Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage, but in Los Angeles everything’s part of a movie – or could be. That’s the theme of Hollywood Escapes, a new book by Harry Medved and Bruce Akiyama that offers a guide to touring the most scenic outdoor movie locations in Southern California.
Co-author Medved (who also wrote The Golden Turkey Awards, a popular guide to the worst movies ever) spoke at Vidiots last month to sign copies of Hollywood Escapes and show clips from films that used familiar outdoor locations in Santa Monica and Venice. Following this, he took attendees on a walking tour of some of these locations – the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (used in the 1966 film The Oscar ); the Main Street skateboard shop Zephyr ( birthplace of the skateboarding craze depicted in Dogtown and Z-Boys); the Casa del Mar Hotel and Ocean Ave. (seen in Species, Get Shorty and Be Cool among other films); and the Carousel Building on the Pier (best known for its use in The Sting but also a major location in the obscure early ‘60s film Night Tide starring Dennis Hopper).
Mevded shared with the Mirror the experiences that inspired Hollywood Escapes.
“I’m a longtime Santa Monica resident. I think I must have dated every available girl in Santa Monica trying to find a wife,” he jokes. “I finally met this girl from South Africa who was fresh off the boat. Her name was Michelle. She didn’t know anything about Southern California, and I was thrilled because I thought ‘Maybe I can make a tour guide for her and show off our state’s cinematic scenery.’ ”
Medved and Michelle married, and he began planning their weekend getaways. On a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, they tried to visit the National Park by the volcano, only to find it closed off due to being used as a location for the remake of Planet Of The Apes. A month later, they drove out to Trona Pinnacles near Death Valley and found the area again closed off – again it involved a film crew using the location for Planet of the Apes!
“It was one of those Twilight Zone moments,” Medved continues. “I thought: either they’re following us or we’re following in the filmmaker’s footsteps. But in our heads we thought: what is it that filmmakers have in common with outdoor adventurers? [They] share this passion for the grandeur of America’s outdoors.”
So Medved and his friend and fellow outdoor enthusiast Bruce Akiyama got to work on a book that would be a travel guide to these destinations. “Initially it was just a hiking guide to the movies. I only wrote about trails and places to camp. But then we decided to expand the book. We realized not everyone is a hiker.
“We wanted to include something for everyone. So by that token we included places like Venice. It’s a pretty urban area to explore the great outdoors, but as you’re walking along the boardwalk, you are also seeing the beautiful palm trees and watching the sun set over the breakwater.”
Those interested in the “Venice outdoor trail” can join Medved on October 22 at Sponto Gallery (7 Dudley Avenue in Venice) for another film clip show followed by a walking tour of the locations seen in the film clips. This tour will include the area around Windward Ave. and Pacific Ave. used as a Mexican border town in Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil and some areas used in low-budget horror films (it is close to Halloween, after all).
Hollywood Escapes is available at local bookstores, at Vidiots and through www.hollywoodescapes.com/book.htm.