By Kathy Hardeman
(Lonnnnnnng load time for photos, patience, please!)
After processing for a week, I’ve decided that the only way to recap my fantabulous excursion into the Mecca of suntans and soap stars is to address my stay in increments. Since journaling has become my new sanity saving hobby, that’s how I will proceed. So many stories and comments, so little time. Forgive me if I find myself inserting “and thens” because the weekend experience was overwhelming in the most wonderful way and I am sure that I’ll remember events from Friday while I am writing about Saturday.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Planes and Automobiles
It’s a small, small world because my first little event of the morning occurred upon my arrival at the hotel where the shuttle picks up passengers for the airport. At 6:15 I strolled in tugging my suitcase behind me and sat down on a bench in the lobby next to a talkative woman who began asking the usual traveling questions like “Where ya headed?” and “Why are you going there?” Turns out she was raised in Studio City, my very destination, and attended Hollywood High with John Wayne’s kids, Glen Ford’s kids and several others. In the best possible life experience way, she had me way beat in the name dropping department and it was interesting to listen to descriptions of her childhood in a less sophisticated Studio City.
The plane ride was uneventful except that I happened to find myself seated next to a cute college aged guy which was nice even though we didn’t talk. Do you really want to hear about the man who I thought was stuck in the tiny plane bathroom? Or how I was almost in panic mode deciding if I should inform the flight attendant that he was stuck in there because I had to go and he’d maneuvered his bulky body in and didn’t come out – for ages? Or wondering if the bathroom would even be usable since he’d camped in there so long? But it turned out that all was well and he proved it by exiting the tiny room adorned with the end of the toilet paper roll stuck to the bottom of his shoe which he proceeded to pull down the aisle of the plane for several yards. Picture Jackie Gleason in the old movie “Smokey and the Bandit”. My complete conversation with the cute guy next to me was my involuntary exclamation, “Thank goodness! I thought he was stuck.” Startled away from the music playing in his headphones, he glanced at the man heading down the aisle complete with toilet paper attached to the heel of his shoe, glanced at me and we both cracked up. I love touching little moments like that.
By far though, one of the best parts of the day, was strolling down the concourse after landing in Sacramento and spotting Katrina waving at me as I rode the escalator down to pick up my luggage. I am blessed to count such a wise person among my friends. After days of anticipation filled with unending hours of childcare, riding with Katrina offered a respite in a soothing pool of grown upness I’d been craving from the bottom of my soul. We drove from Sacramento to Los Angeles and enjoyed every second of the time. In advance, we’d discussed music tastes and came prepared to rock our way to Los Angeles but we were so busy talking and laughing that we blew off the tunes and didn’t miss them. Riding with Katrina was like walking a path strewn with wisdom rocks - change a conversation topic, turn over a rock, find another pearl of wisdom laced with wit and a sense of humor. Talk about fun!
Granny Wears a Thong
I am going to share some intimate information that I normally wouldn’t but I feel it’s important for anyone younger than me to understand. For the first time in my life, because I’d worn white capris to travel in, I was wearing a thong. It felt….liberating. I’d broken free from the land of Grannyville and turned into an independent walking, talking individual all because of my bare bottom. If you ever discover that your Grandmother or mother is wearing a thong, you should realize that during that time she’s not your comfortable, in a rut, Granny or Mom. She’s stepping out and become her own person. Freedom comes from the funniest places.
Around 7 we arrived and checked into the hotel. We freshened up and walked over to the Sportsman’s Lodge to meet up with the rest of the crew, Kelly, Karen and Dianna, who’d arrived earlier in the afternoon. We met up with Kelly as she exited the ladies room and quickly found Karen and Dianna. I know I’ve written the same gushing paragraphs each year about how it felt like we’d always known each other, but truly, that’s how it feels. We met in person for the first time (except for Kelly who I’d met in Dallas in February), hugged, and the chatter began. Kelly, Karen and Dianna had already reached a comfort level from visiting by the pool and relaxing with a couple drinks. We meandered to the Patio Café and I felt that I was in the presence of greatness. It’s an amazing thing to be included with such a group of smart, witty, fun, well informed women and there was so much in store for us – adventure, laughter, excitement, and shameful betrayal (but I shall reveal that tale later).
The evening ended on some poolside chairs by the pool and I knew I was tired because I’d walked by Lindze Letherman when we arrived at the Sportsman’s Lodge and barely turned my head. Wally Kurth kindly whipped off his shirt outside of the bingo room which was visible from our poolside vantage point. Jennifer Bransford came out and chatted with fans, obviously soaking in the unique thrill of adoration that comes from playing a major role on “General Hospital”.
Carol Banks Weber made her appearance during the evening and I surprised myself (and maybe her) by jumping up and hugging her. It was wonderful to have a real face, personality, and body to attach to the writing I read each week. Carol was like a butterfly landing tentatively during the weekend, testing the waters and then flying away to write down her observations. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with her.
Meeting Dianna, Karen, Kelly, and Carol was like trying out new spices on food. Each one brings her own special tang, her own brand of humorous take on what’s happening around them and I think we all blended well. If we were a food dish I don’t know what you’d call us, but I bet we’d taste wonderful. It fascinated me to watch our personalities -quirks, glitches and goodness - blend into a happy group.
Friday, July 15, 2005
We met for breakfast and introduced Kelly, Karen and Dianna to the feasting luxuries at Twains complete with the same waitress who has served our breakfast for the past couple years and from her look many, many years before our annual sojourn. Apparently, it completely threw them off to have a table with five persons when the booths are made for four. Truly, I am not a troublemaker but it was kinda funny to watch them freak out over having to drag in a plastic chair from the patio so I could sit at the end of the table and not actually in the booth. Then I messed up again by ordering *gasp* salad for breakfast. It’s just that I don’t like most breakfast foods and since the menu says 24 hours, I thought I’d have my usual lunch for breakfast. Breaking out the lettuce during the A.M. hours was tough I’m sure but happily, they eventually located salad fixings behind the eggs and pancake batter and dumped them in a bowl for me.
Friday morning was adventure morning. For the first time in three years of traveling to the Fan Club Weekend I broke out and left the one block vicinity between the Days Inn and the Sportsman’s Lodge. Katrina and Dianna wanted to visit a particular book store on Melrose Street and I needed souvenirs for the kids. We dropped off Katrina and Dianna and took off in Katrina’s rental car on our souvenir quest. Melrose Street didn’t yield much for children unless I was in the market for nipple rings, leather collars or t-shirts that said things like, “Honk If You’re A Virgin”. Not quite what I had in mind to remind my children and grandchildren of my trip to Hollywood. I did harbor a passing thought of writing a short piece about the man-on-the-street guy in jeans, tight sleeveless t-shirt with knee high black biker boots standing in front of one of the closed shops, but truthfully, he kinda scared me. Some fleeting ideas are meant to be squashed and not acted upon.
With 45 minutes left until it was time to pick up Katrina and Dianna we dashed to the car and made our way toward Hollywood Boulevard. The drive was scattered and so were my thoughts. It went something like this:
Kathy: “Wow, that a big bra!” There’s an obvious trend in Hollywood to utilize the sides of buildings as advertising murals. I saw several buildings advertising upcoming television shows and movies. One highrise featured a lady several stories tall wearing a beautiful blue bra. It was tastefully done, but a little startling.
Kathy: Left, left, turn around, right “You guys remember the way back don’t you? Hey look a boxing gym. I want to go in the boxing gym. I want some pictures of sweaty guys boxing. Want to stop?” Pieces of a story took root in my head of writing about looking for GH guys, especially Maurice, and the boxing gym was a logical choice. Besides, it would be cool to see guys sparring like I’d seen on television.
The Others: “We can’t stop. We don’t have time. Besides, it’s not like you’re going to see Maurice in the gym.”
Kathy: “That’s not the point, I want pictures of and with sweaty boxing guys.” A couple blocks further, “Wow, now that’s a tacky souvenir store. Let’s park and go there.” Where’s parking? Oops, one way street.
Others: Turn here. Go around the block. Turn here!
K: The tires didn’t squeal but in my head they did as we made the turn, went around the block only to come upon Hollywood High. Darn it! I’m driving and can’t snap a picture of 90210 for real. Kathy zones out for a couple seconds as a writing idea zings and words begin running through my head.
Others: “Turn into the paid parking. There’s no traffic behind us, back up, turn, turn!”
Karen nicely threw money at the parking attendant and we dashed off on our 20 minute tourist sojourn. Coming through the alleyway onto Hollywood Boulevard, we hit the jackpot as we stepped onto the Avenue of Stars with the real Herbie the Lovebug parked by the curb, the Kodak Theater and Chinese Theater were right across the street and souvenir shops were exploding onto the sidewalk all around us.
I spent $88 on 6 t-shirts in approximately 5 minutes and we trotted outside to the ever changing, fascinating sights to see what we could see in 20 minutes before dashing back to pick up Katrina and Dianna.
Here’s our whirlwind tour of Hollywood Boulevard in no particular order.
Karen and Kelly make nice with the stilt man who said he gets paid enough to stand around.
The real Herbie the Lovebug was parked in front of a movie theater.
Kelly bravely stepped off the curb into the street to take a Herbie picture from the street angle. The Herbie attendant freaked and herded her back onto the sidewalk. I bet his boss told him, “Don’t let any crazy tourists stand in the street and get run over while you’re guarding Herbie!”
I found Tom Cruise’s star. Tom Cruise doesn’t do much to warm my inners but I liked sitting on the sidewalk and taking the picture. Does Brad Pitt have a star?
See those crazy jaywalkers? Kelly and Karen forced me to jaywalk too so I could save them from traffic or maybe it was because I was falling behind because I am easily distracted and then I had to run to catch up.
Sergeant Sexy was standing in front of the Chinese Theater. I don’t know why she was standing there but I asked her for some pointers on being sexy.
She tactfully remarked that I didn’t need any pointers because I looked very nice. Surprise flattery is always appreciated.
Charlie Chaplin attached him/herself to Karen.
Harrison Ford kindly left his autograph for me in the cement in front of the theater.
We all bow in reverence to daytime icon, Susan Lucci, whose star we found purely by accident as we reluctantly worked our way back to the car.
Heading out I actually remembered streets and directions, but I am always afraid that I won’t remember and become lost. It’s the anal bus driver part of my personality. Fortunately, my copiloting buddies had a good sense of direction and we drove the same road right past the boxing gym again.
K: Let’s stop. I want pictures. It will only take a minute.
Others: We can’t. We only have 8 minutes to pick up Katrina and Dianna.
K: Look, there’s parking. C’mon, let’s stop. It’ll be fun.
Others: Kathy, get a grip. Mo isn’t in the boxing gym.
K: I don’t need to actually see Mo, I just want to look for Mo. Besides I want a picture with a sweaty boxing guy.
Others (chanting): No time, no time.
Sigh. They were right so I continued driving, but I didn’t want to concede it. We were almost 10 minutes late picking up Katrina and Dianna who were standing outside in the heat waiting on the corner for us. They jumped in and we were off up and down the twisty, winding roads back to Ventura Boulevard and an afternoon with Greg Vaughan.
As we drove over Sunset Boulevard Karen pointed out Monaco Liquors on the corner and said we’d found Kelly’s house which made us all laugh since we’d already discussed the fact that Kelly Monaco had mentioned in an old interview that she had an apartment on Sunset Blvd and she enjoyed sitting on her patio watching the cars go by. We tried to snap a picture but it didn’t turn out. OK, so it was mundane but to 5 funny women in a car, it offered a moment of hilarity.
This is the view from California at the bottom of the hill.
We snapped this picture of a broken house as we returned from our adventures in Hollywood, oohing over the collapsed house on the side of the road.
This is the view from California at the top of the hill.
Ironically, on Sunday during the shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport we stopped at the Hilton at Universal Studios so I played with my camera snapping pictures. The driver wandered over and mentioned a house that had actually collapsed and fallen down the hill recently. I asked if it had landed beside Santa Monica Blvd. He said it had and added that luckily the family had not fallen with the house.
We arrived at Days Inn and hit the ground running to Greg Vaughan’s event. OK, I hear you. You really want to know about the events and not the trivial stuff. It’ll be along shortly.