Monday, January 31, 2011
The following is part one of a two part installment truly explaining how awesome it is to spend a semester in Los Angeles. (Ok, the other posts have definitely done this, but these upcoming stories are totally epic).
I have a couple of quick housekeeping things before we continue with the storytelling. Well, it’s more of a quick rant, but something must be said.
For 22 days we were jubilant, relaxed and thoroughly enjoying every second of the glorious California sunshine. Then the unthinkable happened. I woke up yesterday morning and looked out my window to see what might have very well been the apocalypse. The sky was grey and little drops of water were falling from the sky. Panicked, I rushed out into the living room to find my roommates having breakfast. “It’s raining,” they said. And that’s when the memories of “real winters” started to come back to me. I had indeed seen this so-called rain before, but it had been on such a hiatus that it seemed as if it was gone for good. Ah, in a perfect world … Anyway, it obviously was a bit surprising to see a wet, overcast day on our four month vacation, but I didn’t react as nearly dramatically as I said I did. Come on now. Our home campus is Ithaca. Do you think we could REALLY forget what overcast skies and rain looked like?
Ok, now for the good stuff. A few more quick stories to tell and then you will be all caught up on what was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in one week. On Friday, a group of us started the day off with a VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studios. IF YOU EVER COME TO LOS ANGELES, SET ASIDE TIME TO TAKE THIS TOUR. It’s well worth the forty-something dollars because the groups are small, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and you just see so many cool things. To quickly recap, on some famous back lot streets, we saw crews setting up sets for tapings of the TV show Chuck and Harry’s Law, we saw Jim Carrey’s apartment building from The Mask, the balconies used in the famous opening scene from Rent, and an alley that our guide said was used in pretty much every crime drama episode in which a body is found in an alley. This alley is also home to a particularly famous wall from Spiderman. You know the upside down kissing scene in the rain between Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? Well if you don’t you’ve been living under a rock, or simply haven’t seen the movie. Either way, we saw that wall. It’s just a plain brick façade. Nothing fancy. But hey, that’s most movie sets for you ... they’re not the way they seem, which segues nicely into our next stop on the tour. We were standing right in the middle of a traffic circle and in front of a façade of a three story building. Back in 1962, this “town square” is where Robert Preston famously paraded around singing “Ya got trouble! Right here in River City!” Decades later, this patch of grass and building façade was completely transformed into the set of Ocean’s 13. The façade actually supported the front face of the Bank’s Casino and the town square was surrounded by green screens. In the middle of the screens was a large diamond statue, used in one of the film’s final scenes in which Matt Damon’s character goes on the roof of the casino to help a helicopter fly off with the diamonds. I’m a huge fan of the Ocean’s movies, so I was pretty stoked to be there.
Later on in the tour, we stopped at the Warner Bros. museum to see movie history up close and personal. Virtually every famous prop from the Harry Potter films, including the sorting hat that can “actually” sort you into one of Hogwart’s four houses, Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick, and a huge assortment of robes. There’s even a scale model of Aragog, the giant spider from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Downstairs, we saw costumes and the dream machine from Inception, costumes and props from The Matrix and more costumes, odds and ends from countless other films. Super cool. Our next stop was a garage containing a whole bunch of famous movie vehicles, including the original Batmobile from Batman and Batman Returns and the Tumbler from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. We learned that the Tumbler will soon be returning to Chicago, as filming is set to begin on Christopher Nolan’s next Batman masterpiece. We also saw the ’65 Lincoln from The Matrix, The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and the Weasley’s flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. No big deal.
We finished up the tour actually getting to go inside a few soundstages. The first of which, Stage 7, was a special treat for some of our good friends because they are huge fans of Pretty Little Liars. Our tour guide learned that the show wasn’t taping that day, so he was nice enough to take us onto the set of the show. Even for us guys in the group, who don’t follow the show closely, it was really cool to be behind the scenes seeing how on one side of a wall there’s a school cafeteria, and on the other side, there’s a bedroom. Our last stop was on the set of Ellen, which wasn’t shooting either … a plus for us! This was really cool because let’s be honest, most television fans have at least seen a few clips of the show, even if you’re not an avid viewer. The show’s popular enough to attract attention from everywhere, so this time, even the guys in the group were pretty wide-eyed. Overall, a one sentence recap: It was absolutely awesome and I want to do it again.
That night my roommate TJ, four of our good friends and I decided to go to Hollywood. And yes, to answer your question ahead of time, we were the cliché tourists who stopped right in the middle of the Walk of Fame to take pictures of stars and who put our hands in celebrities’ impressions in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Doing touristy things in Hollywood is a total given and we were more than ready to be “those people”. For me, this was completely surreal. I explained in previous posts about how I have never seen LA landmarks in person, so I was taking in every single sight with my own eyes and with my camera. I don’t want to get into too much detail about what handprints we touched and how cool the Hollywood and Highland complex is, but one moment stands out. On our way back to the Kodak Theatre after checking out the Roosevelt Hotel, (famous for being the death place of Marilyn Monroe), we came across a very familiar and respected name to Ithacans and specifically Parkies. Rod Serling was a professor at Ithaca College for a number of years, passing onto students his expertise that created “a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.” In Hollywood, we weren’t crossing over into the Twlight Zone, but we were entering a state of humility. While it was so insane to see so many celebrities forever enshrined along the flanks of Hollywood Boulevard, we paused at Rod Serling’s star to remember a great member of the families of Ithaca College and Hollywood. For me, seeing his star among the hundreds of others showed me that although IC and the Park School are thousands of miles away from Hollywood, there will always be a connection. Rod Serling, along with other professors and alumni over the years, undoubtedly helped pave the road for future students to take advantage of incredible opportunities available to them at Ithaca College and the Park School. The six of us who stood there on the Walk of Fame that night are just a fraction of those students. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty freaking sweet. Thanks, Rod.
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