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Name: rex martinich
Bio: Rex is struggling to be a Hunter S. Thompson in an increasingly Angela Bishop world. Hailing from the most conservative area of Victoria, he is carving out a new sub-existence for himself as a college manchild at the sandstone and cocaine University of Melbourne.
Photos: rex's photo libraries
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that Los Angeles is the urban equivalent of a migraine, but most of us seem to forget this when traveling to the USA. A flash of Tinsel Town’s façade in a brochure can remove years of bad reviews from even the most jaded traveler’s memory. “Surely it can’t be all that bad” you think as you add a few nights to your stopover. Once you are prodded out the door of the airport you quickly realise that the prospects of fun and fulfillment in Los Angeles are as real as a painted background in a Western. And like a backdrop, Hollywood will smack you in the face if you walk into it thinking it is real.
You get a flash of glamour, Hollywood style, as the taxi cruises past two gigantic stretch limo edition Hummers. For a while you can see parks alongside clean streets then it’s on to LA’s truly hideous freeway system. The municipal attitude of Los Angeles is that if it doesn’t need to be beautiful, just leave it be. The visitor from the airport is greeted with miles of litter strewn expressway.
I stayed in a mid range hotel in Beverly Hills, a short walk from the community that all the celebrities live in. The barrier was quite stark. Ordinary streets suddenly gave way to elaborately maintained nature strips and footpaths. Huge palm trees lined the habitat of the rich and famous. The rest of one of America’s supposedly swankiest areas is a bit of a let down. It’s basically all fast food outlets, car dealerships and psychics. Fruit and leaves from a number of trees was left to rot in the gutter and release pungent odors. Not that this mattered as nobody, not even the illegal immigrant labourers, will walk anywhere in Los Angeles. While eating in a Hawaiian themed burger joint (Sadly, not the one from Pulp Fiction), The short-shorted waitress asked me if I would like my parking ticket validated. I said that I walked there from my hotel and she returned a blank look.
I went to Rodeo Drive, one of the most expensive shopping precincts in the world, expecting to be wowed. When I saw that whoever was in charge had decided on a faux 18th century décor, my heart sank. It was like a shopping mall with no roof, the only distinguishing feature was the pricing aimed at the oil sheik demographic.
If Beverly Hills is fairly uninspiring, then Hollywood Boulevard is downright offensive. The centre of the walk of fame, Mann’s Chinese Theatre, is the about the only part of Hollywood you would care to visit other than the movie studios. The theatre is now a complex the size of a city block incorporating a Hindu themed shopping mall complete with a giant statue of the elephant god Vishnu. It was every bit as tacky as it sounds. Step off the Theatre block and things only get worse. The rest of the boulevard has lost a drawn out battle with sleaze. Sex shops, sex museums, stores that sell merchandise with swear words printed somewhere on them and bikers are the main attractions of the rest of Hollywood.
I had lunch at the Hollywood and Vine diner. There is a rule of the thumb to dining in Los Angeles. If a dish costs US$5, then you have a chance of finishing it if you are quite hungry. If the dish costs US$9, prepare yourself for an eating marathon. My lunch came with a pickle on the side worthy of the Guinness Book of Records. Hollywood still had a parting gift to bestow on me. As I was washing my hands in the bathroom I heard a distant sound of someone running flat out in my direction. The door was nearly knocked down by someone making a dash for the nearest cubicle. I was then treated to the sounds of this person throwing up in the toilet.
Los Angeles is very similar to its most famous export, the blockbuster movie. They both have the spectacle, but lack a soul. It is really just a place for rubbernecking. You go to stare at hordes of Paris Hilton clones with dogs in handbags, shops dedicated to selling alloy wheels and the tackiness of pretty much the whole city. Next time I’m going to seek out the freak LA. Follow the John Safran example of hanging out with militants and rediscovering your spiritual self by heading our into the desert with a stash of peyote cactus and a kid’s art set. The Grand Dragon of the Orange County KKK is at least an unpretentious monster and the Native American LSD trip more real than Hollywood.