Jacqueline Smith's L.A. story

By Jacqueline Smith

Jacqueline Smith does her darnedest to rub some celebrity shoulders in Tinsel Town.

Jacqueline's childhood dreams come true as she rides the teacups at Disneyland. Photo / Jacqueline Smith
Jacqueline's childhood dreams come true as she rides the teacups at Disneyland. Photo / Jacqueline Smith

On reflection, I think I got the budget tour. Did I see the homes of Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise and the Beckhams, one excited LA resident asked me afterwards? Actually, no, not those homes.

Instead, I skited, "We saw the homes where OJ Simpson's clothes were found following his killing spree, where Michael Jackson's body was found after his suspected murder and where Shirley Temple lived once upon a very long time ago."

And when I say homes, I really mean gates. Huge bronze gates barring any glimpse into how the A-listers really live. Gates leading to driveways flanked by a variety of trees chosen specifically for their smokescreen-like properties.

I did get a quick glimpse of the gleaming white mansion once used as the backdrop to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Bill Cosby's front door. I proudly posted my photos of passing blurs and flashes reflected in the tour bus window on Facebook to make my friends jealous.

Jacqueline Smith. Number one stalker to the stars.

I had three days in the place known as Tinsel Town and hoped it would live up to expectations. I wanted to walk the streets I had seen on my television, spot celebrities shopping for groceries and ride the teacups in the place where dreams come true.

It was winter, and the weather was on a par with Auckland's summer, only with less rain and more rollerblades. So I decided to hit the famous Californian coastline and stroll from Santa Monica to Venice Beach.

Armed with junk food bought, out of sheer excitement, at the pier where Brad Pitt met George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven, I followed the tanned, toned bodies to the walkway leading to Venice Beach.

Someone asked where I was from and I baulked, wondering what I had done to blow my cover. Then I realised I was wearing jeans. The other ladies my age (or seemingly my age - I did pass a sign advertising botox on the beach) were showing much more skin.

Venice Beach is the spirit of Los Angeles unhinged: fame, freedom, fantasy taken to wild excess.

A homeless man called Harry Perry, who pairs a turban with roller skates and an electric guitar, has become an institution. His Wikipedia page states he has been doing it for 38 years.

At Arnold Schwarzenegger's old haunt, Venice Beach, creatine-sculpted men pump iron next to overweight homeless people pushing shopping trolleys.

Everyone had either made the most of their free medical marijuana consultation at the Clinic by the Sea or were high on the good weather.

I came across a middle-aged man with a pot belly, handlebar moustache and gangsta's jewellery. He was posing in front of a line of Chevy Impalas. Like everyone else I met, he was happy to introduce himself and share his life story: he'd just done 20 years in the slammer, now he was launching a rap career.

Further along, a WWE wrestler from the telly was walking around showing off his tanned chiselled chest. I couldn't help noticing he was probably due another full-body shave.

My second day was spent bouncing about in a tour bus that took me past those homes in Beverly Hills and Bel Air, the Chinese theatre and the Hollywood walk of fame, all within view of the famous Hollywood sign.

I discovered that LA is one big movie set, all shiny people, shiny props and shiny exteriors, with the less-desirable aspects tucked behind the curtain. At least the hapless addicts make the place feel real.

Our bus driver, Pablo, had prepared a running commentary that flowed as quickly as the cash does on Rodeo Drive. Here's the fast food joint outside which Brad Pitt dressed up as a chicken and danced for cash before he cracked the big time; there's the shop where Winona Ryder shoplifted; now we're passing the sidewalk outside the Viper Room, where River Phoenix died of an overdose ...

During my golf-buggy tour of Universal studios, I saw Wisteria Lane was lined with security guards and camera rigs. Bree and the girls were inside filming, so I snapped away.

Not too far away at the Beverly Hilton, Ricky Gervais was delivering his infamous gags in front of guests at the Academy Awards.

Back at base, I reviewed my images to check whether I had inadvertently captured a celebrity on a casual stroll but I don't think I did. It didn't matter. The thrill of what could I could have encountered was good enough for me.

As well as filling my tabloid-fantasies, Los Angeles let me revisit my childhood dream. A friend of mine went to Disneyland when we were at primary school. I remember staring at pictures on her fridge of her holding candyfloss and hugging Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Disneyland looked magic.

Mum told me I would have to wait until I was an adult to go, but she assured me it would still be special.

So there I was, 20 years later, striding into Disneyland, alone. In my earlier fantasies I was there with friends - all my friends - but I was to find that Mum was right. In fact, it was better being a sad, lonely adult as I could scoot down the "single rider" lane of some of the more popular rides.

I had decided to go on the Monday to avoid crowds, but it turned out it was a public holiday and the queues were unlike anything I had encountered.

Strangely, given the wait-times, the ushers seemed to think it was inappropriate to seat me next to a stranger, so I whizzed past mountains, plunged down waterfalls and hurtled through outer space with a spare seat beside me. I felt like high-fiving myself.

I didn't return with pictures of me with Mickey and Minnie for the fridge, but I did turn the camera on myself when I was in the teacups, and I got another snap of me eating a "pickle in a bag".

And though I don't have any photos of off-duty celebrities to sell to the tabloids, I do have one of history's most famous LA icons waving me off from the happiest place on earth. All his statue needed was to be strung with a bit of tinsel. Thanks uncle Walt.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand operates daily flights from Auckland to Los Angeles. See

Further information: To find out more about visiting Los Angeles see here.

Jacqueline Smith visited LA on assignment from TimeOut magazine but got a free pass to Disneyland from Uncle Walt.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 Nov 2014 12:06:47 Processing Time: 593ms