Hooray for Hollywood!

Our vacation: Part 2

We arrived in L.A. in the late afternoon on the 21st. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Highland Avenue, just 2 blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. Our van? Was a depressing, disgusting, horrifying mess. Filled with garbage, food spilled on the floor, toys, books and all sorts of junk – I was actually terrified to have the staff see inside it. We packed up the luggage cart with our 800 billion bags (because we don’t have proper luggage) and lumbered our way up to our rooms.

They were nice. Absolutely no complaints. We unpacked, settled in and got comfy. We didn’t do anything that night – just packed in for the night. One surprise to me was when I opened my curtains and was a bit taken aback by this huge photo staring at me. I mean, I love Jason Bateman, but this huge grinning face is just disconcerting to be outside your window.

The next morning, the kids woke me up. Maggie & I decided to walk to a CVS close by. Apparently, a block from our hotel is this Los Angeles outdoor mall called Hollywood/Highland. On the opposite side of the mall from our hotel we discovered the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I should have known it was right there, but I was totally surprised. A block down from the mall, we discovered Grauman’s Chinese Theatre! What a trip this stretch of street was. Strange people in 3rd rate costumes trying to pose for pictures with tourists. Seriously – the worst Spiderman, Captain America & Wonder Woman costumes I’d ever seen. Plus 800 billion people trying to sell Sightseeing Bus Tours and their self-made music CDs. It was rather overwhelming, really. I must have said “No, thank you” over 100 times. Maggie and I looked at the stars for a little while, but didn’t want to be away to long to worry Steve, so we got our stuff from the CVS and went back.

One thing I was really taken aback by was the number of homeless people. See, I haven’t spent much time in any large cities, so I honestly haven’t seen a whole lot of homeless. Occasionally if we make a trip to Chicago I’ll see some, but there were a whole lot more here. Makes sense, really. How many thousands of people travel to Hollywood in the hopes of  “making it big” and either having no success or getting caught up in something they shouldn’t which ruins their lives. How many of these people are just not able to make a go of it? How many suffer from mental illnesses and (maybe) can no longer afford their meds or can’t get the help they need and are now just walking the streets, unable to manage what their illness has done? How many have just given up? It’s sad. As one person, I know there’s nothing I can do. It just breaks my heart that so many have the dream of fame & fortune & risk everything to get it (no matter how unrealistic their dream is) and can never make a go of it. They end up doing unsavory things to survive or make terrible choices to escape the pain. It’s so, so sad.

Outside CBS Television Studios

Woah. Didn’t mean to go there. Anyway, back to the hotel we went. Steve and I had tickets to go to a taping of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson and needed to be there by 2:15 or so. Maggie stayed with the boys in the hotel rooms and we got a taxi over to the CBS Studios. This was an experience, let me tell you! We got there and had to wait outside the gate until it was time to herd us inside. We were 4th in line, so we got to be near the front. We waited and waited – watching people arrive, people pass, people and cars going about their day. At one point, a quite attractive woman with long, dark hair walked by – wearing a dress that was no more than a large scarf. She strode confidently down the street in her knee-high boots, certain that everyone was looking at her. I was kind of disgusted, then Steve leaned over and said something about her being a working girl. I didn’t think so, but he’s usually better about sensing these things than I am. Whatever she was, she joined us in line with a guy who couldn’t have looked more like a stoner if he was made of weed.

At 3:00, we all herded through the gates, checked our phones (like a coat check, honestly!), went through a metal detector and sat on benches. We watied until all the people were checked and then we were introduced to the “audience handler” who was actually a rather charming guy. We were then told what our job was. Not to honestly enjoy the show, oh no. Our job is to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Loudly. More than we think is normal. Clapping and whooping was also encouraged. Of course, if we had a “special laugh” we’d be asked to control ourselves because we couldn’t have insane hyena barking or anything. But not to worry, they said. If we had a “special laugh”, someone would come and gently calm us down. Wasn’t sure if my laugh was “special”, but Lord knows it’s loud, so I got a little nervous. Last thing I wanted was to be singled out for being a crazy looney bird. After the audience handler finished, they brought in the warm up comedian. His name was Chunky D or something like that. This man had the most worn-out, raspy, smoker-screaming-at-a-football-game voice I’d ever heard. This show, he told us, was the last one before they went on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Therefore, it was important that we really “bring it”. We needed to really be loud, laughing, screaming, shouting, whooping, clapping – the whole 9 yards. I’d never done this before – what did I know? But I thought this might be rough, forcing the overblown laughter thing.

Finally, it was time to move inside. We traipsed up 4 flights of stairs and were led through a maze of corridors. We arrived at the studio door and were met by Chunky Whatever who was passing out candy to help get our sugar rush on so we’d be more excitable. Honestly, I was totally hoping to be seated in Lesbian Row. (It’s a standing thing on Craig’s show. ) It’s the front row, stage right – easiest for the cameras to shoot. Only women are seated there. But, we were herded to the other side of the bleachers where, I realized a little later, no camera would catch a glimpse of us. Just as I suspected, the girl of the knee-high boots and scarf-dress was seated right on the aisle of Lesbian Row. But no matter. I was here to see Craig and it didn’t matter if I was on camera or not. I just wanted to see Craig.

Chunky the Warm-up went through the rules again and started telling us terrible, hacky jokes so we could practice laughing and cheering, no matter what we actually thought. And, of course, he immediately honed in on the chick that annoyed me, fawning all over her and telling her how hot she was. Ick. But she ate it up. Because it was EXACTLY what she was looking for. She dressed for attention and they gave her exactly what she wanted. She was from Croatia (of course), so she even had something they could play off of – other than how hot she was. Which I got immediately tired of hearing.

And before you can say it – yes. I was jealous. I admit it. I would have loved to be singled out and picked to interact with Craig, but I wasn’t. Probably because I’m old and overweight and not nearly attractive enough for TV. I was prepared and I knew that would be the case. But it sucks to watch it happen. The chick probably didn’t even know who Craig was. Probably for the best, though. I might have embarrassed myself in national TV if given that chance. It’s still annoying to watch the cliche unfold in front of you, though.

Anyway, Craig finally came out and he was wonderful. We gave him tons and tons of cheering & laughing & screaming and such and it was fun to watch him feed off it. Chunky Comic Dude pointed out Girl From Serbia to Craig and he immediately picked her out to be part of the show open along with the only person in the audience wearing a shirt of one of the Super Bowl teams. They opened the show with him and got to dance with him later in the show. And we all screamed for them.

Watching Craig dance was awesome. I so very, very much love to watch performers who completely commit themselves to whatever they’re doing. They don’t go halfway or stop just short of awesome. They pull out all the stops, not caring if they look stupid or foolish. That’s how Craig dances on his show and it’s hysterical. The guests were Joe Theismann and some girl named Ariel Tweto from Alaska who flies helicopters. I think she has a show on Discovery or something, but I didn’t know who she was. She sure looked beautiful, though. If you’d like to see the show, here’s a link to the video on CBS.com


By the time the show ended, I had the biggest, most horrifying headache I’d ever had. I couldn’t woooooo anymore or barely laugh. Every noise I made created a vise-like squeezy pain that was horrible. I guess that’s what happens when you force enthusiasm for too long.

When it was over, we marched out and grabbed a cab back to the hotel. To be greeted by rooms that looked as if The Who had stayed there. Steve and I were dumbfounded. There were toys, garbage & food strwn all over the floor. William had drawn on the WHITE bed linens with a marker and a ballpoint pen he’d found God only knows where. Things were taken out of the suitcases and thrown around. And the cherry atop the sundae? He had attacked the faux leather desk chair that had begun to crack and pulled almost all the faux leather off of it – leaving just spongy foam exposed. Maggie was trying to scrub the ballpoint pen out of the duvet with hairspray. The marker ended up being waterproof, so that came out pretty well. However the marker on the carpet…..well…

I was floored. We simply tried to go out and have a couple of hours doing something grownup in a city we may never visit again and we had to PAY for it. We had plans to go see Greg Proops record his podcast the next night, but decided we couldn’t do that because we couldn’t trust the children to behave. Horrible. Frustrating. Disappointing.