sample in West Hollywood where best of all you can also indulge in the favourite pastime of celeb-spotting.

And so we also visited Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump’s eponymous lounge and restaurant PUMP.

Where Lady Gaga made the news a few years back after falling outside on the sidewalk.

Lisa is there the night we dine on truffle mushroom chicken (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Now where’s that cop? Beverly Hills

Though no sign of Gaga. Perhaps the gay icon will be back the following week for Pride.

West Hollywood is already putting out the bunting for Pride when up to 200,000 will take to the streets.

Although, in truth, it is always in a state of readiness with its rainbow zebra crossings.

I’d recommend a night in one of the many friendly gay clubs, I even managed to walk, rather than fall out of.

Old LA

Although a bulky cop, or I think he was, reminded me that I couldn’t drink on the sidewalk.

If you want to get closer to the stars, get onto the right tours and get on the sets of the TV shows and movies we watch.

Our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct will help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

They will take you to Warner Studios where you can sit in the very same couch used in Central Perk in Friends or visit the Ellen set.

A day in Universal Studios Hollywood will immerse you in movie history and the future now.

We take a coach tour through the sets of Pyscho, Jaws, a Mexican town and through a tunnel where a scene from Fast and Furious is simulated all around us. Great fun.

Psycho anyone?

Great fun too the Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest cinema show with vibrating seats and water mist effects,.

While fans of rollercoaster rides will love The Simpsons and Harry Potter rollercoasters.

I prefer to sit back and watch others take the heat although I didn’t expect to see a stuntswomam set on fire in the Special Effects show.

All your favourite animated and sci-fi characters are here and all in great form, all happy to pose up.

No, he hasn’t a Scooby either

Shrek, Scooby-Doo, the Transformers, a dinosaur, no, not me, but a ‘real’ T-Rex which is trailing Jurassic World – The Ride.

We all have our favourites but it is the Boy Wizard who will always cast a spell on me.

Muggles, myself included, are besides themselves at the prospect of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure storycoaster in the sister resort in Orlando.

Universal Hollywood’s Potter experience feels smaller than its Orlando world but it is still intimate and enchanting.

And its Dark Arts light show is a thundering good jape with a cascade of creepy crawlies climbing up to attack a crumbling Hogwarts Castle in the dead of night.

Magical: The Potter show

Only for the forces of good to prevail, all against a heart-pounding musical score and moral message.

And that it seems is Hollywood and the LA story in a nutshell, an aspirational, illusory dream sequence.

Where you can stand in the Hollywood Hills, and you can hike up to the Griffith Observatory and view the iconic letters.

Or take a waitering job and hope to serve a Steven Spielberg.

Or get your star on the Walk of Fame.

A couple of proper Charlies

It’s a rollercoaster journey all right and you can’t pick who you’re next too but I did spot four stars unfilled…

And I reckon I’d be a more than deserving candidate for one of them.

I’ve been an angel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jim flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin Airport with pre-clearance to LAX.

WHERE TO STAY

La Peer Hotel is quintessentially West Hollywood with bright, funky finishings, spacious and comfortable bedrooms and fine and filling food. As well as a heated swimming pool and fitness centre. Doubles from approximately €315 per night. Visit www.lapeerhotel.com.

She vants to be alone

ACTIVITIES

Deluxe Grand City Tour with Starline from €73pp.

Hollywood Hills guided hike – departing from the Greek Theatre. It’s a 2.5 hour gentle hike, offering mountain and city views and photo opportunities of the Hollywood sign. The tour ends at the Griffith Park Observatory (admission included). From €46pp.

Starlight Dinner Cruise from Marina Del Rey’s. From €107pp (not including drinks).

Universal Studios Hollywood – one-day admission ticket from €96pp/Express Pass from €167pp/VIP Experience from €305pp.

Visit www.attractionticketsdirect.ie or call free on (01) 6498558.

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