Anaheim - Tuesday, August 27, 1996

Today was an interesting day. It started out with my not knowing exactly what I was going to do. I did not mention yesterday, but I had been approached by a person while waiting at Mann's Chinese Theatre offering free tickets for a live taping of a sitcom in Hollywood. I suppose a bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with this concept. For filming a sitcom, studios need audiences to laugh and respond as the taping occurs. For this, they contract agencies to get audiences to the shows by offering free tickets. The draw back is that you have to participate and attend. I thought that this would be a really interesting thing to do while here, see a real show being taped and to see how things are done.

The day started out a bit rocky as I had a bit of trouble getting out of bed. I have been getting to bed fairly late and last night was no exception.

I started driving up to Hollywood along the expressway as I was hoping to get to the sitcom taping which was scheduled for 4 o'clock. Along the way I made a brief stop at a CompUSA (Computer Store), what can I say? Even on holiday I have computers on my mind. Luckily, there was nothing really there that I was interested in.

Along the freeway I noticed that most cars had their windows rolled up but there were a few that braved the warm weather and had their windows down. I decided to give it a try, well, it turns out that the noise easily drowned out the stereo and the heat was unbearable coming off the hot tarmac. That lasted only for about 5 miles when I rolled them back up.

I was quite surprised at how adapt I am getting at finding my way around, it seems that I am able to adapt quickly to new situations, but I think that is what I do at work and for my life. As a consultant with various contracts, I am thrown into new situations all the time, and it is either sink or swim. I prefer to swim, though it is an upstream swim (OK, OK, enough with the similes). I made my way up to Santa Monica Boulevard and drove along, still very early for the taping, so I decided to make my way to the La Brea tarpits. However, I had to stop at a bookstore I saw along the way, a rare bookstore. There was no books (read: Science Fiction) of any note there but the gentleman pointed me to other places to try.

On the way crossing the street I noticed a homeless person begging for money. I have always been uncomfortable in these situations no matter where I am. I refuse to give them any money because I honestly believe that anyone should never have to beg for money but can find work. My mind goes back to last year in, I believe, Vancouver when a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease was fighting for the right to die (remove herself from life support) as she felt she could no longer be of any use living. The thing is that a gentleman in England, Cambridge to be exact now holds the same position as Newton did a number of centuries earlier, his thoughts on the origins of the universe are currently and will for some time shaking the very foundations of physics. The gentleman's name is Stephen Hawking and he has had the same disease as the lady in Vancouver for about 20 years, however, he has not let it stop him from being a viable (and valuable) member of society despite his disability. True, he was smart to begin with, but I think that anyone can find their niche and make enough money to survive, you just have to look. It seems that some of the people on the street feel so little of themselves that they do not look. I don't feel I am helping by giving them money, if anything I would be helping myself by making me feel special “I have done my good deed for the day”. I can't do that, perhaps I just care too much, though it could be just fear.

The tarpits are interesting, they are basically in the middle of a LA right on a main street, visible as you drive by, there is a museum there which the person at the book store recommended, however, after paying $7.50 for parking, another $6.50 for the museum was a bit much to take. I walked around the pits and was quite fascinated. The main pit was actually a commercial tarpit at the turn of the century but they abandoned it and it filled with water, however, tar keeps bubbling to the surface, a thick oil slick that partially covers the water. I found it interesting that I saw minnows in the water, I did not know that they could survive that type of thing. I guess that the tar stays unmixed with the water. There are actually several other smaller pits nearby in a park and in a few places it has broken through the surface of the ground in the middle of the park.

After the park, I proceeded to a place that I was told earlier that had Science Fiction rarities, but, it was a long way away. I ended up driving about an hour, almost to the ocean, before I got to the store. The store was very interesting for me as I was not aware that such a thing existed. In all my previous experienced, Science Fiction books have always been new or older in good condition. The only books that this store had were behind large locked glass doors, there was good reason it was locked. I talked to the proprietor and he indicated that a number of the books were fairly expensive, the ones I was interested in were only a couple of hundred dollars, his price list has a few books in excess of $3,000. 1 never realized that such a place existed, it seemed like an antique store more than anything else, the illusion being completed by the fact that the owner indicated that he was “not much into [Science Fiction] fandom”. The books seemed more like a commodity rather than as something to enjoy though the owner indicated that he had read all of the books I asked about. It makes me wonder how much you would enjoy a book you paid more than you would for a computer. It seems to me that it would just end up in a safe, what a waste.

The first autographed edition of a book I received was from Connie Willis at the Science Fiction convention held in Winnipeg two years ago. I had never read the book she signed but I told her I would be reading it because of what I had heard. She signed it along the lines of “Steve, I hope you enjoy reading this book”, and I did indeed read the copy of the book that she signed, and I did indeed enjoy it. That, it seems to me, is the essence of Science Fiction as opposed to a glass cage and a lock. True, I have a few editions I don't just flip through at random, they are in plastic. But, before the plastic goes on, I curl up and give them a good read. I know what I want signed and what I do not. I enjoy it.

Incidentally, on the way to the bookstore, I passed through Beverly Hills, the limited amount I saw does indeed look the way it is represented in the movies and on television, complete with expensive cars and homes. Not terribly appealing, but it was nice and clean (joke).

I was getting a bit tight for time so I had to move fairly quickly to get to the studio, about 5 minutes after the time I was supposed to show up. It was not a problem (even though the ticket indicated to be “prompt” it did not take into account the Hollywood way of doing things a bit behind schedule, they were still practising fairly late).

Just off of Santa Monica Boulevard I got into a line outside the Hollywood Center studios for a taping of a new sitcom called “Everyone Loves Raymond” staring a new comedian from New York (Queens he said). It was neat to see a sitcom before anyone else, has seen it on television. After passing through the metal detectors and seated we were shown the first episode to get an idea of the characters and what it was about.

During the filming, it was interesting to see how the many people involved worked very hard to put it all together. There were many of them, I would suggest about 30 or so on the stage during filming of each segment. Everyone of them had a different task and did it well. All of the different settings were there and our focus shifted from one scene to the next with the middle time filled by a comedian there to keep us (the audience) entertained and paying attention. He did a number of unusual things including getting me up at the front because he wanted to hear me laugh (the lady beside me swore I laughed really well). A number of cheesy magic tricks and jokes kept the crowd entertained.

The real surprise came in filming the last set of sequences when a guest appearance was made by Jean Stapleton (of “Archie” fame). I was quite surprised and pleased. She is a consummate actor and it showed, even with her advanced years. She composed herself very well and made the taping very enjoyable.

The show ended taping at about 8:00 at night, which was about 3 hours after they started. It was a different experience to see a real television show being taped. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was very relaxing and interesting. It gives you a glimpse of what goes on beyond the studio walls.

After that, I basically came back to the hotel to call my sister and mother. Well, Karin was not home so I ended up talking to mother for about an hour and a half (while my take-out supper got cold, oh well!). I was trying to talk her into coming down here instead of Florida where they go every year. I hope they do, there is so much to do here, not necessarily “touristy” stuff, there are things for every interest. Tomorrow should be interesting as it is registration for the convention and hopefully getting over to Disneyland.

⇒ Continue to Anaheim - Wednesday, August 28, 1996