Thursday, November 20, 2008

Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, & The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, California

In yet another busy day here in the Los Angeles area, we went to three well-known places:

Venice Beach ~ this is the well-known area of colorful people, interesting stores and body builders. The beach is beautiful, wide and long with soft sand and easy ocean waves - nice for swimming, sunbathing, or people-watching. Along the beach are volleyball nets, basketball courts where we watched some pick-up games, tennis courts, and of course, a full-fledged outdoor weightlifting gym with the expected weight-lifter men. Then there's the sidewalk - with a variety of people, many hucksters, and stores where you can get a prescription for medical marijuana and get it filled on the premises (how convenient), or buy 4 t-shirts for $10, or hear many musicians who enjoy their own unique style. This was an interesting place to visit.

Santa Monica Pier ~ another well-know area, and this one with a small carnival, including a roller coaster and Ferris wheel. Of course, there were restaurants and shops on the perimeter of the pier, along with a place to take trapeze classes! On all edges of the pier there are smaller fishing decks built just below the main pier, so if you're interested in fishing, that's where you'll drop your line. Off the pier were many condos, homes, restaurants, and shops.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno ~ When we went to Universal Studios earlier this week, we stopped at the Hollywood ticket counter and got two free tickets to The Tonight Show, and today was the day to go! The Tonight Show is filmed at NBC, and if you have "guaranteed" tickets (which you can only get at Universal Studios), you do not need to get there until 3pm. If you do not have guaranteed tickets, you'll need to get here by 2pm, and the line starts forming at that time (more tickets are given out than seats, since they have many no shows). Ours were of the guaranteed variety, so we didn't have to stand in too long of a line. At around 3pm, we started getting seated, and once inside, it was again interesting how small the set was - and this included the band area, the stage where Jay sits, and a third area for guest bands and such. The show tapes at 4pm, and around 3:45, Jay came out very causally without an announcement, still not dressed for the taping, and started chatting with the audience and answering a few questions. Here's a tip - he answered only 3 questions and took pictures with the guest & signed the photo, so if you want a picture with Jay, be sure to get your hand in the air quickly. He then left to get ready (which took only about 10 minutes or so), and the announcer continued the fun, tossing prizes (t-shirts, socks, hats), having members of the audience come up and tell a joke or sing, and letting us all know the "rules", such as when to clap, what not to do, etc.... Then Jay came out again as it was announced, "and here's Jay.................." in his suit & tie, did the monologue, and we were off! Hugh Jackman, People's Sexiest Man of 2008 was the first guest, to the delight of many women (and some men) in the audience. After Hugh Jackman, Jack Black appeared and he was the band for the night as well. The taping lasted about 75 minutes altogether, as the show is 60-minutes, and they pause for a couple minutes throughout the taping for commercials. During this time, the band played to keep the audience entertained while Jay chatted with the guests. After the show was taped, Jay did a few promos with the guests, then stayed on stage meeting a few audience members (Hugh Jackman's parents, for example). Then it was over. It was a great time - much quicker than seeing a sitcom tape as there were no retakes, and the chairs were much more comfortable! On the way back to our car, Jay was leaving in his classic Corvette to go to the Jimmy Kimmel show and we chatted with him a moment or two.

Our take on the whole experience:

- Jay Leno seemed like a very casual, friendly guy - he initially came on stage without any introduction, chatted with anyone who he saw as he left the studio driving his own car, and waved to people as they left the show and called his name.

- At one point, the make-up & hair people came to "fix" Jay, and as soon as they left, her ran his hand through his hair & wiped the make-up off his face - gotta love that!

- Admittedly, after seeing this and The New Adventures of Old Christine, some of the "Hollywood magic" is gone for us. Of course, maybe we just held onto that too long.

-The one bad thing is to find parking - NBC does not offer a lot for public parking, so you need to drive around until you find a parking spot that doesn't have a 2-hour limit, since you'll be there longer than 2-hours. (Check Bob Hope Street for parking.)

-The show is done at 5:15ish, so you will hit the legendary LA traffic on the way home, so plan accordingly. Also, eat before you go, there is not place to eat around NBC studios.

We definitely recommend going to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - he's funny when not reading what the writers write (before the show he also told some jokes), and he seems like just a good 'ole guy.

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