Today, Tuesday, May 18, was ear-marked for my visit to Hollywood. Angeliki
had arranged for me to go to Universal Studios, but before that we were
going to Hollywood Walk.
Hollywood Walk is
the street where all the movie stars have their STARS on the sidewalk.
There are so many stars there that it would take forever to read them
and try to remember who they were. And no-one seemed to walk on the
stars lest they upset someone or do any damage.
STARS in Hollywood Walk.
Getting your own star doesn’t
come by accident. Applications are made to the city, and these stars
must get approval before they are placed.
The Chinese Theater
was the central attraction. Once I understood that the Chinese Theatre
had nothing to do with being a Chinese theatre, I was able to accept
the fact that all these stars emanated from there. Not only that, but
the hand prints and footprints of the stars could only be found at the
Apparently the Hollywood
Hills were just around the corner, so we drove by to see the giant white-lettered
HOLLYWOOD sign following the contours of the green hill with the blue
sky as a backdrop.
At 10am Angeliki dropped me off at Universal Studios. I was already
hungry, so I ate a chicken-apple flavoured hotdog with a side serve
of fries and a soft-drink. No time to think about eating healthy today.
About to walk
down the red carpet and into Universal Studios.
The giant Universal Studios
globe rotated outside the entry gates which reminded me of huge ancient
Roman gates from a Ben Hur movie. And a long bright red carpet, flanked
by massive palm trees, ran right up to those gates.
Entry to Universal Studios
was about $50. But as I waited in line, the guy in front of me said,
“How many of you going inside?”
“Just me”, I
“What a shame”,
he said. “I’ve got this 2-for-1 voucher, so you could’ve
got in for half price”.
Just then a girl joined the
end of the queue. She was on her own too, so the guy asked if we would
like half-price tickets and we both agreed. I waited for him to buy
the tickets first before outlaying the $25, and sure enough, we were
able to get in with those tickets. Then it dawned on me what he’d
done. That voucher was valid for up to 6 people. He was there with his
wife and 2 children, so he’d normally have to pay about $200 to
get in. But seeing he got in for half-price (-$100), and seeing he got
two lots of $25 cash from me and the other girl in line (-$50), his
total cost for the day was much less than $50, because the children
didn’t have to pay a full price entry fee.
So now I was just about to
enter Universal Studios, but not before my bag was checked by security
guards. It was becoming more and more apparent that security checks
had become the norm in America.
I glanced quickly at the
Universal Studios map and time schedules for each event. I was there
early so I’d probably be able to see most of them. I headed for
the closest attraction and, from then on, I continued going from one
attraction to another until closing time. I visited 10 attractions altogether
and this is what I thought of each one.
Helsing. This was a typical ghost train type of attraction,
but done as a walk-through. The passageways were very dark and occasionally
someone dressed as a ghost or Grim Reaper would come out and touch someone
on the back of the head trying to startle them. My first exhibit was
very disappointing. Thank goodness the quality picked up from there.
Tour. This was a guided bus carriage tour. And one of
the things I learned was that Universal Studios was the largest studio
in the world, having made 8,000 movies. We passed by many movie sets
which showed how special effects were achieved for a wide variety of
films. As we drove over an old wooden bridge, it collapsed! Then once
we got off it, it pulled itself together again. We saw street and city
sets. We saw flood, rain and lightning effects at the Los Amigos set.
We saw King Kong trying to break another bridge we were crossing. And
we saw an earthquake scene in an underground railway station set. There
was the Psycho set, still with the skeleton of the old lady rocking
in her chair. We drove past the Munster’s House. And, finally,
our bus was attacked by the Jaws shark as we crossed over a shallow
This was probably my favourite attraction. Before entering the stadium
I was told that the white seats were the dry seats, but if I sat on
a green seat I’d definitely get wet. So I sat on a green ‘soaking’
seat, midway between the front row and the white ‘dry’ seats.
The Waterworld set was built around a giant pool. Maybe it was the set
for a dolphin attraction many years ago.
in full motion.
Rusty old corrugated
tin sheets rose high along the far side of the pool, just like in the
Waterworld movie. Soon there would be boats splashing in the water,
so it was obvious that some people would get wet. Three performers came
out to prepare the audience for the show. It was the usual thing where
each section of the stadium was asked to be louder than the one next
to it. But when one of these guys didn’t get a loud enough response
from his group, he filled a bucket of water from the pool and drenched
the audience in the 3 front rows! Soon the other guys were following
suit. So I guess, as long as the only people getting wet were on the
green seats, it was OK! Luckily the show began soon afterwards. It was
extremely well done with jet-skis and boats speeding in and out of the
set, and spraying the audience with more water. And the show finally
ended after several fire explosions, actors falling several stories
into the water and a seaplane crashing over the wall and into the pool.
Amazingly, even though I sat in a green ‘soaking’ seat,
I left Waterworld dry as a bone. And because it was such a warm sunny
day, the audience that got wet were already nearly dry again.
Rocks. This was a 20 minute rock musical taking place
in a dark alley set on stage. I was surprised to hear modern contemporary
songs such as ‘I Need A Hero (?)’ and ‘We Will Rock
You (Queen)’ rather than songs from the original Spiderman movie.
But it was still a great show, with lots of smoke and fire on stage,
and Spiderman swinging out and above the audience on a giant strand
of web shot out from his wrist.
To The Future. This was my first virtual ride. I got into
the Back To The Future Car and we chased after that idiot from 1955
who stole the time-machine car. The visuals were beautifully done and
the seat motions emulated the dives and turns perfectly on every occasion.
Effects. This was an educational tour through 3 large
sets where we were shown how fake backgrounds, make-up and remote-controlled
robots are used to create special effects. Two audience members volunteered
to participate, and soon one was being attacked by a giant cat and the
other one had been changed into a skeleton. A young boy was given a
robot-control suit and shown how to make a robot of a werewolf make
the same movements as himself. Unfortunately, the werewolf came to life
and ate the host. But it was all just special effects, and soon all
the dead people came back to life and joined us, so we were all able
to relax again.
Park. This was a smooth boat ride through the dinosaur
park, past large and small moving models of prehistoric creatures. Luckily
I’d seen how the ride ended, so I hung on tightly as the boat
plunged down a 50 ft. waterfall. I was lucky to be sitting in the middle
of the boat, so didn’t get wet. But those sitting at the sides
Ron Howard narrated this attraction on-screen. But the effects were
real, and the fire was very, very hot. We saw how fires were set up
and sat through a full-blown explosion scene of a warehouse on fire.
The fire show went for about 3 minutes, but then once it was over, the
entire set rebuilt itself within seconds, ready for the next audience.
4D. This was a 3D movie of Shrek, and the 4th dimension
was the sensations we got from our seats. Our seats rocked when Shrek
rode over the cobblestone roads in his horse-driven cart. They squirted
water into our faces when the donkey sneezed. They blew air into the
back of my neck when the ghost of Prince Farquardt appeared. And they
tickled my feet when a bunch of spiders were dropped onto the floor.
Terminator 2 3D. Live actors were assisted by a 3D film
to make the audience believe it was experiencing a real attack by alien
saucers, etc. Governor Arnold Schwartzenaeger strutted his stuff convincingly
on screen, while his counterpart road his Harley Davidson off screen
and onto the stage, while being pursued by the enemy. Our seats were
also hooked up to the action, getting a jolt as the Harley road over
bumps and squirting us when he splashed through the water.
Was my trip to Universal
Studios good value? It sure was. In fact, I would’ve still been
happy if I’d paid the full price to get in.
Every child’s fantasy is going to Disneyland. And I guess all
adults are really just big kids at heart, because I couldn’t wait
to finally get to Disneyland, and still before I turned 50.
meets the Globe-Trotting LETSaholic.
It was Thursday, May 20,
and I’d been awake since 4.40 am. Gee I must’ve been anxious.
At 8.15 am Angeliki dropped me off at the Los Angeles Airport and I
caught the Supershuttle bound for Disneyland. Next to me was a young
lady who lived in Hampton, a suburb of Melbourne. She seemed a little
disappointed that after a 14 hour flight she was talking to another
Melbournian. But that was her problem, not mine. And it didn’t
help that she couldn’t tell me how Collingwood was doing in the
AFL. The bus trip cost $16, and at 9.15 am I was dropped off at the
The entry fee was $49.75
(AUD$75) and opening hours for Monday to Thursday were 10 am to 8 pm.
I passed through
the evermore familiar security check and entered the theme park at 9.30
am. But I didn’t get very far. The road was roped off at the roundabout
where the entrances to Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland and
Tomorrowland all began, and the rope wasn’t going to come down
until 10 am. So I spent the next half hour browsing through some retail
stores. In that time I noted that Disneyland opened in 1955, the same
year I was born, and will be 50 years old next year. Nice to have such
an internationally renowned icon sharing the same birthday as me. Then
at 10 am I began the same old routine of going from one attraction to
the very next one. I had seen 10 attractions at Universal Studios, and
today I was going to go to quite a few more, 19 in total. Here’s
what I thought of them.
About to enter
into Fantasyland through the famous Fantasyland Castle.
1. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. My first ride
was on this small train carriage which could only be described as ‘wild’
for a 4 year old. It went slowly along a track through mildly dark passages
with paintings of Wind In The Willows characters along the way. This
was all I needed to convince me to get out of Fantasyland very quickly!
2. Star Tour. This was a simulated flight
into outer space. Much more exciting than my first ride. I was definitely
in the grown-ups section now.
I Shrank The Audience. This 3D screening of ‘The
Inventor Of The Year’ was both amusing and entertaining. Rick
Moranis continued causing one disaster after another, and then his children
helped him make more of a mess. In fact, his youngest child (about 4)
managed to shrink us, the audience, then ripped the auditorium up and
carried us off under his arm. Fortunately he was coaxed into giving
us back, otherwise I wouldn’t be around to write this story.
At 1 mile/hour, this was the fastest spinning building in Disneyland.
And I suppose you’ve already guessed that it was the ONLY spinning
building in Disneyland. It opened at 11 am and I was with the very first
group to enter this attraction which allowed everyone unlimited time
to experience all the fun and games within. But there was a catch. There
were no toilets in the building, so you had to leave and then queue
up again if you wanted to get back inside. But it was mainly a promotional
attraction, promoting new technological inventions for manufacturers.
For example, there was a refrigerator that scanned food packages and
told the oven how long to cook it for, and it simultaneously added the
pack to the householder’s current shopping list. However most
of the 2 floors on this building were packed with computers hooked up
to the internet and also featuring children’s software. Then,
of course, there were stacks and stacks of video games.
Monorail. This train travelled for 2 and-a-half miles
(4 km), between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park,
on its way to the Disneyland Hotels. As I wasn’t staying in one
of those hotels, I just enjoyed the smooth and quiet round trip back
6. Golden Horseshoe Stage. I went there for lunch and
ordered a real burger with fries and dessert. But I over-ate! Later
I came back and saw a 4-man Hillbilly Band performing. They were very
good with lots of humour incorporated into their act. At one point they
coaxed a young lady to join them from the audience. Her name was Amanda
and she was to play a mini-violin. She really enjoyed the attention
and won some well-deserved applause for her efforts.
The 4-man Hillbilly
Band playing each other's instruments while playing their own!
But the highlight
of the show was an amazing performance, where the band-members all played
each other’s instruments while still playing their own! That is,
each one strummed his own guitar, violin or double base with his right
hand, while his left hand pressed, and moved along, the strings of another
Twain Riverboat. This was a full-scale riverboat which
paddled past some well-presented animated models of animals and Indian
scenes. I learned that ‘Mark Twain’ is actually a river
term meaning ‘sea water’, and this was always good news
for the riverboat crew. I guess that’s why Samuel Clemens, the
author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, chose Mark Twain as a name
Thunder Mountain Railroad. I’ve never been too excited
about roller-coaster rides, but I must’ve been more boring as
a youngster. This roller-coaster ride through a huge mountain set was
lots of fun. And the young girls in the seat in front of me were making
the most of it as well. Just before each descent the girls raised their
arms and screamed religiously until the carriage leveled out again.
Pirates Of The Caribbean. I was surprised at how much
I enjoyed this ride. It was an excellent boat ride through dark passages
featuring quality animated models of pirates at war and at play. I’m
sure Johnny Depp would be very proud of it.
10. Indiana Jones Adventure. Another great roller-coaster
ride. But this was in a jeep. Getting to the jeep took a while, walking
through a long cave and temple. As the jeep drove us through the dark
passages, dodging rolling boulders and landslides, Indiana Jones kept
popping up and cautioning us to watch out for our next hurdle.
Jungle Cruise. This was a boat cruise along a jungle river
and the animal and native scenes were very convincing and well-constructed.
But the feature I enjoyed most was the comic commentary. The guide must’ve
been in his very early 20’s but his timing was impeccable.
Enchanted Room. I knew this was a kid’s show before
I walked in. But by this time I really needed to rest. The show went
for 15 minutes and was basically a musical, with the main singing roles
performed by stuffed birds sitting on perches above the audience. There
were Macaws, Toucans, Birds Of Paradise and Cockatoos all singing above
a water fountain in center of room. And they were accompanied by singing
flowers and totem-poles too. Such soothing bliss.
Tarzan’s Treehouse. When I was a kid I built a treehouse
on my uncle’s farm, but it was nowhere near as good as this one.
This must’ve been the best darn tree-house in the world! It was
a 2-room split-level design, very high up, using stairs and a rope bridge
for access. I could’ve quite easily made myself at home in one
14. Snow White’s Scary Adventure. This was another
carriage ride for tiny kids. I should’ve learned from my Mr. Toad
It’s A Small World. At last, a Fantasyworld ride
which I enjoyed. This was a boat ride through a long covered structure,
along a narrow winding tub. And through the entire 20 minute ride they
played ‘It’s A Small World After All’, looping it
and singing it in different languages as we went through. Many countries
were represented by animated models of children in national dress. Of
course, I looked for Australia and I found it represented by a young
aboriginal boy holding a boomerang and surrounded by kangaroos and koalas.
A Toontown street
16. Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin. While I was waiting in
line, there was a breakdown and we were told it would take 20 minutes
to fix. So I returned 30 minutes later. And I’m so glad I did.
What a lot of fun! This was a ride which went along a single track,
and the car, just like in the cartoon, would spin any way you turned
the steering wheel. So I had loads of fun spinning it around in a full
circle while I still moved forward on the track.
Meet Mickey. I checked this out while the Roger Rabbit
ride was being repaired. I walked through Mickey’s house and was
directed, by signs, to his barn. I waited there in a queue for nearly
half an hour while watching cartoons projected on the barn wall. Then
I was led into Mickey’s room with 5 other people and had my photo
taken. No displays. No show. No nothing. Just a photographer and a helpful
attendant who volunteered to photograph me and Mickey with my own camera.
But I guess that’s all I really wanted!
18. Snow White – An Enchanting New Musical. A 30
minute stage show featuring a Talking Mirror, 7 Dwarfs, Forest Animals,
Snow White, a Prince and a Jealous Queen. The Forest Animals danced
and everyone else (except the Queen) sang. Large pink paper confetti
(2” diam.) fell from the ceiling over the cast and audience in
the finale. Another enjoyable rest, but I was also paying a lot of attention
to the set design. Now, as an actor/playwright, it became much more
interesting for me.
Disneyland Parade Of The Stars. At 7 pm the Disneyland
Parade was going to start, so the loudspeakers were asking everyone
to line the streets in anticipation of this event. The floats all featured
the Fantasyland characters. And after the last float came out, I followed
it all the way back to the entrance, as did everyone else in Disneyland.
An excellent way to get the enormous crowds out of the theme park on
Miney Mouse, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Goofy on a Disney Parade float.
I left at 7.30 pm,
because Disneyland was closing at 8 pm and it would be pandemonium trying
to get transport back. And just as well I did, because the last bus
left at 7.45 pm and I only just caught it in time, because it took me
all that time to find the bus stop! In fact, I was the only passenger
on board, so I chatted with the Romanian driver for a whole hour, all
the way back to the Los Angeles Airport where Angeliki would soon come
and pick me up.
to Lee Strasberg in my stage outfit.
HERE I COME
Back in Week 10, my travel story was titled, Hollywood Here I Come,
which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that I’d learned
my play, The Glory Of Athens, off-by-heart. But even though I could
never have imagined I’d really be performing my play in Hollywood,
there must’ve been a subliminal factor working for me because
I finished the story with, “And forgive me for sounding a little
cocky, but I'm bloody good!”
That was back in
August last year. And now, 9 months later, on May 22, I was about to
give my 28th performance of my play and turn that fantasy into reality.
So this week I was going to focus my entire attention on preparing for
my play on Saturday night.
On Monday I redesigned
the program for The Glory Of Athens, then I printed a script for the
sound and light cues.
LEE STRASBERG THEATER AND DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT
On Tuesday, Angeliki picked me up from Universal Studios at 7 pm and
on the way home we stopped by The Lee Strasberg Theater to see the dimensions
of the stage. This would help me with my rehearsals so I’d know
how much room I had to work with. There were 2 theatres in the complex
and we’d booked the Marilyn Monroe Theater.
It was a 99-seat
theatre which was very common in Los Angeles. As Angeliki explained
to me, the actors-union laws only apply to productions in 100+ seat
theatres. So many actors perform for free in these smaller theatres,
using the opportunity to develop their skills and hopefully ‘get
noticed’. The stage area was very spacious, over 7 metres wide
and much longer in depth. The width was fine, but I would only need
to use the front 3 metres.
Soon after we returned,
I met with Phil, a friend of Angeliki and a film producer, who was interested
in filming my Saturday night performance. Not only that, he also wanted
to sell copies of it afterward. So after discussing what we both wanted
out of this venture, Phil and I agreed to several terms and conditions
for a distribution agreement.
On Wednesday I spent
much of the morning writing a Distribution Agreement to send to Phil.
Then I rehearsed
the play twice in the afternoon. And later that night, we went to The
Lee Strasberg Theatre for a full-dress rehearsal. Angeliki had booked
it from 6 pm to 10 pm, but we actually didn’t get out until about
11 pm. The Lighting Technician showed Tim, Angeliki’s partner,
how to operate the lights and Angeliki instructed Tim on what kind of
lighting she wanted for my intro and exit. Soon I was on stage shouting
out my lines because I didn’t have a mike, and Angeliki said my
voice wasn’t clear enough in the back rows. After completing my
80-minute rehearsal at full volume, it was just as well I didn’t
lose my voice!
On Friday, Angeliki and I were both interviewed at the Adelphi Cable
TV Station by Vasilis Papoutsis, producer of Hellenic Views. It was
mainly about Angeliki’s successful plays and films. But I was
also asked about LETS, my Travel Without Money web site and also my
play. The show went for the standard 28 minutes, then I stayed back
to get video copies of the show for me and Angeliki.
Angeliki had mentioned
that I could be more outrageous with my song and dance routine as Archimedes,
so when I got back home, I rehearsed the play again, this time choreographing
some new dance steps for Archie’s song.
(producer) and Tim (Angeliki's partner and lights/sound operator).
THE GLORY OF ATHENS IN HOLLYWOOD
Finally it was Saturday, May 22. D-Day for James Taris and The Glory
Of Athens. Would everything go well? Or would I flounder on stage? By
the end of the day I would know.
I woke at 3.15 am
and copied The Glory Of Athens program as a .pdf file for Angeliki.
She’d need it early in the morning to take it to the printer for
copying. I also copied the Distributor Agreement as a .pdf file because
I’d need Phil to print it and get it signed tonight. So once I’d
emailed Phil, and Angeliki had taken the program file to the printer,
I got back into bed and had a well-earned nap from 8.30 am-11 am.
When I woke, Angeliki
still wasn’t back, so I finished making the ATHENS Inc. sign for
my stage set. I’d printed each letter on a full sheet of paper,
then I taped them onto a long oval board, which Angeliki had found and
painted white for me. It looked good.
Once again I rehearsed,
for the 5th time since Wednesday. I had learned that the best way to
build confidence was by over-preparing. My rehearsals were getting better
and better, so afterwards I relaxed by folding the 100 programs for
my play, which Angeliki had just brought home.
The play wasn’t
due to start until 8 pm, but we were at The Lee Strasberg Theater at
6 pm getting everything ready. Angeliki had loads of food and drink
for the after-show booze-up, sorry, I meant ‘drinks’. And
we also had the stage props to bring in as well. And wouldn’t
you know it, Kit had sent me a bowl of flowers because, “I thought
it would be nice to have "stage door flowers" -- opening night
and all that Hollywood jazz, ya know....”.
Soon the stage was
set-up and at 7.10 pm, Phil arrived and set up 2 cameras to cover the
event. As an experienced documentary moviemaker, he knew that having
a fixed wide-shot camera would be the best insurance for solving any
unforeseen mishaps on the night. By 7.30 pm the guests began arriving,
so Angeliki sent me to my dressing room where I’d be out of site
until curtain call. Being alone in a Spartan dressing room didn’t
feel too good, so I filled my time productively by rehearsing my play
again. By the time the audience had all been seated, there were maybe
as many as 70 or 80 in all. Angeliki had asked me to wait at the side
stage door, as rehearsed, and while I was waiting I heard a good introduction,
praising Angeliki and The Greek-American Theater Company for their shows
over the last 10 years, and also for me, and my 400 Day World Tour,
presenting my play around the world.
It was 8.10 pm when
I finally walked on stage. It was my biggest audience yet and at $35
(AUD$55) the highest ticket price I’d had paid to see my show,
so it was rather daunting as well as flattering. As I walked across
the stage, conscious not to begin my lines too soon, I got my first
laughs, and the laughing continued throughout. All that preparation,
all that rehearsing - it was all paying off. And the highlight of the
show was when I played the character of Demosthenes impersonating The
Godfather. The delivery went over so well that the audience broke out
My play had always
had a very strong and dynamic finish, and tonight went over just as
beautifully as ever. So after 80 minutes of non-stop monologue, my one-man
show was over. I could now relax and revel in the audience’s applause.
Nothing could go wrong now. It was over. It was recorded on tape, and
it was over. Yes, I’d nailed it!
My dressing room
door was locked, so I waited outside, unsure if I was supposed to mix
with the audience yet. Soon Angeliki came out looking for me. So I mixed
with the audience while they ate and drank. A 12 year-old boy came over
to congratulate me. He was impressed, and he wanted to show me how much.
So he stuffed his mouth full of grapes, imitating my Godfather routine.
Gee, I love it when I make such a great impact on the kids.
A Greek actor also
congratulated me and told me I’d inspired him to pursue roles
he was really interested in. Many others came and congratulated me too.
This was my extended 15 minutes of fame and I was reveling in it.
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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