The magical name that is Hollywood. We all know it; some of us have been here for pleasure, a weekend getaway, others on business, particularly those of us where our solutions from the north are starting to blend with the needs of the entertainment world in the south.
I used to come here more frequently. Often, it was a sidetrip or a layover, but in those days, evenings were often spent at the hottest and trendiest swing dance clubs, some of which housed the Lindy Hop Scene in the late nineties, around the time when Swing was becoming ‘hot’ nationwide.
I learned the nuances….you know, who was who, the somebodies verus the nobodys and those who were trying to become a somebody by taking all the right classes from all the right teachers.
I made my way through all the prestigious teachers (and sometimes their teachers), learned where the best Hollywood and Savoy dancers practiced on weekends, who to stay close to and who to avoid.
But it was all about dance and that ‘was’ the only scene I knew here at night. Sometimes sushi surrounded this, and preludes were often spent working from a hotel or my girlfriend Ruth’s kitchen, or they were spent rollerblading in Santa Monica on a nearby path known to only a few.
I felt close to the pulse during my intense dancing days yet, I was nowhere close to the pulse. I’m not sure I ever really got close to the pulse or true essence of the Hollywood scene, certainly not the pulse that people come here for.
While the OnHollywood event was held at the well renown Roosevelt Hotel, which has had $2 million recently pumped into it for renovations, it may as well as been any hotel in any part of LA – it’s always like that on business trips. It’s the after and before business energy where you actually begin to learn anything at all.
Why? Business is business and when you’re developing and micromanaging connections, potential connections and what-if connections, your stop overs become nothing more than one transaction after another.
Now that we’re starting to see more and more of a convergence between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, the pulse begins to change. Alcohol is flowing, palm trees are swaying and heat lamps warm a poolside gathering following two sponsored on-site receptions.
Observation: Lousy house wine at every event. C’mon Hollywood, can you not do better than that? And where’s the hot tub? To move from lousy wine to acceptable drinking, you’re looking at a minimum of $18 a class and that may buy you a mere Kenwood.
We wind up in an Italian bistro in trendy Melrose one evening, where media, blogger and entrepreneur types gather for fish, steak and wine. Oh yeah and three flacks running around to make sure everyone is happy. Social media and user-generated ‘stuff’ hasn’t changed this familiar visual.
From the city of mystery, lights and moviestar fame, we see the opening to Tom Cruise’s new movie a block from the hotel. Lots of red carpet, blocked off areas and security guards.
Observation: lots of brightly colored button up dress shirts, dumbed down with jeans and black matted shoes. Spikey short hair is worn by many. Hair, Energy, Sunshine, Oxygen, no, I meant the lack thereof.
Observation: Lots of emphasis on places with ‘a scene,’ and a concern over sending us to the right ones. Women with dashing sandals, some with glitter, tanned skin (real or sprayed on?), breasts that often don’t match the body type (real or …..you get the drift).
Big barrettes, wild boots, brightly colored bags – red, neon green and blue leather bags, labeled. Always labeled.
I was also sent to Mood and Geisha House by two locals who I discovered at the pool bar after hours, one named Brian, who was bent on sending me (and the girls) to a place with ‘a scene.’
Geisha House is more than just a sushi restaurant with a lively bar scene. The A three-tiered fireplace is the centerpiece of the dining room while the plasma TVs dominate the bar.
A fair description: a glowing sea of pink squares from the outside, throngs of the “Paris was here, so I should be too” crowd enter through a red-painted wood hallway, arriving at a full-length mirror–a not-so-subtle hint at the see and be seen posing to come.
And on what to drink? A scene-like drink of course. The Shikomi cocktail is a decadent spa beverage, with sake, midori, lemon and cucumber. Yum, but please no more sugar sir.
Geisha House is as slick and shiny as a toy from Tokyo. The honeycomb wall behind the bar at the entrance holds flat-screen TVs blasting anime, where you can view silk panels and a towering red column of stacked fireplaces in the middle.
Observation: I’ve never seen so many married men hitting on married women and did I mention that alcohol flows at the ‘scene bars’ in ways I haven’t seen since college.
My room is extremely modern, with minimal color, antiqued black and white posters from the 50s and slouch hairs without arms. I have a view from the top floor and perfect light flows in through my windows, in the morning and again, as I change for the evening. The walls are a deep olive, the lamps, vases and stools have no frills or designs. Grays and cool greens with an almost warehouse-like style, including the bathroom floor.
Observation: People WANT the pool, but it gets late and people are cautious about stripping down in front of industry colleagues. Does the ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ mantra work here?
I nuture a Voss artesign water bottle from Norway. Exhausted, I make my way back through the crowd after a blurred conversation about men who dared and those who didn’t, who’s who in podcasting and vlogging and the new local oyster bar.
Observation: I could go for a swim every day here. Every day.
Oh Hollywood. Oh Scene. Oh Color.
Observation: WiFi is planted in more places than not and yet a local friend who is an actress by day, still has dial up in her cottage house, the one with the retro kitchen, fabulous piano and surrounding lounge chairs.
In addition to the fabulous retro kitchen, there’s attractive lemon trees, a perfectly mowed lawn with flowers hovering its edges, and an early morning barking dog next door.
Observation: music and movies are always part of the conversation. Fashion often follows. Thank God I’m not the IM generation or frankly, I’d be pretty pissed. I’m thinking about how high my expectations might be or what I’d expect to work flawlessly right out of the box.
Also, what about what I may not even attempt to try because there would be an expectation of obsolescence within weeks.
Observation: Room service is superior to most other travel spots in urban centers around the country. High maintenance is more the norm so it needs to be. Staff turn requests around in a fraction of the time they do anywhere else. Same reason.
A few pass out by the pool and no one really notices. Observation: What happens in Hollywood, stays in Hollywood.
I continue to drink my bottle of Voss reflecting on the fact that so rarely do I have an opportunity to write with an unplugged laptop in my hotel room, where an Internet connection works flawlessly the first time around.
Observation: I have received more text messages here than any other conference.
Observation: Hollywood humor flies over my head. And so does that spikey hair. I think I may have asked Brian if I could touch the top of his head. I think he obliged.
I didn’t do the same with the mustard colored silky shirt although I was eager to. I wonder how Wallace Stegner, who I’m still buried in, would have described his face, his hair, his shirt, the Hollywood scene…..