Southern California

LA is often depicted as the home to movies, celebrities and beaches. I apologise in advance, but you won’t get a different viewpoint from this blog.


It won’t surprise regular readers to learn that we have been to plenty of movies since we’ve arrived in California. We now only have the very long Man of Steel unseen, and it will have to be a very wet day before this happens.

Every region of the world “goes to the movies” in a slightly different way. In Hong Kong, the main attraction starts exactly on time; therefore, unlike the UK, you shouldn’t stroll in 30 minutes after the advertised time expecting to catch the beginning … unless it’s a Michael Bay film (when it won’t make the slightest difference to your understanding of the narrative). They sell very different food in HK too (puff balls, marinated meat on sticks). In North Africa, there is a kind of audience participation with the silver screen and food sellers patrol the aisles. Not the place to watch a sensitive exploration of Alzheimer’s, but would likely improve a Christopher Columbus film. In the UK, there are often many advertisements for nearby Indian restaurants. And somewhere else that I can no longer remember, they always had a break in the movie to allow people to buy food. This break happened at a predetermined time which could be in the middle of an action scene, emotional piece of dialogue or even joke.

The main difference in LA is that the movie audience stays for the credits at the end and they leap into applause or exultation when the name of someone they know appears on screen. With 125,000 people employed directly in the cinema and TV business at any one time and hundreds of thousands of others aspiring to work in the business, I guess it’s not surprising that you want to see exactly who was Best Boy Grip or Second Assistant Director.

We also took a Warner Brothers VIP studio tour. There wasn’t much VIP about the tour as they seemed to let you attend provided that you paid them the requisite amount of money. Almost all movies are now filmed on location, but it was great to see the backdrops for so many of my favourite films. The studio lot is now used predominantly for TV shows, and the sound stages were set up for all sorts of current TV programmes. We saw Ellen, Suburgatory and Big Bang Theory. Typically, there are 3 main sets and a number of side sets that they bring in for occasional use. So, for Big Bang Theory, the three main sets are Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, the Elevator space and Penny’s apartment and these are set up in line with each other. As the show has become more established, they have brought in side sets for Walowitz’s house, Cheesecake Factory and University. Comedies are invariably filmed in front of a live audience to improve the performance of the actors, and jokes that don’t work are hastily rewritten until they do.



We did a very half-hearted self-drive tour of Stars’ houses in LA. We had bought a map from a vending machine that showed who lives/lived where and we drove through some of Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills. It’s quite a good way of seeing different neighbourhoods, but your chance of seeing a star is extremely low as all the houses with stars in them have very high walls and gates. Large numbers of buses tour the area and an even larger number of passengers eagerly take pictures of Stars’ gates. When they get home and are showing slides of their recent trip to friends and neighbours, I very much doubt whether they will be able to distinguish Michael Jackson’s gate from Aaron Spelling’s.

It is said that you are more likely to see a celebrity in a movie line or at a restaurant. This may be true, but my ability to recognise stars out of context is about on a par with, say, Lorna’s ability to spot an error in a single particle, non-relativistic Schrödinger equation.


My favourite part of LA and environs are the beaches. As Tilly pointed out (and Mr Wilson and Mr Love before her), the girls here are different from elsewhere on the planet. Long sun-bleached hair on stick like brown as berry bodies. We couldn’t go to all of the beaches, but here is a summary of those beaches we did visit:

Paradise Cove, Malibu. Best reason to come here was the restaurant on the beach (excellent). Nancy and I jumped the waves for a couple of hours while Lorna and Tilly perfected their tans. For older readers, Paradise Cove is where Rockford Files was filmed. Also filmed here were Lethal Weapon 4, American Pie 2, Charlie’s Angels, Indecent Proposal, Baywatch, Happy Days and thousands of other productions.


I strongly suggest that you watch the parking charges. It costs $40 for four hours’ parking unless you eat at the restaurant (which you need to book beforehand).

Manhattan Beach. Home to business men and athletes, lots here are almost twice the price of Bel Air (half an acre of land on the Strand will set you back about $35m). It’s a very long and deep beach with a factory at either end. It has a great pier and has outstanding surfing and beach volleyball. We all went boogie boarding in the fairly strong surf. Manhattan Beach has featured in 2012, Against All Odds, CSI, Hannah Montana, Jerry Maguire, The O.C, Point Break and 90210.


Venice beach. This was Nancy’s favourite. A cooler crowd hang out here: skateboarders, tattooists, in-line skaters, cyclists, politically activists, body builders, yoga enthusiasts, and macro-biotic vegetarians. Beach is very deep and perfect. There’s also homelessness and strong signs of drug culture. But if you are homeless, why would you live in a crappy area of town? Films set here include Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Double Indemnity, Falling Down, Fletch, Grease, The Net, Sea Biscuit amongst hundreds of others.

Santa Monica. We walked along Venice beach to Santa Monica pier. While the kids did the roller coasters, Lorna and I went on the big wheel and surveyed the whole area from up high. Movies filmed here include: Heathers, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, 17 Again, Species, Get Shorty, Ocean’s Eleven, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, The Sting, Ruthless People, Beverly Hills Cop III, Forrest Gump, Iron Man and Speed.

In case you want culture, the Getty Centre and Getty Villa are relatively nearby. Both free, except for $15 parking fee.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville Bishop on July 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Now I know all I need to know about beaches in California except the quality of the sand for building sand-castles.
    Back in the 1950s I used to go the cinemas in Benghazi. The oldest one was outdoors and part of a restaurant so one sat and ate at small tables whist the film was shown on a screen which had seen better days. Because of the eating part there was a large element of ambient light. The newest cinema had a retractable roof. So in either place one could star-gaze if interest in the film flagged.


  2. Posted by Anonymous on July 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Most of the films you mention Julian, I have never heard of. Neither have I heard of Boggie boarding. Is it dancing while you surf. Sounds fun. I expect the girls were good at that with all the practice they get.


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