Thursday, August 27, 2009

LA: The Middle Weeks

I must say that I adjusted to life in Los Angeles quite happily and easily. The constant sunshine agreed with me and, despite my fears, the summertime temperatures were quite moderate for most of our stay. For the whole middle section of the Los Angeles engagement, the temperatures were cooler in LA than New York and there was next to no humidity. I didn't turn on the air conditioning for several weeks and slept with the windows of my bungalow open every night. The sun even inspired me to hit the beach - an, until now, sort of unheard of idea for me! In the middle stretch of the run, I did fewer touristy activities and just settled into a more regular rhythm - one that didn't involve my luggage.

DVZ celebrated a birthday in LA. There was the usual cake at intermission, but there was also a celebratory night on the town. David, Roy, James and I loaded up and headed out to West Hollywood to celebrate in appropriate fashion. There were shots at midnight to welcome DVZ's birthday followed by greasy hamburgers to stave off the hangover!

David ringing in another year!

I welcomed a second set of visitors to my Hollywood bungalow - Dana and Steve were in California for a wedding and paid me a visit! It was just a quick overnight affair, but it's always good to see folks from my "real life" out here in my life on the road. Our first order of business was to properly welcome them to CA with an In-N-Out Burger followed by some catching up on all the WaHi gossip. The next morning they were off to Orange County for the wedding, but I loaded them up with breakfast from one of my new favorite spots, Vienna Cafe, before they hit the road in their convertible.

Dana and Steve show off their fancy California wheels

While I certainly enjoyed some quieter hours in the bungalow, I did get out to see and do. Alexa arranged a horseback riding adventure in the Hollywood Hills that was a hoot. Sunset Ranch provided the trail horses - like all good trail horses, these beasts knew the way and would not be deterred from the path - and Griffith Park provided a dramatic setting. We set off from the ranch, which is set in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, on the first ride of the morning and were back before lunch. Our horses carried us up to the top of Mount Hollywood for a hazy view across Los Angeles on one side and the valley on the other with the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee dividing the two.

Merle and her steed atop Mount Hollywood with Mount Lee and the Hollywood sign in the distance

Angela leads the way down the backside of the mountain

The social event of the middle weeks was a poolside barbecue hosted by the Cooper-Bowens. Graham's family calls Studio City home (his sister, Andrea, is a series regular - and two time SAG Award winner - on Desperate Housewives) and were nice enough to open their home to the Spamily. We lounged by the pool while Graham manned the grill and a seemingly endless endless procession of food emerged from the kitchen.

Is this the perfect setting for an afternoon off?!?!
(Thanks to Nate for this snap)

Horseplay abounded: Nigel and Nate canon ball their way into the pool

Carissa sums up the afternoon

One of Havasi's infamous "essence shots" - the Spamily pool-side

After all that eating and lounging, I needed get up and move. The next morning I hit the hiking trails in Temescal Canyon. Temescal Canyon begins in the Santa Monica mountains and sweeps down the Pacific Ocean at Will Rogers Beach. I hiked from Temescal Gateway Park (the former site of a Methodist Chautauqua camp) up to Skull Rock and back. The first part of the hike was dry, hot and kicked my butt as I climbed one of the canyon's walls. I hiked past cactus and through scrub as the fog from the marine layer began to retreat back to the ocean. Skull rock, at the head of the canyon, was impressive: a wind cut boulder with a beautiful view across Pacific Palisades to the Pacific. The hike back to the car was much easier as I descended to the canyon's floor and followed a small stream. Like all my other hikes in California, the variety and changeability of the terrain and flora as the water comes and goes from the landscape was really fascinating.

At the top of Temescal Canyon with Skull Rock
(Alas, I didn't run into Captain Hook or Smee at Skull Rock...)

The view from the top of Temescal Canyon toward the ocean.
As I reached Skull Rock, the fog of the marine layer was retreating. Inland, the sun was shining bright while the beach was still cloudy.

Along the floor of the canyon I encountered lots of Toyon bushes.
Toyon is also known as "California Holly" and is, allegedly, the source of the name Hollywood

Back at the theatre, Spamalot was cruising right along. We bid farewell to Sarah-Lin Johnson and welcomed Nicky Della Penta. We also welcomed Matthew Greer back to the stage as Rick Holmes' short stay with us came to an end. Otherwise, it was pretty quiet:

Darryl napping inside one of the wardrobe racks

We did get a visit from an old friend: Jamie Karen, one of our former show girls, is a LA resident and dropped by the Ahmanson. When she visited, Jamie was 9 months pregnant. She wanted to try on her old showgirl costume. With the help of Roy, some elastic and safety pins, Jamie looked great as "the Orange Girl":

Shortly after her visit, Jamie and her husband Mark welcomed Kylie Scott Deklin into the world. Both mother and baby girl are doing well. Kylie arrived as big as she looked in Jamie's belly: 8 pounds 15 ounces, 20 and a half inches long.

The whole LA engagement was building to the events of weeks #6 and 7: the last visit of Wife to Spamalot on the road! More about that next time -


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Los Angeles Week #3

I kicked off the third week in LA with the one and only thing I had my heart set on doing while in Southern California: a visit to the La Brea Tar Pits. Ever since the childhood fascination with dinosaurs and fossils that I think afflicts every middle schooler, I've been interested in the tar pits. I'm happy to report that they are as cool as I had hoped!

Surprisingly, to me anyway, the tar pits are right in the middle of urban Los Angeles! (I suppose this surprised me because it's difficult to imagine mammoths and sabre-toothed cats wandering along Wilshire Boulevard...) All over Hancock Park asphalt, tar and methane bubble up out of the ground. The gunk is forced up through the fissures and cracks that all the seismic activity in the area has created. Sometimes, the tar comes up in big pools, but other times it just comes up through the grass or parking lot! The smell of the place is quite something - it has the powerful oder of a road construction project.

A methane bubble rising through the tar

Roy, Jason and I turned into little kids when we found a stick laying near one of the tar seeps - we couldn't help poking the stick into the tar. Sadly, some of the tar ended up on Jason; that stuff doesn't come off!

The tar has been seeping up in this area for tens of thousands of years. In prehistoric times, animals were attracted to water that floated on top of the tar or stumbled into the gooey mess that was camouflaged under a layer of dust and leaves. It took only a few inches of tar to entrap even the largest animals who either died of dehydration or were set up by predators (who often also became and entrapped and died alongside their prey). The bones of entrapped animals sank down into the tar and were preserved by the petrochemicals that seeped into them.

Nearly 400,000 fossils have been recovered from the pits to date. The most well known, of course, are the sabre-toothed cats, mammoths, and mastadons, but all kinds of animals, plants and micro-organisms have also been found. The oldest fossils are 38,000 years old (meaning that there are no dinosaurs but plenty of long-extinct creatures.) The area is still very active with paleontologists who estimate that there are at least that are hundreds of thousands more fossils yet to be unearthed.

Volunteers and professional paleontologists clean and catalog the fossils in a lab inside the Page Museum at the Tar Pits.

Roy and one of the sabre-toothed cats

As the weekend approached, Karl and I hatched a plan whereby we declared Saturday the 25th "Sausage Saturday". Unbeknownst to us, July is National Hot Dog Month, so our declaration was oddly appropriate! We kicked off "Sausage Saturday" at Pink's, the mother of all LA Hotdog Joints (and it turns out there are quite a few). Pink's is familiar to viewers of all the "Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives"-type programs and is a local institution. It's not far from my apartment in Hollywood so I'd been eyeing it from the moment we arrived. From 9:30AM, when Pink's opens for business, until closing time (2AM on weeknights and 3AM on the weekend), there's a line. When Karl and I arrived at 11AM, the line was relatively short: only 1/2 an hour. Their chili dog is what put Pink's on the map when Paul and Betty Pink opened their hotdog stand in 1939. Since then, the menu has grown to include dogs named for celebrities and topped with all sorts of outrageous items.

Karl and I each ordered a "Martha Stewart Dog": 10" stretch dog with mustard, relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream - AMAZING

Of course, the Martha Stewart is kinda hard to eat; but even the signature chili dog is a delightful mess

We continued "Sausage Saturday" between shows at Wurstkuche in downtown LA. Wurstkuche is a neuvo-German sausage joint. They feature classic bratwurst, bockwurts and Italian sausages alongside exotic fare like alligator and pork smoked andouille, rattlesnake and jackrabbit or Filipino Marharlika. They also have delicious hand-cut fries with fun dipping sauces. While sausage Saturday may not have been so good for my waistline, it was quite good for my soul!

Once I discovered that it was, in fact National Hot Dog Month, it seemed only natural to keep celebrating. I'd already sampled a Dodger Dog and Pink's infamous fare - so I sought out a couple more local hot dog legends. Skooby's on Hollywood Boulevard was delicious. The "world famous" Oki-Dog was a bit much: two hot dogs wrapped in a tortilla with pastrami, chili and cheese - too much to appreciate. Mike Berg surprised me with a couple of dogs from Wienershcnitzel ("The world's most wanted wiener"). The Wienerschnitzel chili cheese dog has a unique feature: the cheese is applied to the bun first, then the dog and the chili - this is GENIUS! It holds the cheese in and makes the whole affair easier to eat. I think I did a pretty good job of celebrating...

My other big food adventure of the week was my introduction to Philippe's. Phillipe's is one of two restaurants in Los Angeles that lays claim to having invented the French Dip Sandwich (the other is Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet). Philippe Mathieu immigrated from France to the US in 1901 and moved to LA in 1908, opening the first incarnation of Philippe's. There are several explanations for the invention of the French Dip - but they all result in half of a roll being dipped in a au jus and placed atop a sandwich of sliced roast meat. The restaurant doesn't appear to have changed much in 100 years, sawdust covers the floor, orders are taken at a long deli counter and customers eat a large communal tables. In addition to their famous sandwiches, Philippe's serves all manner of salads, pickled eggs, pies and homemade lemonade and ice tea. It's wonderful and a local institution. The night Jeff Brewer took me there, the lines were long, but fast moving, with crowds in Dodger Blue on their way to Chavez Ravine.

$15 gets you quite a tray of food at Philippe's...

On Sunday, Spamalot celebrated a milestone with one of our original cast members: Darryl turned thirty! We had our usual cake at intermission celebration, but then Darryl also threw a do at a bar in West Hollywood after the show. Lots of his "real-life" friends also turned up and made for a fun evening.

Darryl blows out the candles on his ice cream cakes

After all that great food, I needed to do something with my day off to work some of it off. Shey and I headed to the San Gabriel Mountains to do a bit of hiking in the Angeles National Forest. We set off early in the morning (7:30 is pretty early for me) to avoid the worst heat of the day, though it was more than 10 degrees cooler up in the mountains. The San Gabriel Mountains make up the western portion of the bowl that surrounds Los Angeles and separate LA from the Mojave Desert. Bordered on the north by the San Andreas Fault, the San Gabriels are the fastest growing mountains on earth: rising at 1/10th of an inch a year as the colliding plates heave them upwards.

Our initial destination was the Cooper Canyon Falls. We hit the trail at the Buckhorn Campground some 30 miles along the Angeles Crest Highway from the nearest town and at 6,300'. The day was brilliantly clear and sunny - perfect for hiking. As we hiked along Cooper Canyon, the scenery was constantly changing: sometimes high, rocky desert, sometimes lush with ferns and grasses and sometimes dotted with pines and redwoods. Like so much of life around Los Angeles, the terrain changes as water comes and goes. As we descended to the bottom of the canyon, things grew more and more green until we found the creek. In late July, there wasn't much water flowing, but we still managed to find the falls and the big pool at their base. We clambered down a steep trail with the aid of a rope and soaked our feet in the pool with the small trout swimming by and snacked for a while.

w/ Shey at the base of Cooper Canyon Falls

The falls had slowed to a cool, mossy trickle

The hike to the falls and back was quicker than I had expected, just a couple of hours, so Shey and I looked for another mountain adventure. The trail we had hiked part of continued on to an area known as the Devil's Punch Bowl some 10 miles farther on. The Punch Bowl sounded really interesting, so we set out to see it. To reach the Punchbowl by road, however, we had to drive almost 40 miles! The trip was really interesting as it took us down the backside of the San Gabriels into the edges of the Mojave. Again, it was amazing how quickly the landscape changed: pine trees were replaced with surreal-looking Joshua Trees.

The road to the Devil's Punchbowl took us right across the San Andreas Fault. While the fault line was pretty easy to see, it wasn't as dramatic as I had hoped. I expected a line of broken rocks and upheaval but found something more settled looking. From an ariel perspective, the fault line does appear broken as it wends through the mountains, but on the ground it's just slightly bumpy earth. (I'm told there are more dramatic-looking stretches in other areas.)

Being a Midwesterner, I'm afraid of earthquakes and was half expecting the ground to open up and swallow me as I stood on the fault line.

As we approached the Devil's Punchbowl, my need for dramatic landscapes was sated. Three fault lines come together in the area (the San Andreas, Pinyon and Punchbowl Faults) and make the area quite unstable. As the faults push together, the surrounding land is heaved up into a 'V' shape. At points in the Punchbowl formation, this 'V' is 300' deep with the sandstone on either side rising up dramatically.

Layers of sandstone pushed up to form the Devil's Punchbowl

The landscape quite dramatic with these layers of sandstone rising up hundreds of feet over the surrounding landscape

A great ranger at the Punchbowl's visitors center explained the basics of the geological forces that created the formations as well as introduced us to many of the animals that live in the area. The Punchbowl lies at the boundary where the mountains meet the desert making it a very diverse place. It receives snow in the winter but is quite arid in the summer months. All kinds of creepy snakes make their home in the area (I avoided those displays) as do mountain cats, coyotes, lots of birds and some crazy insects. It's quite an interesting place.

Shey and I were back in LA by dinner time. I whipped up a big batch of gazpacho from the many astonishingly fresh vegetables available in Souther California. (The sun just doesn't stop around here! If there's water available, one can grow almost anything in the area. While this abundance is shipped all over the country, it's at its freshest in local markets making for an amazing array of delicious choices.) I was pretty beat after a day in the mountains and sunshine, but enjoyed a bowl full of summer-tasting goodness to wrap up the first third of the LA engagement.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Beach and a Ballgame

For my second day off in the City of Angeles, I got the best of both worlds: a trip to the beach AND a trip to the ballpark!

Roy and I started the day off with a trip to Santa Monica. First, we stopped off at 'The Shack' for the Shack Burger, which came highly recommended by Erik Hayden, one of Spamalot's resident beach bums. The Shack Burger lived up to its reputation, big, juicy and topped with a butterflied Louisiana hot link! We did a bit of shopping along the 3rd Street Promenade - a really nice pedestrian mall just a few blocks from the beach. From there, it was just steps to the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a long staircase down to the giant, white, sandy beach. We strolled along the beach and put our toes in the ocean on the way to the famous pier. We ate lunch on the pier and rode both the West Coaster and Pacific Wheel at Pacific Park on the pier.

Even on a Monday, the beach at Santa Monica was hopping

Pacific Park is an amusement park built right on the Santa Monica Pier! It's mostly kids' rides, but also features a small roller coaster (the West Coaster) and a giant solar-powered ferris wheel (the Pacific Wheel).

The view from the Pacific Wheel was spectacular!

The ocean end of the pier features a restaurant, a bait shop and a several souvenir shops. It's also a busy fishing spot and home to all manner of buskers.

From Santa Monica, we ran back to Hollywood, collected Scott and headed straight to Dodger Stadium. All I'd been hearing about the Stadium was that it wasn't a very nice ballpark - but I found the opposite to be true! The park opened in 1962 (making it, sort of strangely, the 3rd oldest park in the Major Leagues behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) and has much of that space age feel still in tact.

The sun sets behind left field

The evening was cool with a nice breeze and the hometown fans were jazzed to see Manny Ramirez back in the line-up. The Dodgers held a comfortable lead in their division and the Reds looked like they were going to be another sacrificial lamb. Things got interesting pretty quickly, though. The Dodgers starting pitcher, Jason Schmidt, was making his first big league start since an injury in 2007 and gave up 3 runs in a very messy first inning. The Dodger's bats responded in the home half of the first, driving in four runs to take the lead and energize the Dodger faithful. The rest of the game was fun (the Reds made it close again in the 8th, but fell short) with a final score of 7-5. The highlight of the night was Manny Ramirez's 10th home run of the season. It was career home run number 536 and tied Ramirez with Mickey Mantle for 15th on the All Time Home Run Leaders List.

Roy, Havasi, Jen Mathie, Alexa and Scott joined me at the ballpark

Merle lead the singing of 'God Bless America' at the seventh inning stretch & she sounded great!

We were sitting in the Right Field Pavilion under some of the retired numbers. Of course, number 42 is retired throughout baseball, but the Dodgers are the only team that Robinson ever wore number 42 for.

Did I forget to mention that the Right Field Pavilion is home to the "All You Can Eat Seats"? We enjoyed all the Dodger Dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos we could eat! Here we all are with the first round of Dodger Dogs.

It was a great night at the ballpark and a wonderful capper to a pretty great day. Dodger Stadium marked the 12th Big League Ballpark on my lifetime list and the 28th ballpark I've visited on the tour!


West Coast Googs

After Spamalot opened, I had a few days to recover and get accustomed to Los Angeles. The traffic is a terrible as I had always heard, but the sunshine is also as abundant as rumored. The sun has shone, literally, every day since I've been in LA. It's occasionally cloudy in the morning, but the afternoon is alway sunny and warm. I'm happy to report that while it is hot, it's not as crazy hot as I was worried it would be - most days have topped out in the mid-80's here in Hollywood and it's been cool enough most every night open the windows.

During my first weekend, Mike Gugliotti arrived in California! Googs was in town to see the Yanks take on the Angels and check out the sights before heading down to visit another friend in San Diego. As soon as he set down his bag, we headed out for In 'N Out Burger. Mike was thrilled by all the exotic fast food choices LA has to offer, but I made him drive by Carl's Junior, Jack In the Box and Del Taco in favor of the finest fast food hamburger commercially available. I'm happy to report that he was suitably impressed with his Double/Double.

As I set out for work on Sunday, Mike headed to Anaheim:

Googs' lucky jersey failed to prevent the Yanks from falling victim to the Angels' broom

After the show, Mike needed some cheering up so we went to Santa Monica Pier. Chili cheese fries, funnel cakes and the sea air did the trick: we were both grinning like kids before the pier closed up for the night.

w/ the Pacific Wheel on Santa Monica Pier

Bright and early on Monday morning, Googs and I were off the Santa Catalina Island. We caught a 10AM ferry and were on the island before noon. We left behind the traffic of LA and exchanged it for a place where most people travel by golf cart! Catalina is part of the Channel Islands Archipelago that lies just of the Southern California Coast. Catalina is about 22 miles off the coast, but a world apart from the rest of Los Angeles County.

The major town on the island is Avalon which is home to about 3,000 residents. Avalon is the ultimate beach town. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and tchotchke shops to go along with the beautiful beaches and hiking trails.

The village of Avalon

Googs and I on the beach in Avalon

Catalina and Avalon have long been getaways for Angelenos. William Wirgley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 and quickly began developing, preserving and promoting the island. His Chicago Cubs did their pre-season training and played exhibition games on the island. In addition to building hotels, a horse ranch and the island's famous Casino, Wrigley purchased two great steamships to transport tourists to the island. His vision was not just of a tourist resort, but also included preserving the natural beauty of the island's interior. Today, the Catalina Island Conservancy owns more than 42,000 acres of the island (nearly 90%) and is dedicated to preserving it in its natural state.

Mike and I toured the island's interior (and got a few glimpses of the famous Catalina Bison herd) on the this very cool 1950's "Flxible" bus.

The Avalon Casino - built by Mr. Wrigley in 1929, the Casino is home to a 1,150 seat movie theatre on the lower level and an enormous circular dance floor on the upper level. In its day, the Casino and its big bands were a huge attraction on the island - both steamers would ferry passengers over for weekend dances. It is a truly magnificent building.

As the sun set, Googs and hopped the last boat back to the mainland, having had a truly great day off. We had a relaxingly busy day (touring the island interior and the Casino, margaritas and lunch overlooking the bay, souvenir shopping, soaking or feet in the ocean, eating ice cream) but left many things undone as well (glass bottom boat tours, flying fish tours, hiking, snorkeling). Catalina begs for another visit!

Googs relaxes as the ferry leaves Avalon

The sun sinks into the Santa Barbara Channel

Before work on Tuesday, Mike and I visited the Getty Center. The Getty Center is home to much of the art collection amassed by J. Paul Getty. Getty was the founder of the Getty Oil Company and was declared by Fortune magazine to be the richest living American in 1957. He was an avid collector of art and antiques who left the bulk of his fortune toward the establishment of a museum. Along with the Getty Villa, the Getty Center houses a collection that ranges from Greek sculpture to modern photographs.

The Center was designed by Richard Meier with gardens by Robert Irwin. The combination of the buildings, the gardens and the hundreds of acres in their natural state is breathtaking.

Set in the hills of the Santa Monica Mountains in Brentwood, the Center has beautiful views of the surroundings. This is the view from the South Promontory across the cactus garden and toward downtown Los Angeles (which is, sadly, obscured in the smog at the far left).

I enjoyed the Getty Center as much for its architecture and gardens as for its vast art collection. I enjoy the works of artists from the Impressionists forward most and this is where the Getty's collection leaves off. They have one van Gogh (the beautiful Irises) and a few Toulouse-Lautrec drawings, but this is as modern has their collection gets. I did, however, very much enjoy their collection of illuminated manuscripts and gothic altarpieces.

While Googs went to visit the rest of the Getty's holdings at the Getty Villa on Wednesday, I went for a dose of somewhat lower culture: 25 members of the Spamily attended a taping of The Price Is Right! We met at the unheard of, for theatre types, hour of 9AM at CBS Television City for screening and sorting. Each member of the audience fills out a bit of paperwork and is briefly interviewed by a producer who chooses the on-stage contestants. Without giving away too much (you can watch our episode on October 21st), one of the Spam-fam was chosen to "Come on down!", somebody won "A BRAND NEW CAR!" and Plinko was played (to everyone's great delight). We had an absolute blast at the taping. Drew Carey is funny and charming in person and it was fun to see all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on between takes. I'm also a little embarrassed to tell you how easy it is to get really into The Price Is Right - when the announcer says "IT'S A BRAND NEW CAR!" I couldn't help but scream and wave my arms!

CBS confiscated our cell phones and cameras before we were admitted to the studio (which is, PS, just as cool as it looks on TV in all it 70's fabulousness), but Nigel snapped this photo of all of us waiting for our interview on the hateful benches outside CBS Television City.

I bid Googs farewell as I headed to work on Wednesday night and he headed for San Diego. We had a very busy and great time during his visit to LA. I'm looking forward to a couple more visitors in the coming weeks: Dana & Steve will make a brief appearance and then Wife will make her final visit to the SpamTour!


Bonus picture - Mike's Yankee inspired visit reminded me:

I pass this heart-breaking billboard every day on my way to the theatre.
The Dodgers have a whole series of these billboards around town. They feature both members of the ball club and various LA celebrities declaring that "This is my town: Dodgertown." (My favorite features Yoda and says: "My town this is".)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spam In La-La Land

Spamalot arrived in Los Angeles with a bang: our director, Mike Nichols, paid a surprise visit to the company! Mike, Eric Idle and assorted others watched our first (and only) preview performance at the Ahmanson Theater and gave notes after the show in anticipation of our official opening night the following day. Mercifully, Mike and Eric's notes were generally positive and the company was spared a rehearsal the next afternoon. It's always a pleasure to listen to Mike gives notes; he's both a very smart director and a genuinely funny man.

Our home for the 9 weeks of our LA engagement is the Ahmanson Theater at the Los Angeles Music Center. Much like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Lincoln Center in New York, the Music Center is home to several performance venues and resident companies. The complex is composed of the Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Ahmanson is named for Philanthropist Robert H. Ahmanson and opened in 1967. It's a modern, multi-purpose performing arts facility with ample room and facilities for Spamalot.

The Ahmanson Theater

The Mark Taper Forum is a circular building designed by Welton Becket (as were the other two buildings in the original Music Center) and clad in a concrete relief designed by Jacques Overhoff.

The spectacular Disney Concert Hall sits across the street from the rest of the Music Center. Frank Gehry designed the new home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale. It is a beautiful building and I absolutely love that I pass it each day on the way to work!

Our opening night in the City of Angels was the biggest event of the tour since I joined 2 and a half years ago. The performance and the opening night party were attended by celebrities of varying fields and star-power. Among the invited guests were: Billy Crystal, Scott Hamilton, Kevin Nealon, Anthony LaPaglia, Laurence Fishburne, Bobcat Goldthwait, Lori Anderson and Bob Saget. (Several of us were excited to see Betty White on the guest list but were disappointed when she was a no-show.) The party was a pretty grand affair on the roof of the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Gurr snapped this great picture of the party's setting

Richard Chamberlain joined us at the opening night - everyone was thrilled to see him again.
Richard, Paula, Joanne Worley & Jamie Karen (Jamie is another Spam-Tour Allum we were all happy to see again)

Eric Idle takes Merle for a spin on the dance floor

In my favorite snap of the evening, Life and Art collide as John O'Hurley and Fred Willard (the real-life Co-Host of the Purina Dog Show and the fictional Co-Host of the Mayflower Kennel Club Show) converse.

My home base for the Los Angeles engagement is a bungalow in Hollywood's Clinton Manor. The apartment complex is just a few blocks from Paramount Studios and was built in the 1920's by Paramount to house their contract players and writers. I like to imagine that the apartment I'm renting was once home to Rudolph Valentino or maybe to Bing Crosby's starlet girlfriend!

My pink bungalow in Hollywood