As soon as I got off the phone, I called my dad and asked if he’d like to spend his birthday in L.A. He said he would never consider such a thing and why was I asking. Then I told him I was scheduled to tape Jeopardy on that day. “Well, that changes things.”
I confess L.A. was not on my list of places to see, but since I was going to be there anyway, I went a day early so my parents and I could see some of the sights. We began the day with a leisurely stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was much longer than I expected, and it was fun to see how many names I recognized (due, largely in part, to the fact that my parents subjected me to a lot of old films when I was little). Other than the periodic sales pitches by people peddling tours of movie stars’ neighborhoods, the place was uncrowded and relatively quiet (probably because it was mid-December).
We stopped by Mann’s Chinese Theater, of course, and placed our hands in celebrity hand prints there. I think I was more excited to find things for my parents than for myself. I insisted my mom get her picture taken with her hands in Cary Grant’s prints (her favorite), and I went on a special expedition to hunt down Robert Mitchum’s star for my dad. For myself, I was most set on finding Don Ameche’s star. (I’m telling you, if you have the opportunity to see Midnight, you must! It’s an old black and white screwball comedy, yet even my jaded teenage students in Nevada loved it.)
We happened to luck out and be there on a day when they were pouring a new star, for Ryan Reynolds, so we saw how they’re made. The stores along the street are primarily of four types: souvenir shops, tattoo parlors, smoke/vape emporiums, and costume/lingerie boutiques. This made for an internal conversation with myself about whether I would take my kids to the Walk. On one hand, I hope my kids will be culturally literate enough to enjoy skipping down the sidewalk and recognizing names like Louis Armstrong and Myrna Loy. On the other, do I want to deal with them seeing some of the items in the shop windows?
In the afternoon, we went to the Griffith Observatory where part of Rebel Without a Cause was filmed. (Some of La La Land was filmed there as well, but we didn’t know that at the time.) There’s a view of the Hollywood sign from the observatory, but the day was smoggy, so my pictures are not the best. The observatory itself is interesting, with exhibits on the planets, the history of astronomy, and telescopes. There’s a Tesla Coil too, and we were shown a demonstration.
In the commercial breaks, Alex talks to the audience and answers questions. A teacher had brought his 7th grade class to watch, and he asked Alex what advice he would give them. Alex said they should be curious about the world and never dismiss learning by saying ‘I’m not going to use this.’ He said there’s nothing so embarrassing as being an adult at a party and not knowing what people are talking about because you’ve limited your knowledge to one or two subjects.
Because what I’ve taped hasn’t aired yet, I can’t say much about it. (Tune in on April 6.) But I will leave you with one interesting nugget of information. When you’re taping, they take a picture of you with Alex that they will send you digitally. They found that people were cropping Alex out of their photos, though. When they asked about this, they were told, “this is the best picture I’ve taken because my makeup was done by professionals.” I guess people were using the cropped photos for social media and online dating. So now they also take a photo of contestants by themselves, so poor Alex doesn’t get cropped out of the pics he’s in.