Date Archives October 2011

Yo dawg, I heard you like cities so I put a city in your city

We took the free tram from the Sheraton Universal to Universal Studios, and were dropped off at CityWalk. Now, I’d seen the sign at the entrance of the park calling the place Universal City, but I thought they were being cutesy and calling their combination of two hotels and one theme park a city: the same way a Rite Aid, a mexican restaurant, and a Sally Beauty Supply somehow constitutes a mall. I really had no idea. Universal City itself is enormous, offering tons of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, with the Gibson Ampitheater throwing free concerts nightly. They even have an indoor skydiving facility! Had I known, we could have taken the tram the first night and skipped Hollywood Blvd…but I didn’t, so we took what limited time we had before the park opened to explore and wolf down some food. And by wolf down some food, I mean deep throat a sausage so quickly that it made Michele Bachmann look like an amateur.

I didn’t want to do much shopping, or rather, I saw a ton of things I’d want to own to wear/consume if only it wouldn’t have meant carrying it all around for the next seven hours at the park, but we decided it wouldn’t be too much effort to stuff some candy into our pockets from IT’SUGAR–especially if we found some awesome exotic candy. By exotic, I mean something we haven’t seen or tried before, instead of a giant version of something familiar (2 pound Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I’m looking at you!). Inside, they had a statue of Marilyn Monroe made entirely of jellybeans, and toothbrushes at 50% off:

The store was mostly full of candy you could get anywhere, but I did manage to find something I’d never seen before: Milk Chocolate Pop Rocks. Well, two things, but I’m saving the second for a nom or vom after this post. Is this really it? At twenty-nine, have I already exhausted all of my candy options?

Now that I’ve tried the pop rocks, I can safely say that I’m not a fan. In order for them to pop, you have to keep a mouthful of melted chocolate in your mouth long past the swallowing point, making them sort of awkward to eat. I don’t want to swish candy around in my mouth like wine. I’m really not even pretentious enough to do it with wine. The order of things is: put it in your mouth, enjoy, swallow. Not: put it in your mouth, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it….wait for it, enjoy, swallow. I’m a busy girl who needs instant gratification candy, lest I throw myself onto a shop floor in a delayed gratification tantrum.

After buying our candy, inhaling our sausage, and drinking an unwise amount of fluids immediately before attending an event that’s supposed to be pee-your-pants levels of scary, we found ourselves out of time and rushed off to the park entrance for the start of Halloween Horror Nights.

“Ever since I became a movie star I’ve been miserable. I had to get up at five a.m. just for makeup. I like the way the blush brings out my cheekbones, but it’s not worth it!”

On Saturday morning, we hopped back on the subway toward Hollywood Blvd to have lunch at Mel’s Diner and check out the Hollywood Museum, located in the historic Max Factor building: four floors packed full of Hollywood memorabilia. The ground floor was right up my alley and nearly bored Jason to death, as it was almost solely about makeup. They highlighted the differences between makeup applied for black and white films versus technicolor, how Max Factor’s innovations revolutionized makeup for film, and how it was eventually introduced for sale to the public as it was being stolen off of the sets by everyone. Max Factor’s “pan-cake” makeup was essentially a heavy foundation which, unlike the existing panchromatic makeup, did not reflect surrounding colors. Before the development of pan-cake, actors looked so bad in color that many refused to act in color films.

…the things women do to be beautiful.

Celebrities loved Max Factor’s makeup so much that they were more than willing to be featured in advertisements for the product. Today, you’d have to pay out the nose to get a celebrity to endorse your product! Celebrities no longer fall over themselves to advertise Max Factor makeup: After Max Factor Jr died, the company went public and then was merged with Norton Simon. Quality went down the tubes, it was turned into a drugstore line, which sold so poorly that it is now no longer even sold in the United States. However, the Factors are still involved in makeup–it’s not widely known, but Max Factor’s great grandsons are the founders of Smashbox, a higher-end makeup line.

Makeup displays were set up in four different rooms: one for blondes, one for brunettes, one for brownettes, and one for redheads. I’d never heard the term “brownette” before, but it does seem to fill in the spectrum nicely for women who have neither blonde nor dark brown/black hair. The redhead room was painted a pale green, and Max Factor felt that if your skin looked healthy and natural in this room, your tonality was right to become a redhead, which is how he decided that the color would work for Lucille Ball. I now know that redheadedness would not look natural on me, as the room gave my skin a sickly tint.

Mine would undoubtedly read “She’s a jerk!”

The blonde room was, of course, filled with Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, from some of her personal makeup, to outfits she wore, to some manner of prescription drug bottle. And then there was this: an unlabeled clump of dark blonde/light brown hair emerging from a box. There were quite a few things like this throughout the museum–just there, with no explanation. Was it Marilyn Monroe’s hair? Was it collected from her brush? Yanked from her head by the paparazzi? Was it wig hair? What is it doing there?

Also on the first floor: Marilyn Monroe’s limousine, the eiffel tower prop from Moulin Rouge, and a number of creepy bunny heads on legs from Along Came Polly.

The basement floor, a former speakeasy, was dedicated to horror and sci-fi memorabilia: in addition to props and costumes, they recreated the prison walkway from Silence of the Lambs. They had some of my personal favorites–one of Elvira’s costumes, a cryptkeeper puppet, and an entire Stargate costume display. I was sorely tempted to try and take Ra’s costume, as it would be much easier than trying to make one of my own for a future Halloween (of course, then I’d need the body of a twelve year old boy, so it’s probably for the best that I wasn’t able to get at it, rather than bellow in hippo-like dispair as I tried to cram myself into the original), and while I was at it, stick my face in Daniel Jackson’s pants since James Spader’s butt was in there for a time. (Was that too far? That was too far, I’m sorry.)

The third floor was also right up my alley, as it was a tribute to Lucille Ball, from her early days in Hollywood through the height of her career, up until her death. They had costumes, outfits worn to events, awards, jewelry, film clips, and more. She is one of my all-time favorite actresses–I watched reruns of “I Love Lucy” incessantly as a child, and I still love them as an adult. She was fierce, and brave, and funny, and an incredible role model for women, and it was very moving for me to be surrounded by evidence of her legacy. The fourth floor was more of a mishmash–a lot of random things from random celebrities and movies: the dog in a cast from There’s Something About Mary, Elvis Presley’s tattered robe (which they claimed came complete with peanut butter stains, though I could find evidence of no such stain, so it I suspect it was just sensationalism–like The King would have wasted any peanut butter on his robe!), Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle, some costumes from Moulin Rouge, and a small display on Michael Jackson, featuring even more random unexplained hair with a lifecast of his face. Two of the pieces appear to be wigs, but there’s a long ponytail that could have formerly belonged to Jackson? Maybe?

I like that they assumed that their visitors wouldn’t know the meaning of the word “scandal”.

We ended up spending several hours at the museum, seeing everything there was to see. However, we still had time to visit the Fredericks of Hollywood IN Hollywood (because, c’mon, who doesn’t love trashy lingerie?), meet another crazy on the subway, head back to the hotel, AND go swimming before it was time to head to Universal Studios.

“It’s one of Nature’s most beautiful sights — the convoy.”

…I never knew how tiny that sign actually was.

We left for LA on Thursday evening as soon as Jason got home from work, making our way to the tiny town of Yreka, California before having to stop to rest. (I was glad we were finally through Oregon–it’s not that I have anything against the state, but as you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas, stations tend to close at night rather than manning them 24 hours a day, which made for an, uh, interesting tour of Roseburg where I first attempted to illegally pump my own gas at a closed pump and then drove around town until I finally found an open pump, at which I waited ten minutes for the operator to sashay his way over to the car.)

Once in Yreka, I initially pulled into a rest area, intending to nap for twenty minutes and then hit the road again, but as Jason tossed and turned and huffed and puffed on his seat, moaning, “This is so uncomfortable. I thought we were going to stop at a motel. I thought that was the plan.” I realized it wasn’t fair for me to change the game plan on the fly without consulting him, even if it meant arriving in LA later than I would have liked. So I drove us to a nearby motel and had five hours of overly caffeinated, jittery dreams, hitting the road at about 8 am, putting us on pace for an arrival at our hotel around 6pm.

Along the way, we stopped for Jason’s first taste of In N Out burger, saw tons of cows along the road (aka baby In N Out burgers), and, during the hottest portion of the day, the highway came to a complete stop and we got to watch the car’s temperature gauge click up…and up…and up…and up, all while panicking and cursing a little. Luckily, after clicking off the AC (which, in that car, means “blast slightly less hot air directly into your face”) and a few minutes of backed up traffic, the roads opened up again and the gauge went back down into the normal range. After checking in at the hotel, and finding our room, tucked back in the “loser corridor” away from the main hotel rooms, we went to the concierge to get directions to Hollywood Blvd. The Sheraton Universal hotel’s website indicates that it’s within walking distance, so I thought it was just a matter of having him point us in the right direction. Not so. It’s technically within walking distance, if you consider walking distance to be “Walk to the subway station and then take the subway to your destination,” otherwise, it’s a mere casual stroll over a mountain range.

Not ones to be deterred by such technicalities, we made our way to the subway system and were immediately befuddled by their ticket-selling system. They sell passes that can be used across their entire transit system, but if you buy a one-way pass, you walk through a separate stall, which doesn’t verify whether or not you have a ticket. At no point does anyone verify whether you have a ticket, and since the majority of the people use passes, it wouldn’t even make financial sense to have someone roaming the stations, asking to see ticket stubs. What, exactly, is stopping anyone, everyone, from riding for free? Aside from being pansies from Washington, too dorky and law-abiding to try and skirt the rules? We didn’t spend a long time on Hollywood Blvd that evening–just long enough to have dinner and map out the area for tourist activities the next day, but it was still nearly 10pm by the time we were in the subway station waiting for the train to take us back. We waited. And waited. And waited. A train showed up on the other side, and a garbled announcement was made on the overhead speakers, but I couldn’t hear it over the rowdy teenagers shouting and fighting nearby. We waited some more. And after that, we waited some more. On our side of the station, a man in a wheelchair cut pieces off of an onion bagel and flung them down onto the tracks, yelling “You all is stupid, waiting on the wrong side of the tracks. Crazy! Trains is all on the other side. Asshole! Shitbreath! Cuntstain! Wrong side trains!”, each exclamation punctuated by another piece of bagel chucked onto the tracks below. I leaned into Jason and whispered, “So…the man throwing bagels onto the tracks says that all the trains are coming on the other side of the station. But other people are still waiting on this side. Do we listen to the bagel-throwing man?” Jason replied “I think it means we should take a cab.” “Not after I paid for these tickets, it doesn’t! Shitbreath!” We approached some friendly-looking people, and as it turns out, they were tourists as well so they couldn’t be of much help, though they did say it seemed as though the trains were running in both directions from one side of the platform at this stop, as they’d gotten on the previous train and it announced it was traveling in the opposite direction. So we waited, and waited, and waited, and sure enough, the bagel-throwing man was correct. After finally making it back to the hotel, we showered off 30 hours of road sweat, grit, and the occasional french fry out of our various nooks and crannies, and collapsed on the bed so we could get a solid night’s sleep before the long day ahead of us.