L.A. in December: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation in 800 Words
By Kurt Anthony Krug
Let’s face facts: The subtitle of this article, “How I Spent My Christmas Vacation,” is cliché, but it fits. This is exactly how I made merry during my Christmas break.
Juliet Landau (best known as Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) was kind enough to invite me to L.A. to see her perform in John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, co-starring Matthew J. Williamson (2004’s Helter Skelter) and directed by John McNaughton (Mad Dog & Glory). She worked with these talented gentlemen six months prior in a reading of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
In Danny, Landau and Williamson play two foul-mouthed, beer-guzzling, blue-collar people in the Bronx. Her Roberta, a tough-talking single mom, and his Danny, a hulking brawler with a hair-trigger temper and bloody knuckles, meet in a bar. There are points in the play where you jump out of your seat as Danny has several violent outbursts, as does Roberta. They eventually get together, but it’s clearly more about the journey than the destination as this couple, victims of life’s hard knocks, let down their defenses.
There is an undeniable spark between the two thespians, who play very well off one another. Danny is dark and sad, but it ends with some hope as these two people who are at dead ends in their lives find each other. So it came as no surprise to me at all to learn that the play was extended to the end of January and has been selling out.
The next evening, I broke bread with Juliet and photographer/Danny publicist Deverill Weekes at Kabuki in Burbank. Juliet introduced me to authentic Japanese cuisine (I only wish there were more restaurants of its kind here in Michigan).
The third day, I toured the NBC and Warner Brothers studio lots. Both were well-done, but the WB tour was far more expansive as I saw various sets from True Blood, Friends, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, among many others, although I must confess I was bummed to learn per the tour guide that Buffy and Veronica Mars weren’t filmed on the premises.
I even got to sit in Central Perk, the coffee shop the six Friends frequented. A garage housed many famous vehicles, including several incarnations of the Bat-Mobile from various Batman movies – including the Tumbler and Bat-cycle from The Dark Knight – and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino from Gran Torino (filmed in Michigan).
I got tickets to see Jay Leno, but I’d have to wait two hours in line and there was no guarantee that I’d get in, so I headed back to my hotel.
Juliet and Dev were kind enough to invite me to go with them to Guy Picot’s The Christmas Present, making its U.S. debut at the Sacred Fools Theater in L.A. It’s a dark, British comedy (which, admittedly, is hit or miss with me) about a lonely, divorced man (Troy Blendell) with sociopathic tendencies who hires a prostitute to keep him company (Mandi Moss) on Christmas. For me, this was a hit – especially at the end of the first act. I know I was picking my jaw off my instep as did Juliet when I looked her way.
On my final day, Dev took me on a tour of Old Hollywood. The man has an encyclopedic knowledge of film history, far, far surpassing my own. I learned plenty from him as he drove me around to the train station from 1944’s Double Indemnity starring Barbara Stanwyck; the observatory from 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause starring the iconic James Dean (you can see the Hollywood sign from the observatory); silent film star Clara Bow’s (I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know who she was until I Googled her later on) house; and actress/sex symbol (one of Hollywood’s first) Mae West’s house.
Dev also showed me one of the places where Charles Manson struck – which gave you the feeling that someone walked over your grave – and drove me through various neighborhoods, explaining their history and architecture (most of it has Spanish roots). To make this even more of a treat, he took me to the Hyperion Hotel – the headquarters of Team Angel from several seasons of Angel – and Cordelia’s apartment, where she roomed with a poltergeist for several seasons on Angel (it has an ugly paint scheme these days). I took plenty of photos of my little jaunt through Old Hollywood, but I just wish I had Dev’s eye.
Afterwards, I chilled in my hotel room watching Castle before I started packing for home. I psyched myself up for a long day of hellish travel, returning Christmas Eve in what was easily one of the best Christmases I have had in recent memory.