The one where they visit LA: Want to star in Friends? Or lift an Oscar? Step inside Tinseltown’s dream factory

The famous Hollywood Sign

HOORAY for Hollywood.

The movie capital of the world has welcomed untold millions, enticed by the dream factory magic woven on to our cinema screens.

It’s the appeal for us, too, but where to start? Well, the perfect scene-setter is to join one of the Starline Tours (starlinetours.com) daily trips that provide the ideal insider’s guide.

It kicked off at the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held each year, with the staircase draped in acres of red carpet and the entire street outside closed apart from a lucky few fans drawn from a huge ballot.

There was nothing tour guide Rob didn’t know about Los Angeles and with a stop at the iconic Farmers Market for lunch, the six hours whizzed by.

Just as much fun was the Stars’ Homes tour with equally-knowledgeable Devon. The celebrity abodes include everyone from Chalize Theron – not as palatially located as expected – Jason Statham and Al Pacino, who, we heard, tolerates the gawkers with good grace.

Hollywood Boulevard at dusk

Then there was Katy Perry, who seems to own half a hillside, and a gated community for other megastars. It also took in, morbidly, the room where Michael Jackson died after a fatal dose of medication.

As the gates at Ringo Starr’s house opened we all looked on hopefully – only to see a maid leave. And there was an amazing juxtaposition between Elvis’s classic old house to a new ultra-modern black creation newly erected by a gaming billionaire.

If you fancy it we saw one small, newly-vacant plot of land, yours for $10 million.

Now we’d had our appetite whetted and got our bearings, we wanted a real taste of that movie magic.Universal Studios is a fabulous mix of theme park and movie history.

Films have been made on this oh-so-pretty – and familiar – Southern California spot for more than a century – and still are today.

Universal Studios, Hollywood

There were two major movies in production as we took an hour-long studio tour, with the guide asking for silence as we passed the locations for new blockbuster Rim Of The World and another unnamed production.

It’s a fascinating step into the world of film-making but the theme park part was just as fun with the astonishing full-size Hogsmeade recreation from the Harry Potter films.

The thrill rides there are two of the many you’ll find – three on the lower lot, the rest of the upper including Transformers, The Mummy and The Simpson’s ride.

Factor in time, too, for the spectacular Waterworld show.

In fact, time can be an issue as there’s so much to do, so with big queues at popular times the Express ticket is a wise investment.

If there was any forgetting where we were there was a reminder every morning.

The Kimpton Everly, the nearest hotel to the famous Hollywood Sign, is one of the hippest kids on the block.

Pulling back the curtains and seeing that sign – 45ft tall, 350ft long and almost lost to vandalism in the 1970s – never lost its thrill.

Kimpton

And if you want to get another look at the sign, and a great cityscape panorama, the rooftop pool is the place to head. Sipping a drink at the bar there as the sun set in the evening made us feel a bit like movie stars ourselves.

There’s also a free wine tasting between 5pm and 6pm that eases you from the heat of the day to the buzz of the evening in the coolest of surroundings. Meanwhile, the rooms are everything you’d expect from one of the city’s newest, most chic boutique hotels. It is just a block from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a few minutes from the Chinese Theatre with its hand and footprints of the stars, and it had a brilliant nighttime buzz.

Warner Bros is another studio essential in Tinseltown.

Unlike Universal there is no theme park element, just a brilliant behind the scenes whizz around one of the world’s most iconic movie studios.

Friends set

On the two-hour-long tour we saw everything from the Parisian café where Bogart and Bergman planned their future in Casablanca to the fire escape where Tobey Maguire’s upside down Spider-Man kissed Kirsten Dunst.

Then you get to handle a real Oscar award and even take part in a Friends episode.

Let’s just say this: “Ross” may need some acting lessons – and Hollywood may not have found its newest star!

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For information about Los Angeles visit discoverlosangeles.com and flylax.com

For USA details see visittheusa.co.uk The Kimpton Everly has rooms from £183 per night.

Take a look inside at everlyhotelhollywood.com

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