Monday, May 23, 2011

And the Last Shall be First: LA, Jay Leno & Jerry Springer

City Review
When you work in government, I guess you notice or pay more attention to the finer details of a city and it's lay out.  One city that stands out in my mind that had excellent residential zoning was Knoxville, TN.  I know, random, but so are most of the things on this trip!  Los Angeles was a dump.  At least downtown LA any how.  I was driving through thinking to myself "come on LA, get it together".  There were some streets that were just completely littered in trash and literally communities of homeless people on both sides of certain streets. Almost every street sign was covered in graffiti.  It was a mess, but I can imagine the LAPD probably have their hands full with other, more immediate things.  Santa Monica was very crowded and the infrastructure was packed very tight and it gave me a headache trying to drive around there.  It was a typical downtown city, nowhere to park and the public parking you could find would go from 10-20 bucks (it was like that in downtown LA too).  Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Burbank were all very nice.  Burbank especially was very clean and very what I call "normal" and the folks there were friendly.  I spent a night in Laguna Beach and that was probably the cleanest beach I'd ever seen and absolutely gorgeous.  The entire area of Laguna smelled like flowers, I'm not sure how that was possible but it definitely should get an award for best smelling town.  I spent a lot of time on Hollywood Blvd, and took one of the longest hikes of my life in Griffith Park to the Hollywood sign...which it turns out, is fenced off!!  My last day in LA, I went back to Burbank for a few hours to do a tour of Warner Brothers Studio, which was pretty cool, saw too many things the really mention on the blog, but I'll say one of the highlights was getting to play around on the old "Friends" set and getting to see the Warner Brothers Museum which had the original props and costumes of some of the biggest films in history like the Dark Knight.

Story Time: LA Edition
Korea Town
The first day I entered LA I drove around looking for my one meal a day place and passed what I thought was a Chinese Restaurant.  When I pulled up a middle eastern man jumps out in front of me and was really excited to valet park my car, I looked around and the parking lot was empty so I said "Why don't I just pull it up four feet and park it myself". No no, he had to valet park it, I would have been distrusting of this until I saw  a host stool with a sign that said "valet parking"....for chinese?  Okay whatever, so I handed him my keys, hoping I would see my car again.  I walked in, and to my surprise it's not a Chinese Restaurant that I stumbled onto but a Korean place...."okay that's fine" I thought, it's still probably somewhat cheap.  I looked at the menu, it's all in Korean so I had to ask the waitress what everything meant, I recognized her accent when she said "fish" so I said "I'll go with that."  She gave me a funny stern look and started making hand gestures portraying a fish ...I continued to say "Yeah I like fish, I'll go with that." She walked away looking confused.  When she returned with the entree of fish, I finally understood what it was she was trying to tell me....that the fish was boiled minutes before they serve it to you, eyes..head.. and all.  I left the liver alone.  I think I should give up on Asian food.

The Tonight Show
Hopefully some of you were able to catch me on the Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno, because I wasn't able to!  The crappy place I stayed at traded NBC for a Chinese station so I wasn't able to watch it.   But anyway, let me back up here.  One of things I was determined to do was see the Tonight Show, I remember watching it as a kid on Friday Nights and it has so many good childhood memories associated with being able to stay up late on Fridays with my family so it was awesome to get to see it live....AND front row.

You have to reserve tickets online (they are free) and then you have to print out the ticket, show it to the staff and they give you a number according to your arrival, they hand out more tickets than they can seat.  That means, you have to get there early if you want to actually see the show.  So that morning I drove around trying to find a fed ex so that I could actually get my ticket printed, between that and the traffic it took me almost all morning to get this done (I had to be at the studio no later than 2:30).  By the time it happened, the engine light on my car started flashing...oh no this can't be happening, what now? "I want to go home" was my first thought.  The car was sputtering and I could barely get it to go...but I was determined.  I forced it down the highway from Hollywood blvd to Burbank and arrived at the 2:45.  They were still allowing people in but when I got my number it was number 275 followed by the guard telling me "hey the numbers are getting kind of high, so it's not probable that you'll get in".  Great, so I'm thinking not only was I late but after I waste my time in line for an hour I'll probably have to call a tow truck (which I did).  The line was moving, and there was only 25 people in front of me by the time they cut it off, I watched as they let random people come in through the side entrances, cutting in front of those of us who had been standing out there for over an hour.  At this point I didn't care really about anything but the car, but it was hilarious to hear the snickering of people in front and behind me as they watched the guards allowing groups and more groups of people to cut to the head of the line.  "They must know someone", "I bet they are VIPs" were just some of the comments I heard, and what made it funnier was these people cutting didn't look like "VIPs".  It was just funny to me to see how worked up people got over this, I mean I wanted to go to the show, but come on, its just that, a show!  The scripture Matthew 19:30 popped into my head and I didn't quite understand why, but I knew that  it must mean there is a catch to all the "line cutters".  When they finally cut us off, the customer relations people told us that if we come back tomorrow we'll be guaranteed to be let in the show.  This worked out good for me, I could get my car fixed in Burbank, catch a bus bank to Hollywood where I was staying and come back in the morning, get the car (hopefully) and get to the show...perfect.  Luckily, the car was towed to a dealership 2 miles away and b/c of the warranty didn't cost a thing to fix(it turned out to be merely a spark plug).  So I got the car the next day,(have to give a shout out to Eddie at the dealership who was kind enough to drive me back to Hollywood Blvd so I didn't have to pay for a cab), headed to the show and was directed around back to a waiting room with all the other 'leftovers' who returned from yesterday, new ticket in hand.  They first gave us a stern lecture on how no photos are allowed and if they see you pull your phone out you'll be kicked out of the studio in a flash (no pun intended).  They then walked us outside and in front of the long lines ....funny, I could hear the same snickers that I heard when I was standing in line the day before.  We breezed right past the lines and into the studio.  The seating was completely random.  They'd let two people in and take them into a corner on the third row, and then another handful in the center aisle up a few rows and then for no reason at all took me and a Canadian couple about my age and directed us to the front row, right smack in front of the stage where the guest couch is.  Ohhh Lord, I see what you were trying to tell me yesterday with that scripture now, I'm glad I listened.  So sure enough, according to a few people I know who watched it, I was on camera a couple of times, I got to rush the stage as Leno entered and gives the crowd high fives and hand shakes.  The whole thing was fun and interesting.  They spend a lot of time in the beginning trying to get the crowd all jazzed up and Jay comes out in the beginning in jeans and tells you to try and laugh at the guests jokes, even if they aren't funny, so they don't feel "self conscious".  Another interesting note, the agents of the stars on the show usually sit to the side of the stage and laugh at their clients jokes, or initiate the applauds to make their client look good or to give them a boost of confidence.

Lessons Learned From "Baggage"
When leaving the Tonight Show, a gentleman stopped me and a few others with free tickets to see Jerry Springer.  I forgot the Jerry Springer Show was no longer on air, and I thought thats what I was getting when I went to the studio the next day, but actually what I entered was the TV Show called "Baggage" but I learned more about production in that two hour span than any student could in a semester.  Quite frankly, I thought the whole process was rather sad.

If you haven't seen the show "Baggage" before (I'm embarrassed to admit that I have), basically a young man or woman will have to pick between 3 eligible bachlor/ettes for I guess a date.  Each of the 3 contestants reveal a secret about their lives and the main guest weeds out among the 3 based on their relationship 'baggage'.  Wow, typing this makes it seem even dumber.  There were 3 young women; a partier, a country girl, and a hardcore christian from Russia.  The contestants actually get paid for being there so that's why they do it.  In addition to the contestants being paid...some of the people in the audience are actually PAID actors to be there!  Maybe, I'm in the dark, but I had no idea TV shows did this.  I thought guests were there because they actually wanted to be there.  The show had to really work hard to get people to laugh at all the jokes and to sob or "aww" when something cute was said...if we didn't do it enough, or do it right, they would cut and make us do it again!  I'm not sure if the guests on the show were legit in their stories or if they were completely made of the guys I had lunch with after the first show (they wanted us to stay there for 3 shows but I left after the first taping) told me that a lot of shows make up everything, so he wouldn't be surprised if everything on 'baggage' was made up or at least hyped up.  This guy was pretty cool and one of the paid actors.  Before I left, they wanted me and a group of others to sign some legal document, I declined, partially so I could blog about some of this nonsense that goes on in Hollywood.

Why I think this was sad.  First, here you have a so called 'celebrity' Jerry Springer, and you have to pay people or give away free tickets to see him and the show.  Secondly, you're not confident enough in your product that you have to encourage reactions from people.  Third, who watches this crap anyway? What is the point? What is this doing to benefit society?  Nothing, and I'm surprised it can even find advertisers for the time what is this accomplishing?  I believe it (and call me conspiracy theorist I don't care) is a form of social engineering...Here's why:  A lot of the guests gave very candid answers and they were actually pretty funny and some of the 'baggage' in my opinion wasn't baggage at all.  I was really digging the Russian chick and wanted to marry her.... her 'baggages' was she didn't drink, she gave half of her money away to charity and didn't believe in relationships lasting over 5 years(without getting married)....tell me, what was wrong with that?!?!?  But as an audience member, I was told to "ohhhh" as if it was something horrible.  Now, whoever watches this show, might interpret these things as 'bad' since it was considered bad on a tv show and even the audience themselves thought it was 'bad' baggage to have.  We don't really know the power and influence tv has over people, but I'm thinking that shows like this don't help, aside from the entire show being just downright garbage.  Maybe the older I get the more uptight I get, but I was disgusted with the whole thing.

Another long post, I know, but LA was massive and I stayed busy the whole time I was there....I've got to weed through over 500 pictures to post on facebook so I'll try to do that always, thanks for reading!

From Bohemian Grove: Monte Rio, California (ha yeah, google it sometime)

PS: Big Congratulations to my two friends Josh and Nathan on your recent graduations.  Josh is now a doctor, and Nathan a lawyer.  Wow, so proud of both of you guys, you worked so hard these past 3 years and I am honored to call you my friends.

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