Tag Archives: Hollywood

Reaching the dizzy heights of Hollywood

The view south from summit of Mount Hollywood

The view south from summit of Mount Hollywood

It isn’t the biggest mountain I’ve climbed, but it’s probably the most glitzy.

The clue’s in the name. Mount Hollywood sits among the hills in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, overlooking the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign and within squinting distance of film stars’ luxury pads.

It has to-the-horizon views of the metropolis of L.A., including its downtown and, to the southwest, the waters of the Pacific and Catalina Island. Just beneath the summit lies Griffith Observatory, a stunning 1930s landmark, itself perched high above the city.

The trailhead.

The trailhead.

Even the trailhead itself has a little showbiz sparkle – hikers take their first steps past the George Harrison tree. (The second of its type, after the first died following an onslaught by beetles in 2014 – I kid you not).

It’s not all glamour though. The four mile (with diversions) round trip up and down the Mount Hollywood Summit trail is a dusty outing and, on many days, the views are obscured by the city’s notorious smog. Beware the heat too – hiking it last weekend meant temperatures in the low 80s, even near the summit saddle, and a searing sun, with zero foliage cover.

That said, for someone who’s spent most of his hiking hours in rainy Ireland or soggy Oregon, the hot, blue sky was a welcome relief.  The heat was also worth enduring for the scenic payback that followed a 45-minute workout, and 262m ascent, up the trail.

In recent years I’ve hiked a number of the popular routes in L.A. – traversing trails in the San Gabriel Mountains, Debs Park, and Topanga State Park. Each has its own charms, but Mount Hollywood is the best all-rounder for taking in the view and vibe of the city.

It won’t tax a hardened outdoors person, and fitness freaks will prefer to jog rather than walk, but it’s worth braving the  hordes who start from the Charlie Turner trailhead, near Griffith Observatory, each Saturday morning. Just bring some water – and a camera for that photo.


Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Miley and me

Miley. Pic: Michael Connors.

Miley. Pity the waiter.
Pic: Michael Connors

Eating dinner recently I glanced over my shoulder – to be greeted by the sight of Miley Cyrus’ backside.

Add me to the millions who’ve seen the popstar’s derriere in recent months then.

Impressive as it was, Cyrus’ bum played second fiddle to her mouth, with which the pop star dispatched a series of requests, loudly, to the wait staff.

The location was the Chateau Marmont, where my wife and I were meeting friends for a Christmas dinner.

My other half had told me that we were likely to encounter a famous face or two at the hotel, a Hollywood celeb bolthole for more than 80 years.

(So much so that I had my ‘I love Nespresso too!’ monologue prepared in the event I bumped into Clooney in the gents – next time G!)

Watching Cyrus source a clean fork, or whatever, may not have been the most dramatic episode in the Chateau’s history (there’s been one or two) but, in fairness, it did cause us to pause mid-mouthful (and also pity the waiter).

A genuine, bona fide, shock and awe star no less. Much as I’d like to pretend I’ve no interest  in the comings and goings of A-listers I couldn’t resist glancing once or twice at Cyrus’ table for the rest of the evening.

(BREAKING: 20-something Team Miley eat and yap for two hours before bouncing out into the night. World continues to turn.)

Me. Digestif time. Pic: Clare Kleinedler.

Digestif time.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Truth to be told the sighting was probably a little wasted on me. Without my dining companions I probably would have missed it altogether – despite Miley’s wracking bell tones.

I’m hopeless at spotting celebs. In the newsroom, on a news site, it’s usually no problem; but in the flesh…er, is that the guy from that TV show?

Cyrus could have plonked herself on the table and twerked the wine bottle and my response would still have been one of outraged confusion and, probably, indigestion.

This is in contrast to my wife who, in a former career, made a living off her celeb-spotting skills. (An hour after the Cyrus episode she noticed Bobby Cannavale, recently seen in Blue Jasmine, shuffling through our hotel lobby. I thought he was a porter).

Nonetheless if you’re going to have a glammed-up dinner why not do so in a dining room with the hottest name in pop? And Ridley Scott. And the daughter from Veep.

Unfortunately for Miley though, she was upstaged on the night, proving a bouncing, jabbering distraction to the real star of the evening:  the restaurant’s famed spaghetti bolognese – or rather the cook behind it.

Chef Spence in action. Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Chef Spence in action.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

The dish, a Chateau staple, came from the kitchen of executive chef Carolynn Spence, a pal of my wife’s and something of an Eirophile (we had a good chat about Dan Donnelly’s wandering arm).

Over the years I’ve eaten plenty of spag bol but I can’t ever remember it tasting like the one we had that evening. The meat sauce melted on my tongue, the pasta (not too little, not too much) was my sort of al dente.

This plate was so good that not even one of biggest celebs in the world could distract me from it – well, maybe for half a minute.

The rest of our night was devoted to equally important things – catching up with friends, including a chat with chef Spence. Maybe we should have invited Miley over for a drink.

Then again there’s more important things than celebrity. Even in Hollywood.

The Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood. Pic: Gary Minnaert

The Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood.
Pic: Gary Minnaert

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch’

Scott Fitzgerald the screenwriter, 1937. Pic: Carl Van Vechten

Scott Fitzgerald the screenwriter, 1937.
Pic: Carl Van Vechten

In December 1940 a hack screenwriter died in the sitting room of his girlfriend’s home in Hollywood.

Alcoholic, in poor health, receiving little credit for his work and dropped from a contact by MGM a year earlier, he would spend his last days working on a draft of an uncompleted novel.

When his body was later taken to Maryland for burial just 20 or so people showed up to his funeral.
The screenwriter, Scott Fitzgerald, had described himself as a ‘hack’ – in his final years at least.

Writing freelance movie scripts was some way from his previous work and promise, which included, in The Great Gatsby, one of the closest realisations of the Great American Novel.

Fast forward 70 years and the latest screen adaptation of the book earned $300m at the box office this year, with $200m more expected in re-runs and DVD sales.

Fitzgerald The Hack made it big in Hollywood after all.

'I shouted across the lawn.' 1443 North Hayworth Avenue, West Hollywood.

‘I shouted across the lawn.’
1443 North Hayworth Avenue, West Hollywood.

This week his ghost was all around.

En route to LA in recent days I watched – and greatly enjoyed – The Great Gatsby. Days later my wife and I found ourselves at a hotel in West Hollywood, minutes from Fitzgerald’s last residence, at 1443 North Hayworth Avenue.

The street’s settled, well-manicured homes are the very opposite of the glare and bustle of nearby Hollywood Boulevard.

Passing the property and aware of the last, ill and unhappy days of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century I couldn’t help but think of Nick Carraway’s lament for the doomed Jay Gatsby.

“They’re a rotten crowd…you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,