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Destination Guide

As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is overflowing with theater, art, dance, film, and television. Any afternoon can be spent on a side street in Hollywood watching a work in progress as the film industry shoots another blockbuster. The city has a variety of options for every entertainment taste.

The creative activity in the theaters of Los Angeles can easily prove that LA does indeed have culture. Hollywood may be the mecca for movies, but many actors learn their craft at the small equity-waiver venues. Writers hope their script will catch the heart of some famous producer. Actors may catch the eye of some television or movie director. You might catch some actor before fames hits or you could see Bill Pullman making announcements at a show hes producing. Some television stars try to stretch their skills before fans and less than kind critics, like when Jenna Elfman performed in a small theater in Hollywood between her "Dharma and Gregg" duties. Most tickets range from $10-$20 at the smaller theaters and $50 and up for the larger houses. Occasionally, free performances are given if you keep your eyes and ears open.

The Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County complex in downtown Los Angeles includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson.

The Ahmanson can reconfigure to seat over 2,000 people and often hosts national tours of major musicals such as "Rent" with Patrick Neil Harris, the "Scarlet Pimpernel" with Los Angeles resident Douglas Sills reprising his Tony-nominated role, and Savion Glovers electric vision of tap, "Bring in da Noise, Bring in the Funk." The Ahmanson also features original works. For the 1999 season, Sir Peter Hall directed his interpretations of Shakespeares "Midsummers Night Dream" and "Measure for Measure." The shows played in repertory, featuring Richard Thomas in key roles. Sir Ian McKellen made his only North American appearance here in Henrik Ibsens "Enemy of the People."

The Taper has housed some shows in their pre-off Broadway or pre-Broadway trials. "Jellys Last Jam" played in Los Angeles before moving to New York and adding Gregory Hines in the lead that would win him a Tony. Carol Burnetts Stephen Sondheim musical review, "Putting It Together" played here before its New York debut. Donald Sutherland performed "Enigma Variations" and in the same season as a last-minute replacement, Al Pacino brought the short character sketch "Hughie." John Rando directed the world premiere of Neil Simons "The Dinner Party" for the 2000 season.

If you're lucky you can see the red carpet rolled out for the Academy Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Dorothy Chandler is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Los Angeles has several other major performance houses. Some have been renovated to keep up their 1930s appeal The Pantages Theater, the Henry Ford and the Wiltern Theater have their share of staged spectacles.

With a reputation for plastic culture, Los Angeles surprises many visitors with her vast fine art resources. The newly re-built Getty Center is a breathtaking architectural work before you even see the collections inside. The Los Angeles Museum of Art, the Museum of Temporary/Contemporary Art, and the Fisher Gallery all have impressive permanent collections as well as top billed shows.

If nature and science excite you more than a rare Van Gogh, head straight for Exposition Park. The California Museum of Science and Industry houses one of the largest museum centers in the country. The Natural History Museum alone has 35 galleries of environmental science displays to explore.

Continue on your desire for science and technology with the Petersen Automotive Museum. Housing one for the finest collections of automobiles in America, the Petersen will blow your horn with a fantasy driven array of vehicles. Everything from a 1958 Edsel to James Bonds Aston Martin can be found here.

If its the not-so-natural history of California that interests you above cars and science, the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum is a definite must see. Go back to the days of the wild frontier and satisfy your craving for cowboys, native American culture, Spanish settlers and more guns then you could ever imagine.

For a more somber museum the Los Angeles www.wcities.com> Museum of Tolerance is a stop the humanitarian-minded tourist. The museum offers classes in world religions and societies for school children and interested adults. Powerful, moving, and informative, the museum has importance for all people everywhere.

A final stop on the must-see Los Angeles museum circuit has to be the Max Factor Museum. Famous for painting Hollywood Starlets for over 50 years Max Factor has created an almost unsettling shrine to the art of beauty. Highlights include the "Blonde" "Brunette" and "Redhead" rooms where decades of starlet secrets are revealed.

Manns Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard stands out as one of the most famous cinema houses ever built. Crowds descend upon the outlandish faux-Asian theater every day to measure the famous feet and hands imprinted on the sidewalk outside. Across the street from the Manns Chinese, The Egyptian Theater stands in flashing Las Vegas style glory. Once a famous art deco palace the theater is now forced into competing with "Ripleys Believe it or Not" and the Hollywood Wax Museum, for attention. Be sure to explore at least the lobby for a taste of true old Hollywood.

With the countless small theaters and clubs in Los Angeles, open-mike nights for struggling comedians are everywhere. For a more polished performance check the famous Groundlings Theater. This well known "training camp" for television shows like Saturday Night Live, has an ever changing billing of up and comers with an occasional star headliner. The Improv Theater has a more consistent celebrity billing with the same star-making folklore behind it. Both clubs are noisy, crowded and fun for locals and tourists alike.

When they are not out partying on the Sunset Strip, rock and roll musicians can be found performing at several Los Angeles venues. The Palace, the El Rey Theater and the Palladium each house small acts. The Forum, the Universal Amphitheater and the brand-new Staples Center are the location of choice for larger rock shows. Classical and jazz concerts are usually found at the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theater.

Sporting Events
The recently built Staples Center is the proud new home of the world class Los Angeles Lakers. While LA remains one of the few large American cities without an NFL football team, Angelenos don't seem to notice, as basketball, hockey and baseball are the local favorites. The NBA Lakers are a part of California history, as former teammates include such legends as Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar. The summer months offer a baseball game practically everyday considering both the Dodgers and the Angels alternate home stands. Lets also not forget the recent emergence of hockey as a favorite pastime. With the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks within driving distance from each other, Southern California is suddenly a hotbed of ice activity.

People watching in Los Angeles can absolutely be considered a spectator sport. After the initial shock of television and film stars wondering around the streets wears off, the local color will stand out as a much better show. Although it bears no resemblance to the hit television show, Melroseis the best sidewalk spectacle. Crammed full of sidewalk cafes, bars, coffeehouses and boutiques the street is always full of activity and unusual characters. Club kids, starlets, film crews, and tourists can be seen mingling at every stop. Melrose is also the breeding ground for undiscovered rock stars, so don't be surprised if every record store employee and every bartender offers you a copy of his or her demo tape.
If its true Hollywood stars and Ubër-Glam shopping you are looking for, Rodeo Drive is the ultimate destination. The world-renown street is always bustling with film stars in baseball caps trying to blend and Hollywood wives in diamonds trying to stand out. Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, and Tiffanys all have houses here, so if you have buying in mind be sure to bring all of your credit cards. Stop for a lunch at one of the many "California Cuisine" restaurants and consider what it would be like to live the life of a star.

Somewhere in between the rock and roll feel of Melrose and the Hollywood glamour of Rodeo Drive, lies the newest high-end neighborhood, Sunset Plaza. By daylight, when the endless rows of bars are closed this hilly neighborhood comes alive with restaurants and couture houses. Some of LAs best restaurants can be found here. The shopping at the plaza rivals Rodeo Drive as it includes the only American boutique of French Couture, giant Hervé Legér.

Cynthia Anderson