CATEGORIES The DL From LA
I decided to take a mini-vacation yesterday. I opted not for the relaxing beach, but for a way more touristy experience instead. I signed up for a celebrity homes tour with one of the hundreds of tour companies in Los Angeles. Celebrities are Hollywood's first and foremost priority. Their homes place second on the list. Homelessness places sixth after The Lakers, The Dodgers and fat-free french fries.

I took the subway to Hollywood and met up with my tour group outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. An adult ticket was supposed to cost $59. For some reason, the man from the tour company said that I could pay $30. That was closer to a child's ticket price. Wow, this California sun must truly be giving me a youthful glow.

I graciously accepted the discount and hopped aboard the van with 11 tourists who were from Denmark, France, Australia, New Jersey and Illinois. Our tour guide, George, asked us to yell out where we were from and then he would say something connected to the hometown. i.e. New Jersey -- Bon Jovi. When I said that I am from Toronto, George said, "Toronto, you have great hair. I'm groovin' on it." Either he knew nothing about Canada or he was really in love with my unruly mane. Either way, I was immediately smitten with George. I'm easy to please. I decided to take a mini-vacation yesterday. I opted not for the relaxing beach, but for a way more touristy experience instead. I signed up for a celebrity homes tour with one of the hundreds of tour companies in Los Angeles. Celebrities are Hollywood's first and foremost priority. Their homes place second on the list. Homelessness places sixth after The Lakers, The Dodgers and fat-free french fries.

I took the subway to Hollywood and met up with my tour group outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. An adult ticket was supposed to cost $59. For some reason, the man from the tour company said that I could pay $30. That was closer to a child's ticket price. Wow, this California sun must truly be giving me a youthful glow.

I graciously accepted the discount and hopped aboard the van with 11 tourists who were from Denmark, France, Australia, New Jersey and Illinois. Our tour guide, George, asked us to yell out where we were from and then he would say something connected to the hometown. i.e. New Jersey -- Bon Jovi. When I said that I am from Toronto, George said, "Toronto, you have great hair. I'm groovin' on it." Either he knew nothing about Canada or he was really in love with my unruly mane. Either way, I was immediately smitten with George. I'm easy to please.

George drove us along the "world famous Sunset Strip" where he pointed out famous nightclubs and restaurants; Carney's -- where Elvis used to gorge on chili dogs, the infamous Chateau Marmont hotel -- where John Belushi gorged on drugs and died, and The Whisky A-Go-Go -- where The Doors gorged on alcohol as the house band in 1966. LA is a gorgin' kind of town. I was interested in George's information, but I was also fascinated with the cars driving past us. Almost all of the drivers gave us dirty looks. They seem to hate tourists here even though I've hardly ever met anyone in this town who was actually born in Los Angeles. Hypocrites.

From the Sunset Strip, we were taken to the ritzy communities of Beverly Hills and Bel Air. George informed us that the celebrity vehicle of choice is the Range Rover (as driven by Courteney Cox, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy). George, with the slightest hint of bitterness in his voice, told us that his ex-wife also drives a Range Rover. He said that if he spots a Range Rover, he will honk and wave to see if it's a celebrity, so that we can have the experience of seeing a movie star. I yelled out that he was lying and that he was really trying to stalk his ex-wife. All the tourists in the van laughed, even the international ones, so I am guessing that the the word 'stalk' is the same in every language.

The first celeb house we were taken to belongs to Ringo Starr. All we could see was a gate to a driveway, though. And trees. I couldn't see a house. I'm not even convinced there was a house. No wonder they had given me a discount on my ticket. I signed up to see homes, not foliage and iron gates. Maybe Ringo doesn't have a house and he's just an eccentric living in strawberry fields.



Moving right along, we were driven past estates belonging to Jennifer Aniston, Carmen Electra, David Spade (who apparently throws water bottles at George), Courteney Cox, Christina Aguilera, and the former digs of Robert Wagner, where his television show 'Hart to Hart' was shot. We were shown the location of TomKat's residence, but it is tucked away and obscured so high in the hills (probably built on top of all their money), that we could only see a roof. They have a nice roof.

Next, we were driven up to a hedge. I wondered who could possibly live there. Bugs Bunny? Apparently, 2 years ago, this was the most frequently visited hedge in Los Angeles. Why, you ask? Well, I will tell you. Ms. Lindsay Lohan crashed her car here. Mark my words. Soon, there will be a Hollywood tour consisting exclusively of locations where Lindsay Lohan has been arrested or had an accident. We were driven by rap star Bow Wow's mansion. He bought it when he was just 16 years old. I turned to the New Jersey teenager sitting behind me and said to him, "Do you see the size of that house? Make sure you start a rap career now."

As we were taken past Jay Leno's house, which is just a skip away from the Beckhams' house, my eyes were astounded by the size of these mansions. I knew I chose the wrong career. Is it too late to be a Hollywood ingenue? George told us that the Beckhams recently ate at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant and that the waitress who served them said that Victoria only ate bread, while sipping on Diet Coke. I doubt George can afford to dine at Wolfgang Puck's restaurants, so I began to wonder if George moonlights with the paparazzi. How was he securing this information from the waitress? The waitress might also work for the paparazzi. Is there anyone in Los Angeles who isn't selling celebrity secrets to tabloids?

George took us to a street called Roxbury, which used to be the celebrity choice street. It has been the home to George Clooney, Madonna, Lucille Ball, Ira Gershwin and Ed McMahon, among others. I might move there if the career success rate of its former inhabitants is an indication of the street's good luck charm quality. For now, I could maybe afford to live on a lawn, but these houses are so big, who would notice if I moved into a back wing with just my laptop computer, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans?

The biggest attraction on our tour was the house where Michael Jackson died. The King of Pop had been renting Sean Connery's old abode, located across the street from Elvis' old estate, for $100 000 a month. Had I tried to rent that place, I'd have died of shock when they told me how much the rent would be. I may not live in a lavish mansion in an exclusive neighbourhood, but at least my rent is reasonable. By not renting Sean Connery's old house, I am saving $99 000 a month.

We were driven past the Spelling mansion, which famous producer Aaron ('Starsky and Hutch', '90210') Spelling left to his wife Candy when he died. With 123 rooms and 64 000 square feet, made of marble block, it is the most expensive house in the United States. And, you are in luck. It is for sale in case you are looking for real estate in California. Grab your chequebook, fill in the piddly sum of $154 million dollars and it's yours.

Around two hours and 25 bad jokes told by George (though, to entertain a group of tourists in a light-hearted manner while battling Los Angeles traffic for 2 hours is, admittedly, a difficult proposition) later, we had driven by approximately 50 celebrity homes. But, we didn't even see one celebrity. Maybe they were hiding. Perhaps they are just so completely made of money that it works as camouflage when combined with their expensive mansions.

Our final destination was to drive along Mulholland Drive, where we stopped at a look-out point to gaze at the infamous Hollywood sign. Originally, the sign said Hollywoodland and it was a realty. But, the wooden letters began to decay and it was shortened to Hollywood. Eventually, the whole thing began to collapse (like many Hollywood careers) and the city of Hollywood re-built the Hollywood sign out of steel and cement. Each letter is 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. And, you thought the CN Tower was impressive.

My mini-vacation is now over. I am back in my non-celebrity home. No one would pay anything to drive past my place. But, if you would be so willing, I'll give you my address.