Be still my fangirl heart

Just when I needed something to ease my idle state and let me escape from reality for a bit, the comfort and solace found in watching my favorite TV shows has had me lonely as they too decided to take a break from the air. With limited options left, aside from immersing myself in reruns of random series that I chance upon every time I channel-surf (barely), I take myself back to the Friday afternoon my friends and I drove around Los Angeles and neighboring cities, "stalking" shooting locations like it's nobody's business.

We've all had our fair share of fangirl moments; that half-day happened to be the height of mine. Let me tell you this now: obviously there weren't any ongoing shoots nor have I spotted anyone famous on our mini-escapade—I've proven to be quite unlucky in that department. Besides, what was I to expect from a bunch of privately-owned houses and public spaces which were only use for exterior shots anyway? The mere fact, however, of being "there" was enough to throw my heart off the rails.

This long-standing item on my US adventure bucket list needed an afternoon or two of sacrificing nap time to gather necessary addresses, map them all out, and come up with a flawless itinerary. Big thanks go out to I Am Not A Stalker, 90210 Locations, Glee Filming Locations, and Seeing Stars for the helpful information. And, of course, much love and gratitude to Kitt and Sanz for driving me around and taking my photos the entire time. If this experience didn't teach me about California geography, I don't know what else will.

My sweet friends picked me up at my uncle's noontime and we took a quick stop at the closest Jollibee for take-out lunch. Soon we were well on our way and began our field trip with two schools just a few miles outside of the City of Angels. First on our list was the school that stands in for the William McKinley High School of my all-time I-go-gaga-every-single-time favorite, Glee. Most areas of the campus were used in the series including the football field, track, bleachers, parking lot, stairwells, cafeteria, and auditorium.

Unfortunately, although as expected, we weren't allowed to get past the entrance and check out the interiors of the school because 1) there were ongoing classes and 2) we weren't exactly students or visitors of such. Instead, we raced to the gated football field and posed outside it anyway, overlooking the bleachers and all. Then and there I couldn't help but imagine Marley and Jake singing their first duet1 while slowly developing crushes on one another. Ahh, what can I say: their chemistry and the show drive me crazy!

Next was West Beverly Hills High2, which is actually the simple yet elegant Torrance High School. Part of me regrets not trying to push those doors open and make my way to the beautiful courtyard. Nonetheless, its Renaissance style of a facade was good enough for me, especially after finding out that this high school was also used for a few other shows and movies: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, She's All That, Not Another Teen Movie, Bring It On, and Bruce Almighty, to name a few.

The next leg of the trip was dedicated to the Modern Family houses, which were conveniently close to one another. Makes sense should the clan was actually real; easy for weekly gatherings like Sunday brunches to happen. What I found most interesting was the fact that the homes, even just on the outside as we didn't even attempt to knock and take a peek at strangers' abodes, accurately reflected each family's personality and story.

First we have the lavish modern house3 of sixty-something-year-old divorcee, Jay Pritchett. Its semi-tall gates, walls, and trees made the house hard to notice at first glance, but thankfully the glass entrance with its uniquely-designed front door was distinct enough to be spotted from the road. In the series, cold and difficult to please Jay fell for the fun-loving Colombian bombshell Gloria and later welcomed her and son Manny to his home. According to the show's production designer, Gloria's arrival added vibrant colors, along with the animal prints, to Jay's plain bachelor house and life.

Meanwhile, Phil, Claire, Haley, Alex, and Luke Dunphy's house4 was so comforting to see. Even as it is on the show, theirs is a home that looks so inviting and cozy—perhaps because of the earthy tones of their walls and furniture and the warmth brought about by their crazy family dynamics. Funnily, if you take this Dunphy household on its own, they would make for your traditional American family (with the parents with kids and all) and nowhere close to the show's name. Of the three houses, I think I'd fit right in with theirs for the interiors alone.

As for the outside look, I don't think anyone could beat Mitchell and Cameron's duplex5. Take a moment and admire those vines creeping up the house walls. Nothing could scream artistry and freedom more than that, more than this adorable gay couple. I'm liking the Spanish-inspired architecture, the arched windows, that little balcony, and that old wooden door painted in a pale shade of teal. I'm sure this home warrants second looks from those who pass by the street and is also the envy of their neighbors!

Southern California traffic was terrible! But I guess that doesn't surprise Sanz and Kitt anymore since they have lived in this side of the world for a couple of years now. In fact, they already have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to avoiding the nightmare of being stuck in the freeway for hours. Well, the main secret simply involves a GPS navigator and the willingness to brave side streets. Before you know it, you'll get to your destination without any trouble. We passed through the wonderful buildings in South Los Angeles, including the University of Southern California, and marveled at their beauty. Eventually, we arrived at the Exposition Park Rose Garden and were in awe all the more.

The garden is abound with lovely roses of different colors and sizes, and you know how giddy I get when I'm amidst pretty surroundings. In no time we started snapping away. I admire production teams for their wise choices on shooting locations. For convenience, places in Los Angeles can turn into San Francisco or New York any day. In fact, that park we were in actually stood in for a space in Central Park. We posed by the fountain6 where Rachel and Finn (Rest in peace, Cory Monteith) and Kurt and Blaine shared their last duets as couples in my favorite Glee episode to date. Aptly titled "The Break-Up," it was that point in the series where four couples decided to call it quits either due to infidelity or issues of long distance. So tragic, and just as devastating as the news about Cory's death. :'(

But life must go on, and so did our little trip. We drove by Downtown Los Angeles and my mind can't stop replaying that scene from (500) Days of Summer, when Tom showed Summer his favorite buildings and talked briefly about their style and architecture. Being the humanities/art freak that I am, learning all about these designs and seeing them in all their glory got me weak in the knees. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is no exception to this; it's a clash of curves and corners, I can't even explain how it looks like! But I like it, and I'm pretty sure all the guests that has attended shows here do too. It was referenced in the 2012 film Celeste and Jesse Forever7 and one of its halls was used as the magnificent NYADA's Round Room in Glee.

Speaking of (500) Days of Summer, of course I didn't pass up the chance to check out two of the movie's significant locations. It's not one of my most-loved films for nothing, right? We trekked the uphill streets of Downtown LA to get to Angels Knoll, where the famous bench was located. From Tom's favorite spot8, you could catch a great view of the good-looking buildings in the area, enough to make the architecture aficionado in you happy. It's a bummer, though, that the plaque fastened at the back of the bench, indicating that it was used in the movie, is now gone. Other die-hard fanatics have beat me to stealing it! (Kidding.)

A little later it was already sundown and we made our way inside the utterly gorgeous Bradbury Building. The wrought iron decor and wood carvings complemented one another and were put together really well, it gave me an idea of what my future house or office should strive to look like. Totally classy and definitely the perfect choice for an "architectural firm9" building in the movie. In the film, this was where Tom crossed paths with Autumn and when his relationship countdown was set to restart. Who's up for a second movie?

Naturally after (500) Days, I joined in on the Zooey Deschanel hype and religiously followed her latest comedy show, New Girl. She is such a character, being so girly in her colorful dresses. And those big blue eyes make her outright adorable! Plus, don't even get me started on how much I looked forward to see her and Nick getting together. I knew that tension between them was going to get somewhere. It was only a matter of time! Meanwhile, I managed to track down their apartment building10. However, since it was already nighttime and the place was tucked in shady/sketchy area (maybe it was just too dark to call it safe), we only took a couple of photos and dashed off.

The Halliwell Manor11 was obviously on my list. It had to be, given that it was probably the first show that got me hooked into American television at an early age. Sure it shouldn't have been advisable for a first-grader to be staying up until ten in the evening because of a series—and a series about witches and warlocks at that! We lived at our grandparents' house then and watching the show every Monday night would be our (my twin and I) bonding moment with Tito Tan. Our "addiction" to Charmed even got us into trouble: let's just say members of our little Bible study group weren't too happy to find out that we were "casting spells" to make our crushes like us back. Man, that seemed like a lifetime ago! Now I'm just glad to have seen where Prue, Piper, Phoebe, Paige, and all their other family members have grown. And thankfully, it's just in the city and nowhere near San Francisco!

After, we arrived at Hollywood Boulevard and took a stroll down the sidewalk to find a strip of interesting sights. There was Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Chinese Theater, Hard Rock Cafe, a couple of Michael Jackon impersonators, some men in the Avengers costumes, among others. If you plan on coming to this part of Hollywood, my advice is that you must be extra wary of the people around you. It's such a tourist trap, not only with regards to the people dressed up as someone famous and demanding for a tip once you've got a photo taken with them (Puck12 pulled off this whole stint for a while in Glee), but also in other desperate ways. A stranger tried to trick Kitt into lending him some money because he claimed to have "lost his wallet and his car keys" somehow. Good thing I saw right through him, found his acting very unworthy of Hollywood stardom, and just sidestepped away from him, hoping he wouldn't fool any more people.

After at least three rounds of strutting up and down the streets with our eyes glued to the floor, we finally spotted the stars of our favorite people at the Walk of Fame. I know this is a long shot, but I'm so excited to see a star of someone I personally know someday. Maybe I'd even be invited to the ceremony. Until that fateful day arrives, though, I'll just be stuck here dreaming with my eyes open. There were still a few more places to go before calling it a night, so we decided to grab some Hollywood hotdogs upon Sanz' recommendation insistence. And, well, I'm so pleased we listened to him; it's surprisingly yummy for a cheap price.

Griffith Observatory was a sight to behold, especially at night when you have the city lights of Los Angeles as its backdrop. Unfortunately, everybody had the same idea of visiting Griffith that Friday; we were greeted with crowds of people and were left without a decent parking spot. We had to walk uphill to get to the observatory and you couldn't even imagine how that would be like for someone in heels the entire time. I asked Kitt and Sanz that we slow our pace down partly because I couldn't feel my feet any longer and partly because I need more time to take in the breathtaking view. The observatory's exterior, what with all its grandeur, has been used for several shows and movies. The 90210 bunch even held a movie screening there in honor of Marla Templeton13. The evening was turning quite a bit chilly for us three so we had to run along to our next destination.

I heard that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had a lot of fascinating exhibits, but I guess nothing could compare to the charm found outside its building. Nobody could miss this forest of streetlights when they pass through Wilshire Boulevard. Featured in No Strings Attached when Adam admitted to Emma that he "loves" her and they get into a fight14, this art installation called "Urban Light" uses restored cast-iron lamp posts that were once actual street lamps in L.A. County. Trust our little party of three to hold a mini-photoshoot then and there.

And finally, we have reached the bottom of the checklist and found ourselves in Koreatown in time for dinner. The bar15 where Nick works in New Girl was just around the corner and since we were growing hungry, we thought of giving the place a shot. Entering The Prince's front doors is like being transported back in time; its red and gold walls adorned with paintings from different eras and its red circular booths scream classy and vintage all at once. It's unfortunate that the place was jam-packed, hindering us from having a meal there. When I do come back, I'll make sure to wear something that suits its antique ambiance—just like the group of friends that came in after us, all garbed in 1920's themed clothing.

We ended up in a Korean barbecue-type of eatery and it felt so much like home for us. After a long and exhausting day of production and entertainment industry immersion, we felt as if we deserved all the bulgogis in the world. Pats on our backs and unlimited servings were definitely the way to go! As we drove back to Huntington Beach and the night was coming to a close, I felt more accomplished as a fan than ever. Not a lot of people would be as crazy as I am to be doing this, I'm sure.

At the end of the day, I can't be anything short of grateful. For my favorite shows, their wonderful creators, cast, and crew, and their insane plot twists. Really, thankful for everything. This experience deserves a movie of its own. Next on the list, you ask? To actually meet a celebrity. But that's for another time and another story altogether. Crossing my fingers that it's going to happen soon!

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, Katrina, this was so fun to see and read! I love that you were able to see so much of LA in such a short time! Weston and I once did a 500 Days of Summer little tour and went to a few of the same places you went to. Isn't Angel's Knoll beautiful?! I've returned there several times. And the Bradbury building is unbeatable too. Griffith and LACMA are two of my LA favorites too. So fun! Makes me want to hop in my car and go visit right now! :) Definitely gonna have to check out the bar that Nick works at from New Girl. It looks and sounds awesome. Such a fun post! Thanks!