Tag Archives: judy garland

I took a sightseeing tour of my own neighborhood

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The famed RastaBus. SCREAMfmLondon

I hear talk that sightseeing tours are a great way to explore unfamiliar neighborhoods in big tourist destinations full of historical landmarks, just like Hollywood. I wasn’t sure what I’d take away from one, considering I happen to live in the aforementioned big tourist destination full of historical landmarks that is Hollywood. Maybe I’d learn something new and come away with a fresh perspective? Maybe it would suck and be boring. I was down to find out.

I set off on an “A Day in LA” tour hosted by the RastaBus — a tri-colored van, carefully decorated with “One Love” bumper stickers and peace signs, that played one reggae song at the very beginning of the day.

At 10 a.m., we clamored onto the bus from our starting point at the Santa Monica Pier. It didn’t take long for my boisterous fellow riders to commandeer the sound system, start blasting “No Diggity” and pop open a few bottles of champagne. Whenever I’d previously encountered a RastaBus in the wild, the passengers have always been really drunk and exceptionally annoying. But the thing about annoying, drunk people is that it’s much more fun to be with ‘em than against ‘em. So, I filled a red Solo cup and kicked back as we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway.

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Brunch on the water at our first stop on the Malibu Pier. SCREAMfmLondon

Malibu

The first stop was definitely the best part of the whole damn thing, and it was totally an anomaly. This is kind of deluxe treatment is highly atypical for a RastaBus tour, I assume. I just happened to be rolling with some well-connected sightseers who managed to surprise us with a hook up for free food. Individual results may vary.

We were dropped off at the Malibu Pier, where we were served an elaborate array of breakfast food at Malibu Farm, a ritzy farm-to-table restaurant located at the end of the pier. After weaving our way through fishermen with their wriggling mackerels, we were escorted into the Surfrider Room, a private dining area on the second floor of the restaurant that overlooks the gorgeous Malibu beaches.

We were treated to fresh-squeezed orange juice and local syrah rosé wine. Quinoa oatmeal with pomegranate and chia seeds. Swedish mini pancakes with homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Vegan chop salad. Grilled chocolate and whole wheat olive oil cakes. And my personal favorite: a fried egg sandwich made with bacon, arugula and baby potatoes on top of country wheat toast.

Next time, I’d skip the rest of the tour and come straight here.

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Malibu Farm’s fried egg sandwiches that made it all worthwhile. SCREAMfmLondon

Beverly Hills

There was supposed to be a tour of celebrity homes, but we mostly just peered up at Will Smith’s and Prince’s houses as we headed back eastward on the freeway. Seriously, that was it. Oh, and the tour guide also pointed out some scenery that appeared in a panoramic shot of “Two and a Half Men.” You know, just the essentials.

We drove in abject silence to a backing track of old school East Coast rap (for some reason) toward Beverly Hills, where our driver shared some fun facts about Rodeo Drive and offered to let us stop to walk around for a while.

“Keep driving!” someone yelled from the front of the bus. “Unless anyone has a black credit card we can use.”

The Grove

We had a scheduled lunchtime stop at the Grove and Original Farmers Market, where we had about 45 minutes to explore by ourselves. It’s a cool place to hang if you have a pocket full of cash and longer than 45 minutes.

As we left the Grove, we took Melrose Avenue followed by Sunset Boulevard, and our tour guide finally began sharing some information about the area via the RastaBus intercom system.

I was glad to finally hear from him. I was beginning to worry that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, just as I feared, most of his information was pretty basic. Like, he explained who Judy Garland was. I kind of wished I was giving the tour myself; I’m full of useless historical and pop culture trivia. It took a lot of self-restraint to keep from interrupting his monologues.

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Griffith Observatory. Not pictured: nachos. SCREAMfmLondon

Griffith Park

Our next stop was the Griffith Observatory, where we were given another 45 minutes to wander aimlessly and not really accomplish anything. I must admit I was getting a little tired of being forced out of the pleasantly air-conditioned bus into the actual great outdoors.

Since there isn’t much science you can accomplish in 45 minutes, I headed straight for the café and emerged with a plate of nachos. The Café at the End of the Universe is significantly less cool than it sounds with a name like that, but they did sell me a plate of tortilla chips covered in fake cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo, so what more can you ask for?

Hollywood

Cruising through Hollywood, the tour guide actually shared some interesting information! Did you know that the blinking light atop the Capitol Records Tower spells out the word “Hollywood” in Morse code? I did not.

Shortly, my tourmates grew jealous of my uncanny ability to locate and devour nachos under strange circumstances, so they insisted that our driver stop at Chibiscus Asian Café and Restaurant on Sunset for some food. We called the restaurant from the van (“Hello, there are about 13 of us, and we’re coming in right now.”) and filled the entire small space with our raucous presence. I watched K-pop music videos while everyone else ate ramen.

And, then, very awkwardly, I said, “Hey… Would it be weird if I asked you to leave me here?”

They didn’t seem to think so, so I ditched the RastaBus and hiked back home by myself rather than sticking around for the ride back to Santa Monica.

And, well. I did learn the thing about the Capitol Records Building.

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View of my ‘hood from the RastaBus. SCREAMfmLondon

Here are some cool tours to take in LA that will circumvent the RastaBus experience:

Pamela Des Barres Rock Tour

Rock groupie Pamela Des Barres guides groups around Hollywood and Laurel Canyon, reading excerpts from her book, “I’m with the Band,” which details her escapades with Led Zeppelin and other classic rockstars.

Esotouric Literary LA Tours

Tour the hangouts of famous Los Angeles writers, including a jaunt to Charles Bukowski’s favorite liquor store, a Raymond Chandler-themed gelato shop and settings from James M. Cain’s “Mildred Pierce.”

Dearly Departed Tours

Creepy tours include the classic Tragical History Tour of celebrity death locations, the epic three-hour Helter Skelter tour of the Manson Family murder locations, and a horror movie location tour, among others.

Esotouric True Crime Tours

These morbid tours dig into LA’s most famous crimes, including the Black Dahlia murder, the serial killings of the Night Stalker and “hotel horrors” at hotspots like the Alexandria and the Cecil.

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Drag roundup: Trannyshack LA at The Dragonfly

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Toxic Waist performs at The Dragonfly in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

It was my birthday, and a drag queen clocked me in the head with a cauldron during a dramatic reenactment of “The Silence of the Lambs.” So, that happened.

Trannyshack LA was the scene of the aforementioned cauldron incident. For the record, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional; she was just generally throwing a cauldron, and my head was in the line of fire. Story of my life.

Since 1996, Heklina has hosted Trannyshack, a regularly-occurring drag event in San Francisco. It’s become a relatively big deal over the years, and the event occasionally takes the show on the road — to LA, for instance.

On May 31, Heklina emceed the event at the Dragonfly Bar in Hollywood. It was one of the last of her events to use the name “Trannyshack” before making the switch over to “T-shack” (at least in the interim). She addressed the issue onstage, explaining that the ultimate point of her show was to be inclusive, and that includes eliminating language that makes others feel oppressed. Although the use of transphobic words has been a divisive issue in the drag community in the past few months, Heklina handled it professionally and with a good attitude. Right on.

As for the show, it was pretty tame (save Toxic Waist, who closed the evening with a great Leatherface-in-a-jockstrap number during which the audience was sprayed with fake blood).

My favorite act was Devan M., who performed a high-energy routine in a “Phantom of the Opera”-style half-face mask and cape. I really appreciate the added androgynous factor of bearded drag queens such as Devan. The trend of wearing facial hair while in drag has been gaining momentum recently, likely influenced by RuPaul’s phenomenal hair and makeup artist Mathu Andersen and by Conchita Wurst, the Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.

More traditional drag performances came from Ambrosia Salad and Killer. The “traditional” element of Ambrosia’s act being the lip-sync to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” not necessarily the sexy Jesus backup dancers nailed with glittery blood to “YOLO” crosses. Killer brought out a great long-form Judy Garland impression, and there can never be too much Judy Garland.

Also impressive was Cupcake Canne, who performed a “Black Swan”-themed routine entirely on pointe. Although it’s really difficult to see anything that takes place low to the stage at a drag show because everyone in the crowd is about 20 feet tall in gigantic heels and hair.

The special guests of the evening were rapper Cazwell and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Manila Luzon, who joined him onstage for their duet, “Helen Keller.” Cazwell performed “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King,” which is somehow the weirdest, catchiest song in existence. (My favorite verse is “She was looking around for some customer service. / I walked up to her, made her security nervous. / She said, ‘How much for a case of beer?’ / I says, ‘Girl, are you drunk? I don’t work here!’”).

The rest of Cazwell’s set was okay. Meaning, he played “Ice Cream Truck,” and it was the first time I’ve listened to that song without watching the accompanying video. I’m not sure that song should even exist separately from the video.

All head injuries aside, I’m really glad I attended. I feel like this is a pivotal time for drag, and I’m excited to watch the evolution of mainstays such as “the club formerly known as Trannyshack.”