Recently it was my 2 year wedding anniversary. This milestone was due at a time when I knew we were going to be visiting one of our favorite cities, Los Angeles. Rather than get my wife a necklace or some other trinket I was determined to give her a magical “memory” to cherish as her anniversary gift. With that in mind I set off to “find an experience” or someone to help me “create” an experience L.A. style. My research led me to a company based in L.A. called, Elite Adventure Tours (EAT). This company provides tailor made tours customized to your specifications. On this occasion I chose the Custom Private Tour. This tour allows you the freedom to choose what you want to do and for how long. The cost is approximately $175 per hour (not including gratuity/tip). In preparation for the tour I spent some time researching possible destinations and then emailing EAT asking for their tips and suggestions. The service from EAT was fantastic and by the time we got to our tour day, we were all set with some pre-planned activities and destinations.
It all started at 10am outside our hotel in West Hollywood, The Mondrian. Paul our tour guide for the day picked us up in a shiny converted van, fully equipped with luxury arm chairs, large viewing windows, an esky (cooler) full of cold drinks and a basket full of goodies to snack on.
Paul our tour guide for the day is excited and clearly loves what he does, willing to share stories from his time as a “marketing guy” at Paramount, even joking that he may reveal his age when he stated he had worked on campaigns for Top Gun and The Naked Gun. Although no longer content with working on the back-end of the film process he said, he looked out of his office one night, not that long ago and saw some “Klingon’s” walking around the set. He said to us, it was in that moment he decided that his marketing days were behind him and he would have more fun giving the acting thing a go. So with a tonne of enthusiasm and a life time career in marketing and Rolodex of contacts he quit his job to become a “Klingon”. I suspect Paul will be having the last laugh, particularly given he’s had work as an extra on a major film production with a line or two at $3,000 odd a day with a minimum of 6-10 days to shoot said lines – he’s having the last laugh!
Anyway, our first stop is of course, the Hollywood sign, well I should say a glimpse from the back streets of Hollywood. From there we detour to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on our way to the actual sign because being the old school movie buff I am I absolutely have to see Tyrone Power’s grave, Cecil B DeMille and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
I think we threw Paul a curve ball with our Tyrone request as it took him a good 45 mins to find the grave site. But hey, we’re on holidays so it didn’t matter and the cemetery itself is intriguing, it backs onto the rear of Paramount Studios and at night during the warmer months they have an outdoor cinema. Eventually we find Tyrone, and when we do we laugh – he happens to be in an extremely prominent spot by the lake! On the way we pass Nelson Eddy’s grave, much to my delight (“Sweethearts” and “When I’m Calling You” playing in my head at this stage).
Next we headed off for the money shot, yep it’s time to traverse the back streets of the Hollywood Hills, ignoring the “no Hollywood sign access” warnings – as Paul points out, these usually indicate the opposite that your quest to reach the sign is nearer than you think. On our way to the Hollywood sign Paul asks us if we know how the sign came to be? He was extremely surprised when I answered “it was sign for a housing development”. I was right, it was initially built as an ad campaign for “Hollywoodland”. But enough history for one day. We arrive at the “secret” location Paul and his other EAT guides have found. It’s a fire access to the hills adjacent to some homes perched with from views of the Hollywood sign. From the road all you can see are these homes, you would not know what just 10 meters beyond the access point there lies the prime view of one of the worlds most famous landmarks.
Once we have recovered from the awe of the sign, let’s face it this is a big part of why we and many others take the pilgrimage to LA, we head off to the Griffith Observatory for a look around. This working Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. The location has some stunning city views and the structure itself is iconic. Paul takes us to the place of the famous Rebel Without a Cause knife fight. So famous is this scene there is a monument erected to celebrate it.
Next stop Malibu for lunch at Geoffrey’s. On our drive through Santa Monica heading towards the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Paul happily tells us that beyond the mountains and towards the Pacific Palisades the likes of Katy Perry and P!nk call that area home.
We arrive at Geoffrey’s, which is perched just off the PCH and on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. To call it picturesque is not doing it justice. This place is famous for romantic dinners and proposals to hip celebrity hang out (many a television scene has been shot here). Think Modern Family, Mitchell and Cam’s botched proposal and Sloane and E fighting pre-proposal in Entourage. The restaurant serves traditional California fare and we both opt for prawn and lobster salads respectfully.
A couple of bottles of bubbly later and we are off again, Paul has patiently waited and also relinquished his mega camera to us for lunch so we can capture some professional shots.
We load back into the luxe van and Paul asks “is it time to take you celebrity home spotting?” Having previously done the StarLine tour at first we were reluctant. Paul assured us that we will not be doubling up as he is able to access the homes of Bel Air, something StarLine are unable to do in their marked vehicles.
So off we head past Moonshadows, another famous Malibu eatery and most recently famous for being the place where Mel Gibson was caught in a drunken anti semitic rant, to Bel Air. We reach Bel Air and Paul let’s us know that this is probably the most sought after and expensive address in LA – it’s apparently better than Beverly Hills. It’s a gated community with its own full service security, which includes keeping those pesky StarLine tour buses out!
Our first stop, Justin Timberlake’s pad. This place was mind boggling big! Giddy with excitement I’m tempted to jump out of the van and scale the fence, however I regain control and we head off. As we wind up and town the beautiful tree lined streets, we see the homes of Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, a Jonas Brother, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion (the rear entrance), Jackie Chan, Robert Downey Jnr and First Lady Regan. Interestingly, Nancy’s house has a no fly zone and Robert lives over the road.
Paul even manages to surprise us with a drive past the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s” house, which even after all of these years is easily recognisable.
By this stage it’s nearing 6pm and we are off to Koi (more on this later) for our anniversary dinner, so we begin the trek back in the luxe van to the Mondrian. Paul takes us through Rodeo Drive on the way back and past the famous haunts on Sunset, The Viper Room, Whiskey-a-go-go and The Comedy Club. We arrive safe and sound to the Mondrian and bid our fabulous tour guide a fond farewell, wishing him much success on his quest to become a Klingon!