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Hangin’ with the Stars


Ever wanted to go on location with a big Hollywood production? Or be a part of a glitzy film premiere? How about being in the audience watching Britney Spears, Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez perform at the American Music Awards? You can do all of this an more – and it’s not as hard as you may think. Make your next trip to the movie capital of the world one to make your friends green with envy.

Without make-up, stylists and good lighting movie stars are often unrecognisable to fans. In their quest for privacy celebrities often hit the streets wearing no make-up, baggy clothes, sunglasses and caps. If you think you have seen someone famous but aren’t 100% sure don’t be afraid to ask the person. Sometimes a celebrity may not want to be approached by fans in public and may say something like “Oh, I wish I was Cameron Diaz” for example.

Val Kilmer wore many disguises in The Saint and does so when shopping for music. Two brothers spotted him shopping at the Virgin Megastore late one night wearing a very unfashionable velvet tracksuit, glasses and long oily hair that would make Julian Clary shriek.

The older brother, who noticed him first, whispered “Oh my God, Val Kilmer is standing at the end of the counter”. The younger brother looked and was not convinced until the star turned and looked both of them. “I had no idea it was him until he turned around and I saw his very distinctive lips. I wouldn’t have looked twice at him if my brother had not seen him first.” They had the perfect opportunity to meet him and get a photo with hardly any customers around, but were too nervous and had no film in their camera.

Tip > Carry your camera everywhere and make sure you have spare film at all times. There is nothing like photographic evidence to confirm your story to sceptical friends.

The Virgin Megastore and Tower Records, both located on Sunset Blvd, have a long list of celebrity clientelle. Janet Jackson, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez have made in-store appearances, the latest being a live performance by No Doubt. Schedules are advertised regularly online, but the best way to find out about upcoming appearances is to ask the store manager.

Most magazines talk about the exclusive nightclubs and bars in which celebrities like to party. Some of these are not easy to get into. You either need to know the bouncer to get in or slip them a $50 and hope for the best. This, of course, is not the case with all of them. Club 360 has a mixed night on Tuesday’s. The club is on the top floor of “The Penthouse” locted on the corner of Sunset and Vine and boasts, as the name suggests, a stunning 360 degree view of LA. Drew Barrymore and Leonardo di Caprio have been seen getting down on the dancefloor on occasion.

Johnny Depp’s Viper Room has been described by the LA Times as “the most consistently hip club in town”. The club, made famous by River Phoenix’s death on the sidewalk outside, features live performances most nights. Well known recording artists such as No Doubt, Courtney Love, Lenny Kravitz and Billy Idol have performed on stage to patrons such as Tom Hanks, Rosanna Arquette, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Anniston and Lisa Maree Presley.

Beverly Hills restaurants and lounges such as Spago, Sky Bar, The Sunset Room and The Ivy are favourites of Brad Pitt, Madonna, Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and Goldie Hawn. They are often seen having business meetings with their managers and agents over lunch and dinner.

If you are willing to pay huge amounts of money and have a table booked months in advance, this approach to meeting a celebrity is not high on the list. However, there is no law that states you cannot wait outside the entrance and cautiously approach the star if the situation feels right.

There are a number of reasonably priced restaurants where you can dine with the stars. Drew Barrymore, Tom Green, Aeorosmith, Cyndi Lauper and Alyssa Milano are often seen eating at “Toi”. This amazing Thai restaurant, on Sunset Blvd, is inexpensive and staffed by long-haired, tattooed metal types who offer extremely fast and friendly service. The restaurant has a relaxed mood and the walls are lined with autographed album posters. The walls in the men’s bathroom have also been signed by visiting celebrities and regular customers.

Most people think it hard to meet celebrities. All you need to do to is some research. You can find exact street locations of where new movies, TV shows and music videos are being filmed. The LA Film & Video Premit Office publish a daily online list, called a shoot-sheet.

A fan of actress Leelee Sobieski (Never Been Kissed, Joy Ride, Joan of Arc) recently proved this avenue a successful one. He found out the up-and-coming actress was filming scenes from The Glass House, her latest movie at the time, which he had seen listed on the daily shoot-sheet.

“I turned up mid-morning and sat across the road from where they were filming for over two hours. Just as I was thinking of going to grab a bite to eat I saw Leelee walking back to her trailer with a security guard.” The excited fan kept his distance as she crossed the road and politely asked her for an autograph. “She was so nice to me. She signed my DVD cover of Never Been Kissed and then threw her arms around me while the security guard took our picture.”

Keep in mind that not all celebrities are as accommodating to requests for autpgraphs and photos. Some are even known to become violent or extremely annoyed if they see a screaming fan running at them with a camera. In public stars don’t like having attention drawn to them. In public places remember to keep your distance and approach them slowly and calmly, no matter how excited you may be.

Tip > If attending a location shoot pack plenty of sunblock, water and food. Stay put and your patience should eventually pay off. You don’t want to head down the road for something to eat and return finding your celebrity has been whisked away to another filming location during your absence.

Movie premiers are held regularly at cinemas all over LA and usually take place mid-to-late afternoon. The majority happen at Mann’s National in Westwood and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, formerly known as Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

The website Seeing Stars in Hollywood, www.seeing-stars.com, is the only source of information you need to do everything covered in this story. It lists all up-coming celebrity events and ceremonies. If you are unable to gain Internet access you can look through the cinema listings in the LA Times entertainment guide as certain movie houses will say “Closed for Premiere”.

Call the cinema and ask what time the event is due to start. Get there at least two hours early to scout the public access areas to secure yourself the closest possible spot to where the stars will be arriving. Event staff and security guards often look intimidating, but are friendly and will answer any questions you may have.

How close you get to the celebrities at a premiere depends on the location and time you get there. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre, both on Hollywood Blvd, are excellent for getting really close to them as they step onto the red carpet.

Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Down To You) happily autographed posters and soundtracks, which the studio were handing out, and took pictures with her fans at the Save The Last Dance premiere in Hollywood. “Despite standing in the cold for three hours and being not being able to move an inch it was so exciting meeting Julia, she was so sweet” said an overjoyed fan.

Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie also signed autographs and shook hands with fans at the premiere of Gone in 60 Seconds in between tongue kissing husband Billy Bob Thornton and interviews with Entertainment Tonight, MTV and E News.

Every now and then a major celebrity, like Anthony Hopkins for example, is honoured for their contribution to the performing arts by having their hand and footprints immortalised in the cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. After receiving an emotional tribute speech from close friend Winona Ryder, he stopped traffic while running across Hollywood Blvd to meet to crowds of people who turned out to see the infamous “Hannibal Lector” in the flesh.

Hand and footprint ceremonies do not happen very often. Celebrities are more regularly awarded with their star on Hollywood Blvd. They are difficult to get close to as the sidewalk is quite narrow and first preference is given industry officials and press. Grandstands are sometimes set up in order to allow fans a better views depending on the status of the celebrity.

Have you ever watched the American Music Awards and wished you could be in the audience watching Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin performing live on stage? You can, and tickets are really cheap.

The awards are held at the Shrine Auditorium every January. A ticket costs $US25 for a balcony seat or $US125 for a floor seat. You can purchase these through Ticketmaster with your credit card before you leave home if travelling over the Christmas period. Tickets always sell out before Christmas, so be sure to get your order in early.

Security is extremely tight at these events, even more so now due to the terrorist attacks on the US. Expect to be frisked by security guards, which most of you would no doubt enjoy, before entering the auditorium.

The ticket states “No cameras or recorders”. If found with a camera you may be refused entry if you are not willing to part from it. Security and event staff will not hold your camera for you either. You could, however, offer them a $50 in which they may honour your request. There is absolutely no guarantee you will see it again either.

The Shrine Auditorium seats thousands of people so get there around two hours before the time marked on your ticket as there are always long lines to get inside. January is also the rainy season in LA and is advisable to carry a small umbrella with you. It gets extremely cold inside so a nice warm jacket is recommended.

Tickets for taping of television sitcoms are free and are available through Audiences Unlimited and Audience Associates. This is a guaranteed way to give you an intimate look at your favourite stars at work. It is extremely entertaining watching your favourite TV personality screwing up their lines time after time.

The studios will often provide up-and-coming comedians and crowd warmers to entertain the audience between takes. You may also find yourself lucky enough to walk out with promotional items such as mugs, autographed photos and scripts.

TV talk shows and game shows are probably the most fun. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is extremely popular as he features high-profile guests almost every night. Game shows such as Hollywood Squares are always good value. Whoopi Goldberg is a permanent contestant and the show features an array of major television personalities daily.

Tip > Make sure you watch the broadcast on TV afterwards if you can. You are likely to see yourself in the crowd – especially with talk shows.

Movie studios such as Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures run regular escorted tours of their facilities. These cost between $US15 and $US30 per person with the tour lasting around two hours. Warner Bros recently cancelled their studio tour indefinitely because of the terrorist attacks.

These tours are a great way to give you an inside look at prop departments, how sets are built and the hectic pace at which these industry professionals go about their daily business.

Studios are the celebrity’s workplace, so naturally there are bound to be countless stars wandering around. Walking away with a photo with a celebrity may prove difficult, but is not impossible. It just depends on how easy-going the person is.

Studios have very strict photographic restrictions and permit visitors to take photos in designated areas. The tour guide sometimes make you lock your camera away during parts of the tour.

Eighties brat-pack member Rob Lowe (The West Wing, St Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night) was more than happy to take photos with a group of fans while he arrived for work at Paramount Studios. Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, Austin Powers, 54) was seen talking to a security guard before entering the car park. Despite warnings from the tour guide two members of the tour ran over to him and asked to have their picture taken with him. Mike was more happy to oblige.

Film crews often use real homes for exterior shots when making a movie. If you are a horror fan you can take a stroll down Elm Street, actually called Genesee Avenue, to visit the home where Freddy Krueger terrorised Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Remember the character of Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who was stalked by her psychopathic brother, Michael Myers, in Halloween? The house in which she babysat on Halloween night is located on Orange Grove Avenue, only a few blocks away from The Virgin Megastore. Directly across the road is the home where the deranged killer brutally murdered all of her friends. This location is visited by hundreds of fans from all over the world each year, especially on October 31st.

A friendly and un-demanding attitude is essential for any kind of celebrity encounter. Stars, for example, do not like to be disturbed while eating or exercising. Treat them the same as you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.

Never, ever take photos without first asking for permission or you may have a Godzilla-sized security guard wrestling you for your camera and pulling the film out. Or even worse, the celebrity may scream their head off at you. Which would be extremely embarrassing.

Movie premiers are the exception. Celebrities are out to show off their funky designer clothes, expensive jewellery and pose for photos. Nobody, even police, has the legal right to tell you cannot take photos at these events.

If you follow these simple rules you could be returning home with many exciting stories to tell your family and friends and some great memories captured on film..

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