When we came to Los Angeles, I was staggered by the size of the place, I doubted we had a chance to get a handle on the city in such a short space of time, but today has proved that wrong. Completely wrong.
When they say the whole world is a stage, what they fail to tell you is that most of the actors are here. It’s a city of big characters, grand gestures, enormous wealth and incredible showmanship.
The timetable went out of the window almost as soon as we started and on listening to advice as we went along, so the day didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’ll try to summarise what we saw and what we learned. I’ll add as many pictures as I can to emphasise the points.
Paul Smith in LA doesn’t open until 11am, so we went along to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The latter is particularly significant as it is the favoured venue for Ridley Scott and Universal for their Premiere’s. it is therefore very likely to be where the premiere of the Robin Hood film on May 14th next year. Our first D Day.
The Walk of Fame is tourist heaven. Complete with Michael Jackson lookalikes crying at his paving stone and lighting candles in his memory.
The handprints were more interesting as we got some nice shots of the Sheriff at the Kevin Costner (from Prince of Thieves), Olivia de Havilland (Marian in the 1933 Errol Flynn version) and Douglas Fairbanks (Robin in the 1922 film). Whilst we can’t replicate this exactly, it was a great lesson in building a trail around an area and adding mystique to the characters. Maybe a trail around the city could be marked on pavements for all visitors to enjoy?
Grauman’s was amazing. A stunning period building and introduced to us by the amazingly charismatic Beverley White. A lady of South African descent who has been in the role for 15 years and seen more premieres than most actors will ever see.
A 90ft x 50ft screen (the biggest non IMAX in US) and 30,000 watt music system ensure it is still as relevant today as it was when it was built for $2m in the 1920’s and had a 30ft screen and had over 3,000 seats (it also shows how much American backsides must have grown since then). The cost was around the same as our own Council House built around the same time and offering similar grandeur that these pics can’t possibly do justice to.
We then went off to the Getty Center. A good hike outside the city and perched high on a hillside, that was bought completely to avoid others building and disrupting the view.
Funded by the oil Billionaire, John Paul Getty, it cost $1bn dollars and 14 years to build. No that’s not a mistake, it really cost $1bn to build. The architect was Richard Meier, who made his name on the place.
As a lesson in how to do world class, it was immense. From the moment you arrived and were guided through to the tram (which was actually a form of funicular railway) to take you from the parking area the 5/8 of a mile (that’s what the guide told me), it’s a masterclass in world class.
They have 600 volunteers to man the place. Many are ex teachers apparently and like the sound of their own voice. They are the most helpful people in the world and all beautifully clued up.
Entrance is free, but parking costs $15. This has had to be raised twice in the last year as their fund of $3bn has declined by 25% due to stock market falls over the same period and left them facing a major shortfall. It’s a million people a year attraction, and whilst amazing, is obviously Not commercially viable and couldn’t get close to surviving without their benefactor. There’s lots they do well. The food offers is brilliant, the paintings and artworks all, seemingly on open show with little to stop you touching and feeling some great works – but the numbers just can’t stack up.
The detailing however is outrageous. Perhaps the most telling fact that came out was the fact that the trees above the terrace restaurant are pruned every three weeks and 1 in 14 leaves are removed to keep the dappled effect of light falling across the courtyard. If we are to do world class, we have to get to a level of detail that learns from this, even if it doesn’t get quite so blindly anal about it.
The stones of many areas were left rough edged. It is an enormous undertaking to build with so much natural material and of such high quality but you could see the kids stopping and touching the stones, looking for the fossils, and seams that run through many. I would never claim to be anything approaching arty, but I was hugely impressed by the way they had gone about this build.
Having spoken to the VP in charge of visitors, who showed us round (and had to break away to see the Korean Arts Minister!) we decided to abandon Universal and head for Paul Smith back across town.
The 761 bendy bus delivered us close to where we needed to be. It claimed to be par of a ‘green’ fleet but it bounced ad shook us across every expansion joint the city had to offer.
Pretty soon the huge pink iconic building jumped out at us, from the low rise morass that surrounds it.
The Sheriff did his shots, we marvelled at the beautiful interior of the building which is far more characterful than the outside and pored over the mass of Nottingham images and connections that Paul Smith has littered throughout his store.
It as then off to the Farmers Market, which is like Covent Garden with attitude and a brilliant role model for Sneinton. It was clean, had great food smells throughout and a madly eclectic mix of retailers, food outlets and restaurants. A classy French restaurant sat next to a Mexican take out, which was in turn next to a peanut butter outlet and a place that sold really vulgar named chipotle style sauces such as Sphincter Stretcher, Hot and Horny and Colon Cleaner.
At the back of the site was a little stand called the Gumbo Pot which sold New Orleans based food, next to a karaoke stage. As tacky as this sounds, it was a wonderful place to be as a succession of incredibly talented singers (including one called Patrick Presley singing Elvis numbers) stood up to take their turn (as well as a few utter eejits who couldn’t hit a single note).
This would have to go down as one of the most chilled places I have ever been in the world. Couples, families, students, kids, old young, literally a perfect cross section of society sat, sang and ate together. If we can create something as good as this in Sneinton, we will be onto a real winner. It was world class amongst the world class.
And the finally it was over to The Grove. On the surface, only a street like London’s Carnaby street, but so clean you could eat off it.
It came complete with a beautifully restored trolly bus running up and down it. It only ran for the length of the Square down to Broadmarsh, but the driver and conductor (even though it was free) were oozing character and fun for the whole time we were on it. Could we pull this off in Nottingham? I’d like to think so, but we have to develop a much more intuitive service culture for it work at this level.
So that’s it for the day. Its 11.40 pm, I’m back at the hotel. Its 7.40 am UK time and I’m shattered. We’re off to the museum of Tolerance tomorrow morning (as this is one the people at Getty told us we just had to see) and then of to San Francisco tomorrow afternoon. Night night.