Thursday, October 21, 2010

California pt. 5 - Santa Monica and Malibu

Sunday was warm and sunny with warmer temperatures predicted in Los Angeles. It is noticeably cooler, however, along the coast and Santa Monica was pleasantly comfortable. Our first stop was the Santa Monica Pier.

The 1600 ft. long pier was first built in 1909 for the city's sanitation needs but it was so popular with local fisherman as well as tourists that it soon became a popular destination. An amusement park was added a few years later as well as arcades, cafes, gift shops and even a grand ballroom.

In 1983, a hurricane destroyed one third of the pier and the town rallied to form a task force to rebuild. By 1990, the pier had been restored. Today, the pier attracts over 4 million visitors annually.

Artists (both performance and artistic) dot the pier offering to sketch your portrait or just entertain you. Several cafes offer hamburgers and corn dogs. The amusement park was closed for a Special Olympics group.

We had so much fun on the Hollywood homes tour that we scheduled another tour for the Malibu Stars Homes. We almost missed our bus, but they waited for us (it could be because there were only two other people on the bus). We left the pier and drove along the Santa Monica coast toward the Pacific Coast highway. Our tour guide said that many stars like in Santa Monica.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a penthouse overlooking the pier and boulevard-

This is the home of Jamie Lee Curtis-

Robert Downey Jr. lives on the top floor and Stevie Nicks lives a few apartments behind his -

Shortly after swinging onto the Pacific Coast Highway, the "Malibu" sign welcomes us-

I have to confess that Malibu was not as pretty as I expected it to be. The traffic was horrendous (so glad we did not drive ourselves) and the area was very congested. On one side was a long stretch of beach homes and this is where the majority of the stars home were (that we saw). On the other side was an ugly hillside dotted with mansions as well as businesses. There wasn't enough foliage for me!

As for the star homes we saw, basically we were seeing the backs of them, so it wasn't really that spectacular. Some of the ones we saw:

Ryan O'Neal (Farrah Fawcett left him this house) -

Jennifer Aniston (yes again, doesn't this woman have enough houses?) -

Courtney Cox and David Arquette -

Paris Hilton -

Adam Sandler -

And WHAT in tarnation is this?? Believe it or not, scattered among the mega-million homes were places like this. This looks like redneck Alabama! The tour guide said that homes like this actually rent for thousands per week just because of the location. Now this is just crazy!

We stopped and took a stroll down to the beach. Now, Alabama has California beat here - the beaches are must prettier on the Gulf Coast. We have all that white san. It was a muddy color in Malibu.

The beach was also very narrow. There is just a few feet between the waves and the houses -

This is Cher's former Malibu home. I've seen it in Architectural Digest and it is spectacular. Finally, some landscaping! It is currently for sale. The tour guide said it was 18 million -

Another stop for more views of the Pacific -

The Malibu Pier -

On the way back, I had a better view of the fine homes on the cliff side -

I loved this house -

Back in Santa Monica, we did some shopping and sight seeing in the Promenade and had dinner at a wonderful seafood restaurant in Malibu -

I hope you enjoyed my recount and photos of the trip!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

California pt. 4 - Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum and Jennifer's Oscar

Saturday was an incredible day and one that I'll never forget. We were scheduled to be at the Norton Simon Musuem at noon so we left in plenty of time to get there. I drove, my first experience driving there, and it wasn't bad at all. Along the way, we passed Forest Lawn Cemetery. I would have loved to visit but our time was tight and I knew if I got in there, I wouldn't want to leave (cemeteries fascinate me).

The traffic was minimal and we ended up arriving in Pasadena around 11. Pasadena is beautiful and charming, with a totally different vibe than the other areas we had visited. We drove around the historic downtown area where beautiful architecture and roses abound. We stopped at the Wrigley Home but it was closed. Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, donated his home to Pasadena with the stipulation that it be used as headquarters for the Tournament of Roses.

The noon hour approached so we headed to the museum, myself a bundle of nerves. The building itself is quite beautiful - very modern with lots of glass and dark stone. The sidewalk leading up the entrance with planted with exotic trees and expanses of lush green grass where statues by Rodin and other artists were displayed.

I met my friend at the entrance who made all this possible (she runs a website on Robert Walker, Jennifer Jones' first husband and she knows the Walker family). They opened the doors, we purchased our tickets and went directly out into the museum gardens where Robert Walker Jr.and his wife, Dawn, were waiting for us. They were incredibly nice and told me some wonderful stories about Jennifer. We spent an hour talking and then Robert had to leave for a sound check and Dawn remained with us, regaling us with even more stories.

At one point, the museum curator came out and she told me that she wanted to introduce us and tell the audience about my Jennifer Jones website (very nice!). At that point Dawn jumped up and said that she had something to share with the audience. She returned with a wine bag and when she sat it down on the table, I could see the head of an Oscar poking out. It was Jennifer's Oscar - you could have scraped me off the floor. I can now say that I not only have held an Oscar, but I've held Jennifer Jones' Oscar!

Two hours had passed and it was time for the program. The curator spoke with Robert Walker Jr. on stage and they both shared some stories with the audience. A funny one that the curator told involved art expert Sister Wendy. Jennifer Jones was a big fan and she wanted to get Sister Wendy to come to the museum and record a film about the art pieces there. Sister Wendy had only seen one film in her entire life and that film was "The Song of Bernadette". When she arrived at the museum, Jennifer greeted her with open arms, exclaiming "Wendy!!!" and Sister Wendy held out her arms and screamed "Bernadette!!!"

They then showed "The Song of Bernadette" and it was a very moving experience seeing it on the big screen with an audience. After the film, I rushed through the museum, trying to take in the wonderful art that was there, but I have to confess I was numb from the excitement of the day. We left the museum and Cindy, Vickie and I had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant where I had a margarita to calm me down (and I don't drink often!)

Before I left the museum, I did take time to wander through the magnificent garden. Jennifer Jones was instrumental in both the redesign and landscape design of the museum and gardens during the last two decades (she was married to Norton Simon). The garden was designed by Southern California landscape designer, Nancy Goslee Power in 1999. It is a tranquil garden with a long pathway surrounding a meandering pond. Plantings include more than 180 species of trees, shrubs, vines, ground cover and perennials. Sculptures are integrated into the landscape.

The day could not have been nicer. My expectations were truly surpassed!

One more post to go - the last one will be about our day on Sunday when we went to Santa Monica and Malibu.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

California trip pt. 3 - Dearly Departed Tour

The second tour we took on Friday was the Dearly Departed Tour, which had been recommended by a friend. This trek ventures to the dark side of Hollywood, visiting locations where famous celebrities died or were murdered. This tour took about three hours but was wildly fascinating and the tour guide was wonderfully entertaining. Unfortunately, I forgot to take notes and as I was going through my photos, I realized that I had forgotten what some of the places were. Here are some I do recall:

First up, this famous house in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles was designed by Lloyd Wright (eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright). Known for its striking facade, which resembles a Mayan temple or the mouth of a gaping shark, it is also known as the "Jaws house". From 1945 to 1951, it was owned by Dr. George Hodel, a physician who was a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder case.

The Chateau Marmont again, popular hangout for celebrities and where John Belushi died of an overdose in 1982. Greta Garbo stayed here often.

The Scientology headquarters - former home built for a film producer's mistress (I can't remember the details). The tour guide told some amusing stories about the tight security there.
Bela Lugosi died in the apartment on the upper left

El Coyote restaurant, where Sharon Tate and friends dined the night they were murdered.

Former home of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe

The Menendez murders happened in this house

Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, was killed in this house by
Cheryl Crane, Turner's daughter.
Mae West lived in Ravenswood, a historic apartment building in Hollywood. She lived there from the time of her arrival in Hollywood in 1932 until her death in 1980.
It is said to be haunted by her ghost.

And some of other interesting sites along the way -

Contests on their way to film "Let's Make a Deal" -

Halloween decorations at a home in Beverly Hills
Beautiful architecture and a murder happened here as well (I don't remember the details)
The fire escape where the final scene of "Pretty Woman" was filmed

Apartment where Joe Gillis (William Holden) lived at the beginning of "Sunset Blvd."

Restroom where George Michael was arrested

Some more interesting buildings we saw on our way back -

My next post will be all about my visit to the Norton Simon Museum!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy