Our Trip To Los Angeles, 2000

by Michelle Erica Green

We left for LA Thursday morning, taking off from Dulles after parking the van about ten miles away and getting an airport shuttle to the terminal. The flight was uneventful; United has Happy Meals so the kids ate McDonald's for lunch. We watched Love and Basketball, which was very good, then they showed some Demi Moore thriller but I wasn't in the mood for another movie and looked out the window at the desert instead. When we got off the plane I immediately looked for palm trees. I always say Los Angeles is a hellhole, but I really do like the tropical plants, and considering that it's already getting dark at home in the early evenings for fall, I loved all the light and the heat didn't bother me all that much. We got the rental car and experienced the first of many backups on LA freeways driving to Lynda and Dan's house in the San Fernando Valley, but I didn't care because we had to go over the mountains to get there and I hadn't seen those mountains in nearly two decades.

Lynda, whom I met at a convention in Denver when she was an intern on Voyager and I was running Kate Mulgrew's fan club, lives in a beautiful contemporary house on the edge of a very city-like neighborhood with a walled park and lots of stores you could walk to. The kids took one look out the back window at the pool and wanted to go swimming, so we spent much of the afternoon out back with Lynda's two fluffy dogs, Annika and Cezanne, and two shy cats, Wolverine and Jubilee. She also has a green parrot named Minty in the kitchen that makes noises like a microwave and smoke alarm, which was very cute but the bird tries to bite fingers off so we mostly stayed away. There are Trek souvenirs in nearly every room of her house--not only does she have fridge magnets and keychains, and her kids have the Next Generation bridge set and various action toys, but they've got expensive models and actual props in the bedroom and her office is covered in stuff--leftover shirts and caps from Ira Behr's office, more than a hundred scripts, and the room where they boys stayed had as many Trek paperbacks as I have at home.

They also have quite a bit of artwork in the living room by Patrick Nagel, a prominent graphic artist famous for art deco-style illustrations of celebrities and other beautiful women, who had been a good friend of the Foleys before he died and given them many prints -- my favorites were Isabella Rossellini and Joan Collins. The boys were in heaven because Lynda took out a huge box of old Power Rangers toys, plus she had about twenty videos (overall they had about as many videotapes as we have, plus some DVD). Daniel and Adam proceeded to drive Lynda's 12- and 9-year-olds crazy by wanting to play in their rooms, but they ended up spending most of their time downstairs with the Star Wars and Power Rangers stuff.

Thursday evening my friend Annmarie came over to Lynda's since it was the only time she was free all weekend -- she's in the army reserves, had drill that weekend, and I hadn't spent much time with her since she stayed at our house after coming back from Bosnia. She works in Warner Bros' music division in publicity, and gave me a Warner Bros keychain, which would affect my choice of souvenirs at Paramount the next day. We brought in Thai food, which Lynda's husband Dan had picked up and paid for before we knew what he was doing. We all went to bed relatively early because we all had to get up early, though I was a bit surprised to be awoken at 6 a.m. by Adam in the kitchen giving Lynda's older son, Dustin, a lecture on how their fishtank worked. Dustin was even more surprised!

Paul was planning to meet his brother David at Griffith Park and take the boys to the zoo while Lynda and I went to Paramount for the VIP tour set up by my cousin Felicia, who works for UPN (I was so thrilled that even though it was the week of her wedding, she had pulled strings for me). We left the house an hour early, hit traffic and pulled into the Paramount lot at precisely the time we were supposed to meet the tour at the fountain. VIP tour groups get taken around in golf carts, so we didn't have to walk in the heat.

Our tour guide was named Billy, a musician who had moved to LA from Seattle. We started with the gate and the studio store, where we bought a disposable camera because they had told us not to bring any cameras -- as it turned out, we could photograph buildings, just not sets. Al Pacino was filming a movie in the middle of the lot so we had to make circles around. They showed us a short movie in the Gower Theatre about the history of Paramount, narrated by Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight, with lots of clips and music from great films. Lynda, who was acting blase and had been saying she heard the movie was boring, was actually impressed. We also learned in the Gower that Voyager had filmed a Paris/Torres movie date scene there set on the holodeck. I asked about the rumored wedding and received a blank stare, followed by a confused summary of "Course: Oblivion," the episode in which the characters married but then died in an alternate universe. Supposedly the characters get married in a movie theater, but maybe it's been changed.

Paramount in general was a blast--we saw Frasier's dog being walked and got to be among the very last people to stand on the current Entertainment Tonight set, which was being demolished after Friday's show since they're building a new one across the lot. We did not see Mary Hart, but we did see her hunky male co-anchor Bob Goen, in casual clothes. Billy then took us onto the soundstage next door, where they were setting up blue screens for filming while the new set was being built; they planned to drop the old background in, so no one would be able to wear blue for the next week on the show. We were taken onto several other sound stages and into the props and costume shops, plus we got a drive-by of Voyager's open swing set, where a cave set was being constructed. Many of the large pieces for ship walls were outside just sitting on tables.

Lynda stopped craning her neck after we drove past the Voyager trailers and she showed me whose was whose -- Kate's and Robbie's are next to one another as you turn the corner, with the rest further down. I was the only one still looking when Kate came out of her trailer and walked between it and Robbie's. I only saw her from the rear, her hair was helmeted in place and looked very red in the midday sun, she had her uniform on. I have to admit that of anything I saw at Paramount, I got the biggest kick out of that -- Kate, from a distance, as Janeway, the way I like her best.

We went past the famous original front gate and took pictures of the water tower, then were dropped off in front of the studio store and commissary, where Lynda bought me a turkey sandwich and pasta salad. I got the kids Paramount t-shirts that change colors in the sun, and myself a Paramount keychain to go with the WB keychain from Annmarie. Then, since we were supposed to leave the lot after the tour, Lynda insisted on ditching everything in her car, including her purse, so she could walk around with her keys looking like a PA showing me around. We went to the Hart Building, where she dropped in on Lolita Fatjo's assistant Maggie ostensibly to find out about getting scripts for Bob Picardo's charity auction. We learned that the show had just hired two new writers, Mike Sussman and his partner Phyllis Strong, though we did not see any new scripts and Brannon Braga didn't walk by.

Then we walked over to the sound stages, passing by the Gene Roddenberry building just to take a picture--no Trek people actually work there. (The Lucille Ball building is nicer.) Lynda knew the guard at Stage 8, so she was chatting with him as Kate's stand-in Sue Henley walked from the direction of the bathrooms towards us. She recognized me from photos even though we had never met before. Sue is very beautiful in person and was lovely to us--I thought she might blow us off after a few minutes so as not to risk getting in trouble, but she stood around chatting for about half an hour before we finally left.

Sue introduced me to Ethan Phillips, David Livingston, lots of makeup and hair people, and assorted others outside Stage 9 where they were filming an engineering scene -- she couldn't think of a way to get me onto the set and I didn't want to push it, since Roxann Dawson kept coming in and out, not looking like she was in a good mood. Lynda introduced me to Larry Nemecek and a number of hair and makeup people as well. The only real gossip I got was that Paris and Torres' wedding scene at the end of "Drive" was scrapped. Friday's scenes involved a lot of Starfleet extras but none of them were clear exactly what they were doing there, since they don't get whole scripts, just scene directions! Supposedly many of them were Hirogen-made holograms. Sue offered to introduce me to Jeri Ryan, which I declined. Jeri is prettier in person and doesn't look nearly as disproportionate even in costume--they must use a fish-eye lens on her boobs. She was very friendly and warm to everyone around, including the stand-ins, whom Roxann resolutely ignored (maybe she was just trying to stay in character).

Lynda and I finally scooted across the lot and left to meet my family. But on the way to meet Paul and David at Travel Town in Griffith Park, she got a call from Dan saying that his brakes had gone out, he was at a garage, and he had no way to pick Dustin up from school. After some cell phone tag, we went to get Dustin, then met Paul, David and the kids somewhat late. We had planned to drive to Bronson Canyon and the Bat Caves together, but since we had to be at the rehearsal dinner and the boys wanted to swim, we decided to put that off a day and followed Lynda home after I got to see a few of the trains at Travel Town, which looked very nice, had a working train ride plus lots of retired diesels.

We swam, showered, and went to the big dinner at the Plum Tree Inn, but Adam had fallen asleep in the car and didn't eat anything. As soon as we walked through the door, my Aunt Carol greeted me but I didn't even recognize her! Nor did I recognize Jeffrey, now her husband. My cousin Allison looked beautiful and I finally met her fiance Justin, to whose wedding I was already plotting to go in April. We saw Carol's cousin Phyllis whom I have not seen since I was a kid, Mickey and Lesley (and my four-year-old first cousin Garrett who spent most of the time trying to get Daniel to play with him), my parents, Lesley's brother and his wife, and Felicia and her groom Jason whom I had never met or even spoken to. I thanked her profusely for getting me onto the Paramount lot.

When the formal dinner started after cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, Paul and the kids and I left to go back to Lynda's, where we had plans to have dinner with Eric Stillwell (Lolita Fatjo's predecessor, writer of "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "Prime Factors," the founder of the Starfleet clubs, now Michael Piller's assistant) and his wife Debra (a nurse who also represents several actors for con bookings, including Robbie McNeill). Lynda and Dan had gotten Mexican food in our absence and when Eric and Deb arrived, they started making Margaritas in the blender. I got lots of TNG gossip in between laughing about fandom and other things we have in common, like editing slash. We were exhausted from the time change and the drinks and went to bed early.

Saturday morning after her mother, sister and niece dropped by and Dan brought in donuts for all the kids, Lynda took us to Bronson Canyon, home of television's Bat Cave, and also Trek's standard away-mission M-Class planet where lots of DS9 episodes filmed. It was very hot, but there's a fabulous view of the Hollywood sign on the hills opposite, plus three different cave exits. Paul saw lizards at the top of the hill where the boys were too tired to climb just as Lynda was warning us about rattlesnakes, and he jumped quite impressively.

After that Lynda swung us through Griffith Park by the Griffith Observatory (site of the episode "Future's End," and also the observatory to whose magazine I subscribed for many years as a kid when I was an astronomy junkie). The kids stayed in the car with Lynda while Paul and I took photos of LA from that high vantage. I also asked her to take us past Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but while I got some good photos of the outside, the house itself is closed for renovations. Lynda drove down across Los Feliz to show us various neighborhoods. From there, we drove through Hollywood, down the Walk of Fame, where Paul and I jumped out in front of Mann's Chinese Theatre so he could take a picture of me lying near Marilyn Monroe's footprints.

Then we went to Jerry's Deli, chosen by Lynda for its star-watching potential, where I had an excellent Chinese chicken salad. There was a very famous older character actors whose name none of us could remember -- I think it was Michael Lerner -- plus a bowling alley attached behind the restaurant where the boys were more excited just watching other kids bowl. On the way back to Lynda's house, she drove by the Japanese gardens used as the Starfleet Academy site, and through a public park where lots of other filming has taken place.

Lynda took me on a brief tour of her bedroom closets where she has Barbies and Dan has more comics than Paul has, plus a gazillion collector cards and some valuable movie props like a crystal ball used in old films. Her three-car garage has no cars in it because it too is filled to the gills with collectibles, both hers and Dan's and the kids'. I was in heaven seeing someone else who lives like that!

We packed up for the wedding, then went to the Warner Center Mariott where Paul took the boys swimming while I showered and tried to figure out what the hell to do with my makeup. We managed to get everyone dressed and went over to Valley Beth Shalom, where we found my parents, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Paul, and everyone we had met at the rehearsal dinner. Daniel and Garrett ran around together, threw their yarmukles in the air, and played in the bride's room. Because sunset was so late on the Sabbath, there were cocktails and hors d'oeuvres first which would have fed an army (which there was--more than 300 people, many dressed like they were at the Oscars). Since Adam had again fallen asleep and had not yet awoken, we got lox, dumplings, sliced beef, sate skewers, and I can't even remember how much else and sat with the kids in the bride's room where there were already two dozen different kinds of beverages and snacks. The bar lines were so long all night that I never had a drink, except one sip of champagne during a toast.

Adam also slept through the entire service, where Paul and I stayed by the first-row door in case he woke up screaming but Daniel sat with my parents in the middle of the first row. Lesley ended up behind us after an apparent struggle trying to get Garrett to walk down the aisle. Jeffrey was sitting on the far side of the first row, with Mickey's family taking up the middle (Garrett wound up with Lesley's brother and his wife). Jason's family was even more spread out, and I was really glad divorce in our family has been as limited as it is. Everyone under the chuppah cried except Allison, who looked beautiful and sophisticated. Her fiance Justin went out of the way to introduce me to his family and was nice as can be, so I really wanted to be at their wedding in Long Beach the next April.

The sermon was very cute and short and the service was beautiful, but there was no reception line so we went straight in to the reception, where I danced first with Daniel, then Paul, then my father, then Mickey. In the middle of the latter, Adam woke up and demanded to dance with me, so I danced with him too. By the time the prime rib arrived, Daniel was falling asleep in his chair, so we went back to the hotel and slept late. We had breakfast at the hotel with my parents and Shirley and Paul, at the largest breakfast buffet I had ever seen (and apparently the regular Sunday brunch is even bigger!)

Then we drove through the Valley to West Hills to brunch at the home of Stan and Judy, friends of Jason's parents. From the number of awards on their walls and the amount of Jewish art in their home, I'd guess they are extremely active in their synagogue. They have collections of glass dreidels and menorahs, and quite a bit of Israeli art. They also have a beautiful pool where we didn't swim because we were planning to go to the beach, but Garrett and the flower girl did. Mostly everyone avoided the outdoor tables because of the heat and crowded inside, where we ate bagels and lox despite the breakfast earlier.

We went back to Lynda's and had David come over to meet us so we could all go to the beach. David had asked his estranged wife Shana to come with us, but she wanted to go to a beach where she could bring their dog Dudley, which would have meant leaving LA county-- a very long drive -- so we went without her, sadly because I suspected I would never see her again. I drove with Lynda and Adam while Daniel and Paul drove with Uncle Dave to Point Dume, a county beach with paid admission meaning that it wasn't obnoxiously crowded like the free public beaches or the surfing beaches.

I was shocked when we got out of the car and it was 20 degrees cooler by the water, despite the cacti growing on the hillside leading down to the sand. There had been fog driving there but not by the water itself. The Pacific was rougher than the Atlantic generally is but still swimmable, with impressively crashing waves that the boys loved. As soon as we walked down to the water I noticed little holes in the drying sand, and sure enough, there were sand crabs, which I caught for the boys, to their great amusement. What looked at first like a flock of geese came flying in V-formation but turned out to be pelicans circling overhead, diving for fish occasionally. There were also seagulls, but remarkably few shells or even pieces of shells. The sun started setting over the Pacific while we were there and I kept thinking of the boardwalk scenes from "Future's End," though we never made it to Venice Beach. I decided I definitely could live in LA if we were within driving distance of the ocean.

The guys took off through the canyons but Lynda and I stopped at Tapia Park, where "Resolutions" was filmed. My &$%#* camera stopped working after taking three shots on the roll, including two of the canyons and one of a lizard at the entrance to the park, so I don't have a single photo, but Lynda showed me where the trailers were parked, where the actors sat around eating lunch, where the camera panned for the opening shot of Janeway and Chakotay in stasis tubes, and where she hung out on location. Back at her house we ordered pizza and she and I went out to pick it up, plus to get discount Disneyland tickets using receipts from her local supermarket. David ate with us, then left to visit Shana while he was in the Valley. We sat around chatting with Lynda and Dan and half-watching the Olympics.

Monday we got up very, very early to go to Disneyland, which was much closer to her than I expected despite horrific traffic caused by an MTA strike. We had to take the tram from the distant parking lot, where we saw the construction for the new Disney amusement park with traditional ferris wheel and roller coaster rides that will open next year. Inside the park, we took pictures of Mickey and Minnie while Paul got a stroller, then went to Tomorrowland and onto a circling space ride where the kids could raise and lower the rockets. After that, since there was no line, we went on Star Tours, which is accessed by walking through a Star Wars droid exhibit. It's one of those narrated fake spaceflights, in this case using visuals and sounds from Star Trek, in which we got to destroy the Death Star and flee Imperial fighters. Unfortunately Daniel did not like being banged around, nor the illusion of falling through space, and he refused to ride most of the in-the-dark rides for the rest of the afternoon. Personally I adored getting to be in a Star Wars ship and recreate the end of the first movie!

Walking under the castle, we went on the flying pirate ships and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Fantasyland. Both of these involve doors swinging open and shut as you pass from room to room, looking at scenes from Peter Pan and the Frog and Toad films respectively; the visuals were magnificent. Then we walked to Adventureland, stopping for lunch at a Mongolian barbecue where we had excellent skewers of beef and chicken with fresh fruit, plus taking photos with Aladdin and Jasmine. We rode the jungle cruise after a long wait with an excellent tour guide who had dozens of jokes about the fake animals and insects. Then the kids climbed Tarzan's treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse) twice; I climbed it once, then went to get a drink since it was over 100 degrees. Somehow we did convince Daniel to ride Pirates of the Caribbean despite the waterfalls and skeletons; Daniel said he was scared but wanted to ride it again, whereas Adam was just plain nervous by the fire. The ride was much longer than I remembered from my childhood and some of the details were changed, like girls getting abducted, but it was a lot of fun, though my favorite part was cruising through the artificially created evening on the Louisiana Bayou at the start.

We took the raft to Tom Sawyer's Island though Lynda declined to join us since it's very dirty doing all the climbing over there. All the sun started to give me a migraine which stuck with me all day. When we got back from the kids' climbing in caves and through the frontier exhibits, we got ice cream and took the park's train in a loop past the underground dinosaur and Uncle Remus exhibits to Toon Town, where we rode Roger Rabbit's ride (cars that circle as they pass through rooms with fake explosions), and met Mickey in his "house" where we took pictures. Donald Duck was riding the roller coaster, but Daniel opted out. We went back to Fantasyland so Paul could ride the Alice and Wonderland ride, but it broke down and we decided it wasn't worth traumatizing the kids by risking that happening again when we were on it after the long wait to get it fixed. Instead they rode the spinning teacups, which I avoided because spinning makes migraines much worse, so I went into the Mad Hatter hat shop instead. (I looked for Mulan souvenirs all over the park, but there wasn't a single one.)

Back at Tomorrowland, we saw Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, a 3-D film where equipment and pieces of glass appear to fly out at the audience, plus rat tails seem to be hitting everyone's legs and a giant dog "sneezes" everywhere. Paul wanted to ride Space Mountain but my head was hurting too badly, so I let him go alone and stayed with the boys by a large wet spinning ball which seemed to exist just to allow kids to cool off by splashing. They were pretty fried by then, so we went to Pizza Port for dinner, then headed back to Main Street where we saw some of the evening parade of characters while the kids looked for souvenirs in the Emporium. All I ended up getting were a tiny pair of fake birthstone Mickey Mouse earrings.

Lynda's friend Corey, a would-be Trek writer, stopped by late at night when we got back to her house and we chatted for awhile about the industry and mutual friends from the industry. He brought his dog Petey, which drove Lynda's dog Annika insane. Then we collapsed, because we had to get up early to pack and get to the airport despite traffic. David stopped by with Dudley, who also drove Annika insane, and he took some pictures of us with Lynda, whose husband and kids had already headed off for the day. I was rather depressed leaving the rental car and very depressed as the plane took off, leaving the palm trees behind. The flight home was also uneventful, mediocre pasta for food, I Dreamed of Africa as the film which I half-watched. We got home to much cooler weather than we had left, the aftermath of a huge rainstorm; we were actually chilly and damp in shorts heading for our van, which was a nice change. Now I am ambivalent about which coast I want to live on; I just want shore nearby. I am determined that we will go back to LA for Felicia's sister Allison's wedding in April, and Lynda says we are welcome to stay again, we can go to the Getty, and Felicia says we can have another Paramount tour, and the kids want to do Universal Studios instead of Disney this time!