Sunday, February 24, 2008

Above right corner, Travor Thompson, a great waiter at 25 Degrees, an upscale hamburger joint, gives us tips and advice while visiting Hollywood. Like most working here, he's an actor waiting for his big chance. Left, Jake decides to pose with Elmo rather that serial killer Jason. Above right, Ryan tries a shot at break dancing.
Not Cheap, But It Can Be a Peculiar Bit of Fun for Teenage Kid’s Birthday—Even When Hanging Out With Pretenders& Funky Crowds; It’s a Place Where the Good, the Weird and the Beautiful Meet Meets the Beautiful
By Diana L. Chapman

My son came home, nearing his 14th birthday, and blurted out how one of his friends went to Hollywood Boulevard for her celebration.
She was allowed, he explained, to bring many friends.
My first thought: Sounds mighty pricey.
My second: Don’t tell me Ryan wants to do that, too?
It must have been a premonition, because more than a month later, we were headed for the land of palm trees and stars with celebrities’ names embedded in the sidewalk.
With eight boys in tow, the biggest problem was keeping them together on walkways packed with milling crowds. A plethora of break dancers, rap singers and colorfully costumed villains and cartoon characters like Sponge Bob speckled the sidewalk – eagerly waiting to make a dime off the hordes of eager tourists.
That would include us.
It can be a bit intimidating when you’re surrounded by evil-doers usually seen in movies, such as “Halloween” serial murderer Jason standing on a box, bloodied machete in hand, ready to swoop onto the first person courageous enough to pose for a photo.
Needless to say, none of our guys was willing to do so.
We did find them a bit more courageous later; Jake decided to pose with Sesame Street’s Elmo, and Ryan had his photo taken with a man painted in silver from head to toe.
In a nutshell, that’s what Hollywood was about on a sweet and simple Saturday afternoon.
After we parked on a side street, we hadn’t walked far when the boys began their stardust adventure with the first and most important statement: “I’m hungry.”
Because my friend Doug had recommended the “best hamburger I’ve ever had” at 25° (25 degrees), an upscale burger joint in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, we dipped in there for lunch.
It proved to be the most expensive attraction of the day, but one even the boys gave a major mark on their scorecards.
When you’re with eight hungry boys, giant burgers are a large plus – even when they cost $9 each, because they were not only big but could be tailor-made to suit individual tastes.
Even the cheeseburgers came with choices, from traditional to about as far out as you can imagine such as Neal’s Yard Cheddar from the British Isles or Midnight Moon, a goat cheese described as light and nutty. Other additions included shitaki mushrooms, fried eggs and arugula.
Most the boys stuck with the familiar toppings—mayo, mustard and ketchup—and not much of the burgers remained on their plates. They unanimously agreed it beat going elsewhere (as it should, with fries going for $4 and milkshakes at $6).
But it was well worth it, especially with our helpful server, Travor Thompson, offering all sorts of tips where to go and what to do. He’d moved here recently from Boston after completing his college degree in acting – and along with his waiter job had scored a few commercial spots here and there.
The best tip he gave us – since we had already decided to see the movie farce “Meet the Spartans” – was to try the Arc Light Theater at the corner of Sunset and Vine, which we did later.
Before that, however, we spent the rest of the afternoon roaming Hollywood Boulevard with rappers pushing their own homemade CDs (“bad songs” was my simple review of the music after listening to loads of cussing after they tell you there is none) and break dancers showing off their gyrating moves on the sidewalk.
Finally, Ryan was brave enough to jump in with one group of dancers and strut his stuff, which turned out to be moving his eyes and face with a minimal bit of footwork—he didn’t try to pull off those brutal spinning-on-the-head moves (thank goodness).
We wound up the evening at the beautiful theater Travor suggested, where a $12 ticket gets you an assigned seat that is roomy and comfortably plush. The movie was horrid, the theater wonderful.
Hollywood. Mix in the good, the bad and, of course, the beautiful.
All of this packed into a day can be a real treat for teenagers who want to be among the stars – even if they don’t recognize most of the names along the sidewalks.
Two boxes of pancake mix, nine hamburgers, seven sodas and two malts later, we were done with our mini-adventure of growing boy meets Hollywood. Only sleep awaited.