Monday, March 30, 2009

24 Hours in LA

One big advantage to having a 25-year-old son in LA is you get access to the sightseeing expertise of his 24-year-old girlfriend, Lindsay, and can have a heckuva good time in a city that I had previously dismissed as a tourist destination that might appeal to me. Within 20 minutes of Korea's Yu-Na Kim winning her first world title, I had already filed my story to Sports Illustrated so we could hustle off to La Fonda on Wilshire Blvd., to eat some Mexican chow and listen to the 9 pm show of a live 10-piece mariachi band. La Fonda was founded in 1969, and its reputation is such in the Mexican community that at the next table a trio of musicians from a different mariachi band, still in costume from having just performed at another restaurant, had come to have dinner and watch the show. There were dancers, too, a fuzzy photo of which, taken with my cell phone, is above. At the table to my right was a couple about my age from El Salvador and their twenty-something son. They told us they had come there on their first date, 40 years ago, and now were returning for their anniversary. At the conclusion of the first set a man hauled his very pregnant girlfriend onto the stage and proposed to her from his knees. To the fanfare of trumpets, she accepted. It was a very colorful evening.
In the morning my wife, Sally, and I walked to Pacific Dining Car,at 1360 6th Ave. an old railroad car that has served as a 24 hour eatery since 1921. The waiters are in white coats and ties, the chairs are cushioned in deep green velour, the tables have real silver and white tablecloths, and the food is delicious. It looks like it comes straight from the heydey of the Pullman Cars of the late 19th century. I had a roast beef hash that could have choked Dick Butkus--the "hash" came in two-inch cubes of roast beef, topped by poached eggs. Sally had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and goat cheese. The OJ was fresh and the coffee, poured from a silver plated coffee pot, was superb. It also offers free shuttle service to the Staples Center, if you want to go there for dinner, and its wine list is highly recommended by the Wine Spectator.
From there we drove to the Hollywood Forever Cemetary, where we strolled past the grave sites of Peter Lorre, John Huston, Tyrone Power, and others. Of note was the reflecting pool leading to the marble memorial wall of Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. It looked like something Caesar would have built for himself. Douglas Fairbanks even had an olive wreath around his head, which was bronzed, in relief, against the marble. A pair of ducks had made the pool their home, so it no longer reflected quite as purely and pristinely as the Fairbanks' would have liked.
To the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building at 1660 N. Highland Ave. Lots and lots of stuff, somewhat haphazardly displayed, but strong on their Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. We learned Marilyn's measurements, according to her dressmaker, were 35-23-35. She wore a 36-D bra, was 5'5" and weighed 118 lbs. One quote of hers that was prominently displayed: "It's better to live unhappily alone than unhappily with somebody else."
Next, a bloody Mary at the Tropicana Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the beautiful people were sitting around in shades, and in at least one case, posing for pictures in a sequined bikini that she should not have been wearing without airbrushing away 30 lbs. That fueled our next tourist stop: a trip to Grauman's Chinese Theater at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. where generations of stars have sunk their feet in cement. Since I was there on a figure skating assignment, I took the picture below:

Sonja Henie! We learned that Mary Pickford, mother of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and wive of Caesar, had tiny, tiny feet. Maybe a 2. I have small (size 8) feet myself, and was surprised how many Hollywood legends also had small feet. Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire, and Frank Sinatra all had size 8 or smaller. Arnold Schwarzeneggar wore cowboy boots when he stepped in cement.
Finally, dinner at the Hungry Cat on 1535 Vine. St. A hole in the wall, out of the way seafood place that is absolutely fantastic, and a great value. Octopus salad, fish chowder, wine, grappa, and...ah, ready for bed. A great 24 hours in LA!

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