The City of Make Believe

It is the make believe of Hollywood that is fascinating. It seems to spread across the entire city.

Making movies at Universal Studios

By Leslie Clague

DSCN1486 H BlvdMy second full day in Los Angeles to attend my 50th high school class reunion took me to the industry that dominates the culture of the city. My friend Sheri Herman, who works for Universal Studios, arranged a day pass for me so we could wander the back lots and the “real” world that making movies is all about.

We walked through a highly professional, carefully regimented environment, with giant, square beige buildings, surrounded by clean white trucks, which were actually changing rooms for the actors and held costumes and other supplies.

One building was dominated by a painting of the New York skyline that has been used in lots of movies. We passed old-fashioned brick buildings that were only fronts. Meanwhile tourist trams, chock full of paying tourists drove by, the occupants staring at us to see if Sheri and/or I were famous.

Universal owes its financial success not only to the movies it makes, but also to its appeal as a tourist destination. In addition to studio tours it runs a giant theme park with rides and other experiences. While I was touring I saw they were setting up for “Halloween Horror Nights.” The public pays to tour the facility and get scared by all sorts of ghosts, goblins, weird things and special effects.

Here’s a heads up for those who are interested: Universal is producing a movie of “50 Shades of Grey” to come out for Valentine’s Day 2015.

Walking on Hollywood Boulevard

DSCN1486 H BlvdWe also went for a short walk on Hollywood Boulevard. Sheri was not too keen to do this walk as parts of the boulevard can be dangerous.

We stuck to the westerly end and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, thick with tourists visiting Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, getting their photos taken with Bat Man or a wizard and of course admiring all the stars in the sidewalk. Movie theatres, MacDonald’s and store fronts had a glow, but also seemed rather unreal.

The Farmers Market

DSCN1441 GroveIt is the make believe of Hollywood that is fascinating. It seems to spread across the entire city. The previous day Sheri had also taken me to The Farmers Market on Fairfax which has been in the city since 1934. It looked a tad tired and had none of the feel of Melbourne markets for example.

However, opened in 2002, on the other side of The Farmers Market parking lot, is a privately run retail and entertainment complex called The Grove. It is designed to look like it’s been there for as long as the Farmers Market and comes complete with trolley cars, a lake with ducks, and various styles of architecture. Shopping there runs from the elegant to the mundane.

Yet another example of the make believe was at the condominium complex in Torrance where I spent my last two nights before my departure back to New Zealand. Over 200 apartments are spread through a wooded area complete with a running brook, splashing over river stones – all of it man-made.

Listening to the “stream” when the air conditioning would let me, it sounded to me more like a running hose that a real brook. But then I am used to listening to the Tongariro River.