Years ago when I was a whole world younger and (I thought anyway) a lot smarter about what I was meant to do with my life, my first wife and I moved to Arcadia in southern California. We moved there because I wanted to be a professional actor. The way we chose Arcadia was unique. We got out a map of southern California and closing our eyes we stuck our index fingers on the map.
We flew out to the Los Angeles International Airport via a “champagne” flight. When we landed we then had to figure out how to get to Arcadia. We wound up booking a limo; it was, somewhat amazingly, the cheapest way to get there. That limo ride was our first experience of what living in southern California would be like. The chauffeur was very chatty. He explained that he was self-employed and that this was only one of his three jobs. He was divorced and his ultimate goal was to be an actor.
Everybody, it seemed, in southern California wanted to be in the entertainment business. I mean everybody. Right up to the guy who owned a paint store that I was trying to get a builder’s discount from. When I rang him and asked about the discount, he started chatting while he was working out my discount. He asked if my business was going to grow. I said I didn’t really expect it to get too big as I was only doing it while I was trying to get work as an actor. “Great,” he said, a lot more excited than he had been working out my possible discount. “Have you got a Publicist yet?” I answered that I had not as I hadn’t really gotten any work yet. He thought about it for a second or two and said, “Give me your address. I’ll send you my business card. Keep me in mind when you start working.”
Like I said everybody seemed to want to be part of the Hollywood dream machine.
For a few weeks we stayed in a Dollar Inn. It was the cheapest hotel we could find. I still remember cracking up when the desk clerk informed us that for seventy-five cents extra we could get a key that would unlock the television in the room. I had never heard of locked televisions before and said so. The clerk then solemnly explained that as they were part of a cheap hotel chain, they had trouble with people walking off with the television sets. I think the inference was that because they catered to a “lower class” clientèle everything in the rooms was locked down tight.
While we were there we discovered the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. This was where they filmed part of the Fantasy Island television show. The early Tarzan films were also shot there. In fact it was used a lot for television filming. We also discovered the Santa Anita Race Trackwhere the high rollers of Hollywood came to lose their money.
We had a lovely chat with the desk clerk at the Arcadia Holiday Inn. This was conveniently located near the race track. The desk clerk informed us that when racing season hit they were always fully booked. He even showed us the exclusive bungalows behind the hotel where the rich and famous liked to stay “in the season.” We also found out that the hotels favourite customers were the actors Jack Klugman and Walter Matthau, who were very heavy betters. They both booked bungalows for the entire season.
Unfortunately we soon realised that Arcadia would not be a place where we could live. The rent for this little suburban paradise was way more than we could afford. Of course the other thing we found out was that rental properties were nigh on impossible to find. We finally had to join an agency that would “find” properties for you. We then discovered that southern California actively practised what can only be called reverse ageism. Every place we looked at turned us down.
Finally after a lot of frustration, we had a “heart to heart” with our property agent. “You’re too young,” was the information he imparted. When we started to protest (we were after all twenty and nineteen years old and married for crying out loud), he held his hands up and said there was nothing he could do about that. He did eventually take pity on our situation and told about a property that he had to rent.
So that was how we wound up living in one of the most historical buildings in Pasadena, California and how I almost got killed twice in the same night.
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