Our LA adventure begins at 6am Eastern Time, in our home just 30 minutes south of Atlanta, GA. Ginny is a caregiver for an autistic girl so she had to go get her ready for the day before we headed to the airport to catch our 11:15am flight. Four hours after takeoff we landed at LAX (ok, why do I hear Miley Cyrus singing in my head right now? Haha!) Our Executive Producer Chas Thomas and Endangered Entertainment’s Mark Haynie picked us up and we headed straight to RED Interactive Agency in Santa Monica to meet the people behind the scenes of our project. RED’s office was very cool and laid back. I think what excited us the most was they had a ping pong table and had tournaments all the time. We told them next time we come; we want a piece of that action! In case you didn’t know, Ginny and I are ping pong champions and will take on any challengers – but you better bring your “A” game… Haha!
After we left RED, we checked in to the beautiful and iconic “Beverly Hilton Hotel” in Beverly Hills. It is amazing how you can just feel the Hollywood history that has taken place on the grounds and inside this hotel. The halls and lobbies are lined with pictures of guests like Marilyn, Dean, Audrey and Frank – there is no need to even type the last names of these legends, you know who I’m talking about
Every morning I would get up around 6am Pacific Time – 9am Eastern – and I would just walk around the hotel and try to open doors I am sure I wasn’t supposed to open… not guest rooms, just common rooms. I went to the top floor where there are only two doors. One goes to the penthouse suites and the other goes into the Stardust Lounge. I went into the Stardust and instantly I was taken back in time. I was completely alone yet I felt like the room was crowded with the spirits of Hollywood past. There was a dance floor and a very small stage where a piano sat. My mind begin filling with the thoughts of who had tickled those ivory keys, who had busted out notes through those speakers, and who’s shoes had scuffed up that dance floor. Just outside the Stardust was the rooftop patio. As I walked around, I could somehow hear stories being told and jokes and laughter from one of many awards shows and parties that had taken place in the courtyard and pool deck below. I’ve been in museums and seen movie props before but I have never FELT the history like I did during those moments in the Stardust.
One morning, I went to the 4th floor and walked down to the very end of the hall. I was counting down the room numbers as I walked 438, 437, 436, 435, 433… wait a minute… What happened to room 434? The very last room in the hall had no room number on the door – it should have been 434. I saw a single flower on the floor in front of the door. This was the room where Whitney Houston passed away in her bathtub. She had checked in as Elizabeth Collins. Whitney had many demons, but she will forever be remembered as one of the greatest entertainers of all time. RIP Whitney.
Since there is no easy transition from a story like that, let’s just do our best to continue on…
After Ginny and I got settled in our room, we got dressed and headed out for a little sightseeing on our way to dinner at Barone’s Famous Italian in Sherman Oaks. It was a very cool, old school Italian restaurant. I swear there were some mafia Dons sitting right next to us… haha… We were entertained by a live band with Vegas style singer performing a sort of tribute to the likes of Dean, Frank, Sammy and others of Hollywood/Vegas past. Much to our surprise, Mark Haynie is a performer as well. He was passed the mic and put on a great show for all in attendance. We especially liked his move of throwing his jacket down his arm in a Michael Jackson type move! When we got back to the hotel, Ginny and I had been up nearly 19 hours, so needless to say we crashed.
Saturday morning came early, well at least for me. Ginny needed to catch up on lost sleep but I was ready to go by 7am Pacific Time, so I explored the Beverly Hilton. Once Ginny got up, the first thing we did was ride down to Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood to take the TMZ Bus Tour. It was pretty funny because the bus was equipped with TVs and when we would pull up to spots, they would show a clip about that spot and what made it famous. We saw where celebs got their start in Hollywood – like the Pollo Loco where Brad Pitt worked as the chicken that stands outside and dances. We also saw where Hallie Berry had her hit and run at a nearby liquor store and where Lindsey Lohan stays most nights on her visits to Hollywood: the Hollywood Municipal Jail… haha! The tour guides are actually reporters for TMZ so if they spot a celeb, they jump off the bus and interview them on the spot. That’s where a lot of footage comes from for the show – bet you didn’t know that When we were getting off the bus, the TMZ tour guy asked us where he knew us from and when we told him who we are, he actually grabbed his camera and interviewed us for the show….crazy!
When Mark picked us up from the tour, we stopped by the Guitar Center in Hollywood where a lot of actual rock stars get their gear. Chris Vincent, of the Guitar Center, gave us a tour of some of their most famous guitars and showed us some very pricey vintage guitars including an original Les Paul that was listed at $80,000! After that we headed to Sunset Plaza (where many celebs go to dine) to have lunch with our Executive Producer Chas Thomas at Le Petit Four. While waiting to place our order, we had a surprise visit by Sammy from the hit Bravo show, “Shahs of Sunset.” Sammy is a friend of Chas’ – he invited Sammy to surprise us at lunch and he sure did! He was a really cool guy and shared some great stories about “the biz.”
After lunch, Mark took us around and showed us many more landmarks. We drove all throughout Beverly Hills and saw some houses that were so beautiful that they actually took our breath away… or maybe that was the altitude of hills… either way we were speechless.
Ginny gets tired daily from her pregnancy so as soon as we got back to the hotel she took a little afternoon nap. Mark and I went down to the pool for a cold beverage and a talk a bit about our project. The thing he said that stuck with me the most was this: first there was black and white TV, then came color, then came cable, then satellite, and the next big change in TV history is going to be the interactive platform that our show will pioneer – TV 2.0! It’s not just the content, but the ways you will be able to interact with the show and with us. It represents the next technological step in television history.
Once Ginny woke up, we changed and headed to the Saddle Ranch in the Sunset Plaza. I thought Mark was kidding me when he said that he and I would be taking on the bull. Well, after dinner, I found myself and Mark being introduced to the crowd. Mark rode first and he totally stole the show by using his blazer as a matador’s cape and proceeded to “fight” the bull before mounting him. That was a tough act to follow, but Ginny gave me a little help by putting a rose in her mouth and letting me take it out with my teeth. It was my first time ever riding a bull – real or fake – but I am proud to say I beat it and never got thrown off! Mark and I were the only guys of the night to last the entire time. After that, we called Saturday a “wrap.”
On Sunday morning, Chas and Mark said they had ANOTHER surprise in store for us. We showed up at the House of Blues at 11am and there was a line outside. As we go in, we see that it is a huge Sunday Buffet Brunch with Gospel music in the air. They knew we liked going to Church on Sundays so they thought we would enjoy this and boy were they right! About 30 minutes after we ate, the stage came alive with an amazing, big-production, live Gospel show! To say this show took us to Church is an understatement! They had the whole place dancing, singing, and praising Jesus! We were shocked and delighted. The host of the event then asked for any service members or veterans to stand so they could be honored for Memorial Day. As I stood, the crowd clapped and cheered. Then they asked everyone to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. A sax player played as the crowd stood and sang. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. It was a very moving moment. If that wasn’t enough, the host then asked Ginny and I to come to the stage where she then introduced us and told the crowd about our upcoming TV show. Ginny and I were in shock and couldn’t think of a thing to say as she handed us the mic… so we struck up the band and danced! After the show, we went upstairs the private Foundation Room and Chas revealed to us that the private screening party for our new show will take place right there. What a cool place!
After a quick change at the hotel, we drove to the Santa Monica Pier. We were quite surprised how cold it was! We walked to the end of the pier and then we hit up the carnival games. Ginny SHOCKED us all when she beat everyone at wack a mole and throwing baseballs at dolls. Before leaving, we sat at Dean’s Muscle Bar and met a very talented designer named Julie Ireland. She brought Ginny a gift bag with some of her greeting cards and other products and she offered to help us design our nursery
Because of our southern roots, the guys took us to Baby Blues BBQ at the fringe of West Hollywood. Not going to lie, I was shocked at how good it was and how big the servings were. I didn’t expect a Hollywood BBQ to get it right, but they did!
Monday morning came out of nowhere. Our flight was at 2:30pm so we just chilled at the Beverly Hilton until it was time to head to the airport.
Looking back it is hard to believe that all this took place in a mere 72 hours. It was a whirlwind but a lot of fun. Chas and Mark of Endangered Entertainment are now our friends and they couldn’t have been better hosts. We are amazed at how much they not only care about the project, but us as well. They made sure we had a great time without putting us through a rigid itinerary. They made this trip all about us and we are very thankful. I am on the plane heading home, somewhere over Albuquerque, according to the plane’s tracker, and already I miss it… Yes – I miss LA, I miss the Beverly Hilton, I miss the Santa Monica Pier, I miss the incredible food, but the thing I miss the most is the company we shared. Good thing we will be back soon
Hooray for Hollywood!