Say Goodnight

If you feel like a riot then don't you deny it

 

14th December 2010

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Despite the late night we still woke up early this morning. We looked out our window at 6am to see that the weather had changed. The stunning sunrise had been replaced by a dull grey cloud. We rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.

As yesterday we didn't have anything planned for the morning so we decided to stay in the room.

We put the TV on for the first time during our stay and watched Good Day LA. Stevie Wonder was a guest on the show where he wooed the presenters with his charm.

They then talked about a charity that's providing computers for children in Ethiopia. One of the presenters, who looked like a Stepford Wife, turned to the other and said "I remember someone took an iPad to Ethiopia and the kids figured it out in five seconds. They hadn't even seen a computer before!"

That was such a stupid thing to say. I couldn't listen to anything else they said after that and turned the TV off.

Instead of getting out of bed and heading out for another mammoth sized pancakes we decided to order room service and have our breakfast in bed.

We went for a "continental for one" choosing an item from each available section. It arrived promptly and I signed for it adding a small tip on top of the tray charge that was already included. I then felt a bit giddy and faint when I realised the total cost added up to $60.

I phoned down to query it but they said that it was correct. One fruit juice, one pot of tea, one coffee, one croissant, one bagel, one portion of cream cheese and a plate of smoked salmon (although it was a large portion) - that'll be sixty dollars - thank you very much.

I was so glad we hadn't ordered breakfast for two! Judging by the obscene amount of salmon on the plate they probably assumed it was for two. Julie struggled to eat it all. "I can't" she said "I may get this strong urge to swim up stream!"

We had a lunch reservation at The Ivy but it wasn't until 1pm so we had a wonderful leisurely morning lounging about like a pair of sloths. Our most taxing activity was deciding what to wear. Just after midday we thought about making our move. I suggested that we caught the bus and walk a little but Julie didn't want to arrive at The Ivy "looking like a sweaty blob" so we got a taxi to the restaurant.

It was a lot nearer than we thought so we arrived far too early. To kill time we went for a stroll window shopping down Robertson Boulevard's fashionable boutiques.

We didn't feel the urge to step inside any of them until we came to Lisa Kline Kids. It was a small boutique selling clothes for designer children and was next door to her larger boutique selling clothes for designer grown ups.

I have to admit that even I was impressed by the funky colourful styles and beautiful designs. They were quite expensive however, a small T-shirt for a 3 year old was almost as expensive as breakfast.

We did buy Freya a wristband rattle for £18 plus 5% Californian Sales Tax. Included in the price was a rather nice Lisa Kline paper bag and a free compliment.

"I love your shoes" said the shop assistant to Julie.

I waited for my free of charge flattery but it wasn't forthcoming. I thought she could have at least mentioned my very glam KISS t-shirt, with its sparkling diamante stars and stripes.

We returned to The Ivy an acceptable five minutes early. They greeted us very warmly and showed us to a table at the front of the veranda.

It was pretty exciting to be here, dining at the world famous Ivy in Los Angeles. How many famous celebrities have been photographed sitting where we were?

Well, none were here today.

The staff were really nice and the clientele were just normal people. I was expecting ultra pretentiousness but I was pleasantly surprised with the comfortable homely atmosphere.

Julie sat on a pretty cushion filled bench next to the picket fence (which could have done with a lick of paint) and we browsed the reasonably priced menu.

The waiter who served us was nauseatingly pleasant, sickly smooth yet professional and efficient; perfect butler material. Being that "nice" all day must be difficult. He must go home some days and erupt.

He waited patiently as we decided whether or not to skip the appetisers and go straight for the entrees. In the end we went for a glass of chardonnay and merlot as our starter then Julie had swordfish and I had the butternut squash risotto for our main course. It was all very tasty.

We wanted the "Ivy" experience to last for as long as possible. Usually I wolf down my food like I've not eaten for days but today I ate most sedately. Of course it had to finish sometime and after spending an hour pretending to be famous we paid our bill which for a high profile establishment was refreshingly inexpensive.

Next on our agenda was a stroll up Rodeo Drive. It didn't seem that far away so instead of being whisked away from the Ivy in the back of a limousine we set off on foot down Robertson Boulevard.

At the first side street we tucked ourselves away so that Julie could take off her red high heel shoes and put on a flat pair more comfortable for the long stroll through Beverly Hills.

We turned down a tree lined street called Clifton Way. It cut through a quiet residential area which was not filled with mansions and paved with gold as we expected. It was mostly unremarkable apartments and condominiumiums.

The road seemed to be never ending, a poker straight line that went on for miles. It was such a disheartening sight. Julie's head and heart dropped. The lovely inner glow we had found at The Ivy was quickly evaporating in the Californian sun and was being replaced with indigestion.

There wasn't much to distract us from the monotony of the march.

Gradually the landscape changed and the houses became detached, more affluent and more interesting to peer in through their windows.

It didn't lift Julie's spirits though. Her feet were sore and her swordfish kept on repeating on her. "We should have got a taxi" she grumbled.

We turned down North Wetherly Drive and walked past some of the most opulent properties we had seen so far.

They weren't behind iron gates or anything too ostentatious but they were quite magnificent mansions nonetheless.

We weren't in the area of Beverly Hills famed for it's filmstar residents, that was further north of here. Perhaps in hindsight we should have done one of those bus tours that drive you past the houses where the stars used to live.

Before long we met Wilshire Boulevard. "Not far to go now" I said. Half a mile later we finally got to the start of Rodeo Drive.

On the right hand side there was a flight of steps they called the "Spanish Steps" I suppose in homage to the stunning cascade of steps in Rome.

These in contrast were just a functional flight of steps that led to 2 Rodeo Drive for what they described as an European style shopping experience. I might be being picky here but there wasn't a Boulangerie, a Gelatarie or a pavement cafe in sight!

Instead it was bursting at the seems with the typical high end luxury retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, Versace, none of which interested us, even if we could afford them.

It was however festively decorated with a large fake Christmas tree and plenty of tinsel and balloons.

Rodeo Drive rather than the Little Italy side street was more of an American shopping experience with a wider boulevard, wider pavements, larger premises. It was just more of the same with Bvlgari, Dolce & Gabbani, Prada, Gucci, Cartier to name but a few of the elite shops.

What we were desperately looking for the sanctuary of a cafe where we could sit down and relax for a while, take the weight off our feet. Even a Starbucks would have done.

Where better to people watch than Rodeo Drive? Perhaps bag ourselves an elusive celebrity spot.

We didn't find a cafe so we kept on marching.

We reached the end of Rodeo Drive without stopping, although we did slow our pace down when walking past a bright yellow Bugati, parked outside the Bugati showroom, not because it impressed us but because it looked absolutely ridiculous. We had a good gawp at it.

Turning the corner onto Little Santa Monica Boulevard we were drawn towards the Beverly Hills Civic Hall in the distance standing like a beacon of hope. Finally something interesting and worth while to look at.

There aren't many things older than a century in this town and this wasn't either but it looked it.

The eight storey tower fringed with Spanish Colonial touches and topped with a tiled cupola was beautiful and quite unexpected.

After over an hour and three miles of walking we caught a bus back up Santa Monica Boulevard to the vicinity of our hotel. Back on Sunset Boulevard we were at a complete loss as to where to go next. "What about Madame Tussauds ?" suggested Julie.

The utterly pointless walk through Beverly Hills had knocked the stuffing out of us and we felt pretty deflated. We weren't in the best of moods and by the time we'd caught the bus to Hollywood we'd gone off the idea of the waxworks.

There was only one thing for it; start drinking! So we ended sitting at the bar at the Hard Rock again. This time we were too early for happy hour so we avoided the expensive cocktails and had two beers.

We had quite a thirst and they we slurped down in no time. The second bottles didn't take us long either. I then had the idea of perhaps having a bit of a pub crawl along the bars of Sunset Strip starting at the most rock and roll bar in the Los Angeles, a genuine hard rock cafe, the Rainbow Bar and Grill.

Within half an hour we were stepping off the bus onto the section of Sunset Boulevard they call the strip which was quite fitting as at the Roxy nightclub tonight there was a show called Strip Strip Hooray featuring world famous Burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese and we had tickets for the late show!

Well, we didn't quite have the tickets in our hands, we had to collect them from the box office.

We turned up at the window but there was no one there. After a few minutes of waiting we gave up and went next door to the Rainbow Bar & Grill.

There's been a restaurant here since the fifties. Originally known as Villa Nova it caught plenty of the Hollywood limelight with owner Vincente Minnelli proposing to Judy Garland here and it was where Joe Di Maggio first met Marilyn Monroe.

It opened as the Rainbow in 1972 when it quickly became the place to hangout if you were a rock musician. Led Zeppelin were of course regulars. It's reputation grew throughout the eighties as the Sunset strip became the centre of the rock universe. Those were its hey days.

Today we were told that it was closed for a wine tasting event.

"That's not very rock 'n' roll is it?" I mumbled to myself as we turned on our heels and headed for the door.

"... but the bar in the patio area outside is open" the waitress added.

Before leaving I asked if I could take a few photographs.

It gave me some time to take a closer look at all the memorabilia on the walls. Signed guitars and drum kits filled the upper levels with gold disc and posters covering the lower walls. With subtle warm lighting and a lovely log fire it was very cosy in here.

In complete contrast we sat outside on plastic chairs beneath a plastic awning complete with pretend plastic windows. With the sun setting the temperature was dropping considerably. We huddled together drinking our cold beer from plastic glasses listening to some random rock music from the jukebox.

Before leaving I popped inside to use their toilets and have another look around. At the entrance there was a large collage of photographs that happy shiny satisfied customers had sent in.
Also in frames next to their fire department occupancy certificate and LA Times review was a publicity shot of Motorhead (Lemmy being one of their most celebrated regulars) and a poster quoting a newspaper article saying that Ozzy Osbourne can often be found eating at the Rainbow Bar and Grill.

That reminded of a line from the film "Get Him To The Greek" which I watched on the flight over, where the record label owner says "Those British motherfuckers don't die. Them old as fuck!" How very true.

Before moving on to find the next bar we called in at the Roxy box office which now had someone sitting in the window. Expecting our tickets to be handed over were left dumbfounded when she refused.

"You need to come back after 7:45pm." she said.

"Marvellous." I replied and we trundled off to continue our sunset strip bar crawl.

Unfortunately I had completely over estimated the amount of bars along this stretch. There were plenty clubs like the famous Whisky a Go Go and the infamous Viper Room but at 6pm their doors were firmly shut.

I was trying not to be too disappointed. I had hoped of having a drink at both of these celebrated venues. The Whisky has pure rock pedigree. The Doors was once their "house" band, Led Zeppelin played here early in their career, then came the whole Motley Crue / Guns 'n' Roses era. They've probably all also played the Wolverhampton Civic Hall but it doesn't quite have the same legendary resonance as the Whisky a Go Go.

The Viper Room in contrast came to the world's attention on the back of Hollywood celebrity and tragedy. Once co-owned by Johnny Depp the actor River Phoenix died on the street outside after an overdose. It's apparently has a good reputation for live music venue but not at 6pm on a Tuesday night.

The only place open for a drink was a liquor store called Sun Bee so we popped inside. We weren't sure if drinking in the street was a criminal offence here in California so we didn't buy any alcohol. We only bought a large bottle of Fiji water "for the morning".

We eventually came across a real bar called the Red Rock and to our excitement it was actually open. Even better, between 5pm and 7pm it was happy hour.

We pulled up some stools at the bar and had a beer each.

It was a homely pub style (not that our home looked anything like it) and they served a decent pint.

I had a dark beer from the Samuel Adams stable which was surprisingly very nice. Sat next to us at the bar were two young lads trapped in that late eighties LA rocker big hair and eye liner fashion. They were moaning about constantly being mistaken for women.

I turned to them and said "I know how that feels"

They didn't believe me. They probably thought I looked more like Billy Connolly.

I wasn't the one wearing lipstick or a silk scarf. Sat next to them I looked positively alpha male.

Another guy arrived to watch the end of a basketball game. He was a loud LA Lakers fan who had a bet on the result. He somehow had money riding on a Lakers win but by less than ten points. You can bet on anything these days. It was very strange watching him root for the opposition, wanting his team to concede points.

We watched the end of the game, watched him loose his money as the LA Lakers beat the Washington Wizards by 103-89 and then we left. He wasn't happy.

Our pub crawl wasn't proving very successful. We reached the top of the hill outside the Mondrian hotel without passing another bar.

After popping back to our room for a quick shower and a costume change we bounced back out onto Sunset Boulevard. We were absolutely starving but our first port of call was the Andaz hotel, the former Hyatt. Outside they had a large Gibson guitar a nod towards the hotel's rock 'n' roll past when it was known as the Riot House and Led Zeppelin had their pool parties on the top floor sun deck.

"Let's go and have a look" I suggested.

"Do you think we'll be allowed?" asked a worried Julie.

"Just walk in with confidence," I said "pretend you're a guest"

So we strode in like we owned the place, called the elevator and shot up to the top floor.

We followed the signs to the sun deck only to come up against a locked door. Maybe if we were guests we could have accessed it with a key card but we weren't, so we had to make do with peering in through the window.

I stood their with my nose pressed against the glass wearing my Led Zeppelin Ahmet Ertegun tribute T-shirt, (the one-off reunion that I was so fortunate to see back in 2007) and sighed.

Today in general had been rather frustrating.

At least it was a glass door and we did get to see the sun deck even if we didn't get to lounge by the pool and pretend we were Jimmy Page and his groupie. Good job really.

Disappointed, we descended back down to the lobby.

We arrived at the Saddle Ranch Chop House to signs letting you know that there was some filming taking place there tonight and by entering you agreed to be filmed.

"Do you want to be on-camera or off-camera" the waitress asked as we entered. That's the first time we'd ever been asked that question and it threw us. We didn't choose a preference so she took us to the same area where we ate on our first night, which happened to be in the active zone.

Within a minute the restaurant manager came to our table to introduce herself and handed over her business card. Five minutes later the General Manager came over and introduced herself!

Who the hell was going to be next ? Victor Kiam the Chief Exec?

happy meal at the Saddle Ranch

They desperately wanted to look good on camera for sure. They even had two young lads who went from table to table serenading the diners (for a tip of course). We got talking about the Black Crowes and the guitarist said he'd just seen them on Sunday at the Palladium here in Los Angeles. They asked for a song request so naturally I asked for anything from the Black Crowes. Realising it was a challenge for them I also offered them the Led Zeppelin back catalogue as an alternative. They obliged by singing "Goin' To California" which was perfect.

After our meal, (which for Julie was a roast chicken with fries and I had a cheese omelette with deep fried shredded potato) I turned my attention to the bucking bull. Fuelled with Dutch courage, (where does that term come from by the way? Were Dutch soldiers renowned for their courage on the battlefield after a few jars of the Heineken?) anyway, fuelled with alcohol which was affecting my judgement I decided to put my name down for the bull ride.

They asked some health and safety questions like "Have you been drinking?" to which I confessed to having a few beers. "any shots?" she probed deeper. "Uh, nope" I replied innocently. Then after they took my name, address, date of birth and my money; they then (and only then) asked for some form of ID. I didn't have my passport nor my drivers licence with me so I begrudgingly resigned myself to not ticking off the "ride a bronking bronco" from my "things to do before I'm too old" list and asked for my $4 back.

"Sorry but no Id, no ride" she said with such an irritating "have a nice day" smile whilst pointing to their tiny "No Refunds" sign. What a cheap trick! That could easily have been a red rag to a bull but fortunately I'm a happy drunk and I just laughed in her face.

"I'll be back" I said, trying and failing to hopelessly to mimic the monotone delivery of the Governator of Cailfornia, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I left Julie by the bar and ran back to the hotel. I was back at the counter inside five minutes waving my passport.

With my receipt in my hand I walked over to the guy who controlled the mechanical beast and stepped into the ring. I mounted the bull confidently and the guy gave me a few tips. "Hold on tight" he said stating the bloody obvious!

He did continue. "Squeeze with your legs, put your right arm out and back for balance and hang on to the strap. Good luck."

I sat there quite excited, waiting for it to begin. Then without warning it jolted into life, throwing it's head violently backwards.

I was immediately thrown off balance and almost fell off straight away but I held on grasping for my dear rodeo life with both my hands on the leather strap. It then suddenly lunged forward. My instincts made me let go of the strap and anchor my right hand deeply into the buttocks of the mechanical bull in a desperate attempt to stay on. I was still there hanging on.

It paused for half a second which would have been a good time to readjust myself but I just couldn't let go if its buttocks. It then jumped back to life swivelling swiftly to the left, throwing me off with such ease it was embarrassing. I hit the cushioned floor with the thud of a sack of potatoes. I stood up to no applause, no glory, just a slightly sore shoulder.

The whole experience lasted no more than three seconds, a jump back, a lunge forward, swivel left and slam, game over. Oh God I hope I wasn't caught on camera!

We left the Saddle Ranch Chop House and after a shower and a quick costume change back in the hotel room we caught the bus back down to the Strip.

We finally collected our tickets from the Roxy box office then returned to the Rainbow for a second visit. This time we had to pay to get in we but got given drinks vouchers to use at the bar.

At least on this occasion it lived up to its rock and roll reputation a little better.

Our first drink was whilst sitting at a low table by the bar but it turned out not to be any old table, it was a Ms. Pac-Man gaming table.

How rock 'n' roll was that? Well not in the slightest apart from it's apparently Lemmy's favourite spot. Even though we were safe in the knowledge that he was thousands of miles away in Lyon, France touring with Motorhead and he wasn't very likely to turn up to find us in his seat, we didn't stay long at the Ms. Pac-Man.

We were drawn upstairs to another bar by the sound of a live band was playing some really great classic rock songs.

They were half way through an AC/DC song when we arrived. Next up they began the Whitesnake version of "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City".

Julie and I couldn't stop smiling as this was "our" song, the song that always takes us back to 1985 when we were just 16 and 18. We sang our hearts out along with them.

Next up was Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" which thankfully didn't stir up any Sharon & Ozzy style memories.

There was quite a mix of people in here although I'd say the majority were people who had been coming here since the eighties heydays. One guy who looked incredibly like Ronnie James Dio, short and with thinning curly hair but he couldn't have been him as he died May this year. He was completely off his head. I don't know if he was dancing or just staggering about the place. Anyway, Crazy Train turned out to be their last song which was our cue to leave the Rainbow. It was now around 1030pm.

We walk to the Roxy next door and joined the back of the long queue. After quite some confusion about which queue we were supposed to be in with our VIP tickets (should have been the short queue) we eventually got inside and were shown to our allocated seats. And what great seats they were too with uninterrupted view down the length of the catwalk stage.

We didn't know what to expect but I knew there wasn't going to be naked gyrating women hanging from poles. The fifties style glamour and a more stylish strip of burlesque is undergoing a revival at the moment.

The performance began with squeaky voiced comedian Murray Hill cracking jokes that were far too American for our sense of humour. We just didn't get him at all. Or should I say "her" as he was a drag king. I'd never heard that term before.

Anyway, before we fell asleep he got the show on the road and introduced the Queen of Burlesque Dita Von Teese.

To great applause she appeared astride a sparkling carousel horse dressed in showgirl feathers and sequins.

She dismounted gracefully and walked down the catwalk removing items of clothing seductively to the traditional tune of striptease, The Stripper by the David Rose Orchestra.

I have to admit that it was all too sedate to get my blood pressure rising. It was all very pretty and elegant which jarred uncomfortably against the raunchy trombone of The Stripper. Ba-ram-bam-bam boom boom Ba-ram-bam-bam boom boom needed more stripper and less burlesque.

The routine ended with her standing at the end of the stage only feet away from us in nothing but her tassels and her nick nacks.

I was thinking what a fine figure of a woman she was and how unfeasibly tiny her waist was when Julie delivered a kick to the shins to remind me that if I stare too much I may go cross-eyed.

Next up was a gloriously voluptuous woman by the name of Dirty Martini. Murray Hill introduced her as "a handful, no, she's two hands full". He then went on to crack another joke we didn't understand.

Dirty Martini's performance was very entertaining. She did a balloon dance, appearing like a huge raspberry then popping them one by one with a lit cigarette until there were none left. She did it with great fun and surprising panache that it was impossible not to enjoy her performance especially as she ended the routine with some seriously impressive tassel twirling.

There was no arguing that she was a large lady but not once did I think that she didn't belong on that stage. Julie on the other hand was less impressed and thought that it was all a little bit of a "fat lady" circus act.

The next performer added fuel to her view that it was a bit of a freakshow.

Selene Luna, all 3'10" of her, stepped out across the stage almost entirely hidden behind a green coloured ostrich feather marijuana leaf. Julie rolled her eyes as the freak show rolled on. The Californian crowd went wild.

She strutted up and down the catwalk. She had incredibly long legs for very short woman. Behind the feathers she discreetly removed her bra revealing herself. When that happened I didn't know where to look. My instinct was to avert my eyes, it felt wrong to ogle a semi-naked midget.

The act ended with her walking down the stage holding a plaque saying "Legalize" which certainly got the crowd's approval then she and Murray Hill shared an oversized comedy joint.

The next dancer was Perle Noire a striking curvaceous woman whose high energy routine was exciting to watch. She danced across the stage with several high kicks and back flips.

The performance was going well until it took a bizarre twist when she wrapped a string of bananas around her waist and danced in a slightly crazed untamed jungle way. My first reaction was "She can't do that" it felt quite degrading towards the entire Afro-Carribean race.

I've later learned that it was a tribute to Josephine Baker a black dancer from the 1920s but even so it's not the 1920s anymore.

Next up was a male artist by the name of Duke Lafayette. A new term of boy-lesque has been coined to describe a male burlesque dancer. It sounds odd and his performance certainly was odd.

He stood there with a mannequin's golden right leg, caressing it, kissing it, removing the stocking with his teeth, closing the routine by placing it on the floor and humping it. I was speechless.

I turned to Julie to see her reaction but her head was resting on the table. She found it so exciting she had fallen asleep. "It's the jet lag" I explained, apologising to those sitting next to us.

After the boylesque they all came around again. Dita Von Teese did a routine that involved sitting in a golden glittering clawfoot bath tub where she playfully sprayed the audience with the hand shower.

It all becomes a bit sketchy from now on. I know that Selene Luna did another dance, Perle Noire jumped around some more and I'm sure there was a tall skinny dancer in a tight leather mini-skirt who's name escapes me. They even dragged up three members of the audience onto the stage to have a go. I think.

The one performance I certainly remember was Dirty Martini's routine. After seductively removing her long satin gloves and her full length ballgown she then got caught in a spider's web from which hands groped her from behind. It was full of drama and fun which made for a memorable performance.

At the end, with Murray Hill's encouragement she gave a masterclass in nipple tassel twirling. Firstly spinning them clockwise, then anti-clockwise then building up to the spectacular sight of one spinning one way then the other the opposite way.

I did go cross-eyed.

The show climaxed with Dita Von Teese dismounting a plush pink velvet mechanical bull complete with sparkling horns and moseying on down the catwalk in a Rhinestone Cowgirl outfit.

Once again I found her routine to be a little, well, routine.

The strip followed the same choreography as the earlier two performances with Dita walking with remarkable style and poise especially considering her 6 inch high heels. It was all very sophisticated but equally disappointingly tame in its titillation.

Perhaps with all the hype that surrounded Dita Von Teese I expected much more from Queen of Burlesque.

I caught a glimpse of what I expected right at the very end when she rode the bull in a superbly suggestive manner. That was more like it.

She managed to stay on for much longer than I did, which was a shame. It was obviously moving more like a rocking chair than a raging bull but how great a climax would it have been if they slowly cranked up the speed and she fell off arse over tit onto the floor? That's not burlesque I guess.

Julie had thankfully woken up a few acts from the end so when the music was over we left The Roxy and walked all the way back to the Mondrian Hotel. It was gone 2am by the time we crashed into our bed. celebs spotted (although being on stage we didn't exactly "spot" her) 1 mistaken for a woman 3 not mistaken for a woman 1
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