The Ultimate Hollywood Experience

A lot of people go to Hollywood proper, or take an official studio tour so they can experience, or at least see, the industry that makes the world’s television shows and movies. But I think we encountered the real thing simply by having Neil go out for the Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? audition.

First of all, Hollywood, in the sense of the moving pictures industry, isn’t actually in Hollywood proper any more. It’s really scattered all over the LA basin (and Vancouver), but it’s centered on Universal City, Studio City, and Burbank. And by staying at the Sheraton Universal, we were right in the midst of it.

For dinner, we went up the hill from the Sheraton to Universal Citywalk, an outdoor shopping center adjacent to Universal Studios and the Universal Studios amusement park. It was all the glamour and kitsch you could hope for and expect from Hollywood. A huge 2D King Kong bounded between the buildings, which were a cross between B-movie hokey and Las Vegas flashy. The Ben & Jerry’s had a maniac cow upside down driving a car bursting out of the building; the Things from Another World had a spaceship crashed into it (there seems to be a lot of that going on in LA.) We had a light dinner at the expensive Karl Strauss Brewery, where all the waiters looked like male models. Undoubtedly, they work close to the studio so that when some executive producer is crying in his beer about being unable to book some current Hollywood hunk in his latest project, they can offer to fill in the role.

I headed back to the hotel with Kelly earlier than Peter and Neil did. On the elevator ride back to the Sheraton’s level, the men who shared the car with me discussed their cinematography. As I walked into the hotel, an agent was advising a tall woman, presumably an actress, on how to behave in the imminent meeting with some bigwig.

And as for actual celebrity encounters, we had plenty of those, too. While Neil was waiting for his second audition, the children who are in the “class” for the currently airing Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? stopped by to greet the auditioning children. Neil shook hands with one of them–I think it was Kyle. Later, while we were on the lunch break during our wait for the second audition, we spotted some guys in the lobby whose look screamed “musician,” from the spiky hair to the tight jeans. We coerced Neil into going up to them and asking them if, indeed they were musicians. We were right in our assumption: it was Jeremy Camp, who was going to be performing at Universal CityWalk that evening. We didn’t know who he was before then, but it was easy to figure out he was a Christian rocker because he advised Neil that he could turn to Jesus in any moment of need. All the musicians shook hands with Neil and wished him good luck with his audition.

All that, and having lights and cameras and direction on us several times that day, made it all a neat, unique experience that could never be beat by doing the Walk of Stars or riding through the backlots in a bus.

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