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LA Trip Summary November 7, 2007

Posted by monish in Cleveland, General, Hollywood, LAX, Los Angeles, NBC Phenomenon.
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Here’s a day-by-day summary of my trip to LA

Tue Oct 30: Reached LAX at 10.45 PM by a Southwest Airlines flight. Made mental note of trying never to fly Southwest again. you only know what your missing in terms of service, quality of flight etc, when those are taken away from you.

My friend Simo picks me up at the airport and we make our way to his house in Palmdale, about an hours drive away.  The drive is an interesting one, everyone’s speeding at 80 mph, no cops in sight, lotsa traffic.  We reach my friends place at around midnight and stay up and chat for a bit. 

Wed, Oct 31: The big day is here! I getup early, setup my laptop etc. Check my e-mail, get directions to Tribune studios in Hollywood and directions for VIP Parking.  My friend and his roommates head off to work and in the meanwhile I e-mail a bunch of my friends reminding them to try to watch ‘Phenomenon’ tonight.

Simo’s roommates pick me up around noon and we head off to a Sri Lankan buffet place. Lunch was pretty awesome.  Simo takes half a day off work and after a quick change of clothes etc. we’re off to Hollywood around 1.30 PM!

We reach Sunset blvd. in Hollywood around 3.00 PM and I begin to get the feeling that we’re hopelessly lost. The map wasn’t too much of a help.  However, we pull into a side road to take a minute to nail the directions and miraculously we find out that we pulled into one of the parking lots for Tribune studios. Turns out it was the wrong one. However, we got directions to the lot we needed to park at and it was just across the street.

It’s a gorgeous day in Hollywood!  I imagine everyday to be like this here. We leave the  car with the valet and march off to the studio where we head straight to the top of the line and told the dude with the clipboard that we were on the VIP list, he checks for our names and lets us in.

It’s a short wait before we’re actually IN the studio.  We’re seated very close to the judges seats. I see Criss Angel come and take his seat soon. Natalie comes and says hello followed by Uri who’s shouting Monish! and then Hanna and Shipi. Felt real good seeing everyone after such a long time.  I feel the people around me are impressed or envious or both. 

The show begins sharp at 5. About 15 minutes before that, the audience cheerer upper shows up and makes a bunch of corny jokes and tries to get the audience all warmed up and ready to cheer and make noice during the show. I think he did a good job of putting the audience to ease, considering this was going to be a live show.  The show’s host Tim Vincent shows up and starts doing his thing. Which is basically putting on a fake smile and reading off a prompter. I tell Simo, I feel I can do his job very well.

The show begins. It’s all very interesting, seeing the production assistants, the producer, the lights, the contestants, the magic acts.  This IS showbusiness, it’s in the heart of Hollywood and I’m witnessing it first hand.  I feel a weird sense of calm around the place. The professionals really know their job well, the cameramen, sound technicians etc.  I feel like I could do well in a place like this.  If only.

The show goes on. It’s a 2 hour halloween special. I begin to wonder if people are actually watching this at home? on Halloween night? To be honest some of the acts weren’t very impressive.   Criss Angel has a “tiff” with Jim Callaghan, one of the contestants in the middle of the show.  I’m slightly taken aback at what was just happening. But by the end of it all, it became very apparent, it was an orchestrated act. No egos hurt or bruised.  The show goes on.

The 2 hr show comes to an end at 7 PM.  I make my way to the dressing room and I spend some time with the Geller family, Criss Angel etc. The studio security people didnt let Simo in.  It was pretty chaotic backstage.  I promise to meet with Uri and family at their home the next day. Simo drives me to the La Quinta inn at LAX, where I check in, but decide to head up to Palmdale to hang out with the guys one last time.

Simo’s roommates saw us on TV and make funny jokes about that. They seem impressed, confused, freaked out by the experience too. 

Thu, Nov 1: Around 8 A, just before Simo leaves for work, he drops me off at the train station in Palmdale which is about a 5 minute drive away. Simo’s a moron for not knowing Palmdale had such a cool train service. It has a train leaving Palmdale almost every 30 minutes to downtown LA’s Union Station via San Fernando, Burbank etc.  A lot of the ride is through the scenic Antelope Valley. The terrain is interesting and you’d think you were in Mexico for a duration of the ride. Anyways, the ride to Union station is about 2 hours and at 10 AM I find myself at Union Station.

Union station is a pretty impressive train station. The architecture is a mix of modern and Mexican.  I make my way to the exit when I notice a movie set within the train station. Turns out there’s an episode of “Cold Case” being filmed there that day. They were pretending the station was in Philadelphia. Yeah right.

I call Shipi to ask him for the address to where they’re staying so I could come over.  He texts me the address and I pick out one of the many LA maps available at the station to figure out this place. It’s located in an area bordering Beverly Hills called La Brea. They’re staying at a penthouse in a swanky apartment complex called the Pallazzo. The orange low buildings look very inviting and south american with terra cotta roofs.

I team up with the family and head off to the American Film Market being held at the Toewnes hotel on Santa Monica pier in Santa Monica.  It’s a cloudy sort of day, not the type of weather I was hoping for but it’s hard not to be impressed by Santa Monica. It’s a beautiful place, the promenade by the sea is gorgeous and the 3rd street promenade with it’s glittering stores, restaurants and cafe’s is beautifully laid out and you could spend hours there.  We spend the day in Santa Monica, trying to sell some documentaries of Uri’s to potential buyers who were visiting the room turned exhibition booths at the hotel.  At night we went out to dinner with the owner of the production company, his wife and family to a swanky italian place by the sea called i Cugini. 

Fri, Nov2:  Today, I planned to be a real tourist in LA. Walk the famous boulevards and streets and take in all the sights and sounds and snap away a million pictures.  I take the hotel bus service to LAX in the morning and reach there in 10 minutes. I hope to take one of the Blue shuttle busses that take people downtown. Unfortunately, if the bus isn’t filled with people, you have to pay the entire fare of $16 yourself. I chose to take the “Flyaway” service to union station instead.  We take the freeway into LA which takes about 30 minutes and I find myself at Union station again like I did the day before. My initial route study paid off, I  bought myself a $5 day pass and took the metro to Hollywood. It was a 10 minute trip over.   I amke my way out and find myself outside in Hollywood in no time. Before long I come across the Hollywood walk of fame. I ask around how far the Kodak Theatre is, some people tell me to take a bus over but I love to walk and was determined to walk it. Fortunately for me, the walk to the Kodak theatre was only about 20 minutes.

The area outside the Kodak Theatre and next to Grummans chinese theatres is a fascinating place. There are street performers, magicians, extras in super hero outfits and it’s a very festive place.  There’s a super mall with absolutely gorgeous views of the Hollywood sign next to the Kodak theatre. I enjoyed spending time in there.

Around noon I take one of the “Topless sightseeing” busses that depart from the Kodak Theatre. It takes me through the Sunset strip, through Beverly hills, Rodeo dr, La Brea, Universal studios etc. and brings you back to the Kodak theatre. Ofcourse I got off at a couple of places and walked around, every part of this city was fascinating.  After I got back I killed some more time time at the mall and in the area outside the Kodak theatre.  Simo drives down from Palmdale later that night and my buddy from school Dustin drives up from the OC as well. We meet at the Citywalk at Universal studios and we have a blast. Great seeing old friends after a while. We down some beer at the Howl at the moon and have dinner at Bubba gump.  Dustin drives me back to my hotel later that night.

Sat, Nov 3:  I have breakfast at the hotel and head out to LAX on the hotel shuttle soon. I have a flight that leaves at 1045. LAX is a huge airport and things can get crazy there. I have a most amazing flight, we fly over the rockies where we experience some terrible turbulence, then a while later we’re flying over the grand canyon. I sit on the wrong side of the aircraft so wasn’t able to take any pics. I felt like an idiot.  When we landed in Chicago, we did so at Chicago’s Midway airport which is just 10 miles  from downtown, so it offers wonderful views of Sears towers and the Hancock observatory. Chicago looks like a beautiful town.  Hopefully I will visit it someday soon.  I’m back in Cleveland around 7.45PM, my cabbie friend Alberto picks me up and drops me off home. I’m back at my cold apartment and I take a seat and a moment to ponder over the craziness of the past 3 days, and then the withdrawals begin.