Brit on the boulevard …
Spring in LA isn’t like back home – though the temperature still creeps up here, there’s less anticipation of the changing of a season bringing new life. Seasons in Hollywood are more prevalent in entertainment – “pilot season” when the TV stations film tests of new ideas and shows; “holiday season” between thanksgiving and new year where it seems everybody in ‘the industry’ shuts up shop; and “awards season” aptly named based on the time of year where golden statues are handed out on a seemingly daily basis.
Well, with the glamorous and self-celebrating Awards Season firmly behind us, it seemed an apt time to kick off by giving back, and there was no more wonderful way to do this than to go exploring one of the major tourist spots in Hollywood – The Grove and Farmers Market – through the eyes of a three year old.
The beautiful girl in question we accompanied, Kodie Brown, had just completed facial reconstruction surgery in Beverly Hills, thanks to charity Face Forward that I’m proud to be on the board of. Kodie had been shot in the face by her father previously, and it was delightful to see her progress and unique personality shine as we toured the mall, stopping at American Girl Place (obviously) where she couldn’t resist striking her awards pose on the red carpet; Michael Kors where she chose her future handbag with ease; a ride on the tram, a gawp at the fountains and a quick stop for an LA favorite Pinkberry yogurt treat.
Given that I live in Hollywood, the epicenter of film with all available resources at my fingertips, the next week surprisingly included a trip halfway across the world to Oslo, Norway to finish post-production on my new film Stefano Formaggio. Yes, post-production. I flew five thousand miles to sit in a dark room for a week to edit, color, compose and sound design the film we shot in LA. But the fantastic talents at Go!Electra worked such magic on this beautiful film that it was worth every penny and every minute. Shame I can’t say the same about Oslo’s overpriced lifestyle. If you’ve ever been, and taken out a small loan for a Big Mac, you’ll know what I mean.
A missed flight departure meant I returned to LA via one night in Istanbul. As if my international clock wasn’t screwed up enough, I landed straight into the throng of Britweek – a two-week celebration of British influence in LA (which of course I am on the Committee of!) Founded by Nigel “Popstars” Lythgoe and former British Consul-General Bob Pierce, events kicked off with a fireside chat with Michael Sheen and The Times at the Four Seasons, where Margate-born Oscar-winner and Ready, Steady, Go! photog Arnold Schwarzman and I traded fond Fish & Chips memories from our youth – his just happened to involve Mick Jagger too.
The next evening’s official launch party at The British Residence was a far cry from a windy pier, but we still chowed down on mini fish-n-chips (full size is sooooo ghastly, what?), mini steak pies, mini everything except singer Seal, who was very large both in stature and awesomeness and Chesney Hawkes who wasn’t mini but I was in my memory of this one and only. The week’s remainder was a red white and blue blur which included Jeff Robb’s exhibition at McLaren, Christopher Guy’s Design awards, Craig Robert Young’s standout performance in Malibu Playhouse’s The Vortex and Dawn Bowery’s book launch of “California Dreaming: Real Life Stories of Brits in LA” which I’m honored to be featured in alongside Ioan Gruffudd, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and Ross King, all nicely tied up with Jaguar’s closing party on the roof of the London hotel. You can take the boy out of London …. Even on a rare night in, we congregated at home to cook bangers n mash and watch recent transplant actor Nick Lavelle’s turn in critically acclaimed britflick Who Needs Enemies. Even my very British car made a very british cameo in a music video for Made In Chelsea’s Gabriella Ellis.
From popstars to rockstars, May kicked off with an intimate breakfast with Gene Simmons from KISS, learning about all his branding and business endeavors, and a stunning Sunday drive through the LA mountains to lunch at the Grizzly Café. I sneaked a peek backstage on Julia Clancey’s new fashion film Across Time I Cry featuring my beautiful girlfriend Mary Tran (a sneak peek worth sneaking when you see the film 😉 and chanted ‘hasa diga eebowai’ at the shockingly hilarious Book of Mormon at the elegant Pantages theatre, which if you ever feel like laughing at things you think you shouldn’t, I highly recommend.
During May, I usually make my annual filmgrimage to the Cannes Festival on the French Riviera, but this year I happily opted to stay put to celebrate in Hollywood with a private cast and crew screening of our Norway-completed film Stefano Formaggio starring the talented Alice Greczyn and Pasquale Cassalia – my directorial debut, which I’m proud to say turned out incredible and will be hitting a film festival near you soon. The same night we continued the festivities with mine and Mary’s Gemini Twins-themed joint birthday party at Hollywood hotspot Vaucluse, which featured party-crasher Ed Helms clearly looking for another Hangover moment. I still got my missed French fix with a birthday meal at Le Petit Bistro in West Hollywood, and though tasty, its French onion soup could not quite match the formidable serving at Chez Vincent et Nicolas in Cannes last year.
Food featuring continued with the Eat|See|Hear screening of The Big Lebowski under the stars amongst food trucks at Griffith Park, and a surprisingly interesting dinner at the new Ace Hotel’s LA Chapter toasting a new partnership with travel-buddy site FOFTravel.com. My birthday month rounded up wishing I hadn’t consumed so much on a pleasant but choppy sailing trip out of Marina Del Rey with the editor of The British Weekly, another of the BOTB’s homes.
I eased into the summer months with several trips, starting by driving south to San Diego for Production Two 77’s afterparty for the Rock N Roll Marathon. We didn’t run, but sympathy-relaxed poolside and enjoyed the drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Hyatt, before an extremely comfortable stay and view at the Omni Hotel – a great location for exploring the Gaslamp district, though we totally skipped dinner to indulge solely in a favourite dessert – the Gianduja at legendary Extraordinary Desserts. From there, it was a hop skip and jump to Vegas, for a quick stay during which literal ‘high’lights included crafted cocktails and appetizers with an unparalleled view of the city from the Stratosphere, topped with the thrill rides upon the tower that I’d highly recommend as long as you don’t have vertigo – one of the rides slides you right off the edge, whilst the other shoots you even higher than the 350m that you’re already at. We also hit the street and slots at formerly faded Fremont street downtown, which is experiencing a resurgence thanks to new hotels, street entertainment and a facelift partly due to Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project.
Later that week I found myself in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a bachelor party, which was about as un-Mexican as it could be. The US’s equivalent of Magaluf, it’s a place you go for margaritas and crazy, but the proliferation of American tourists means that everything’s overpriced and in dollars. I stayed in the fancy Pedregal area, with a great group of tech guys from San Francisco, which meant our bachelor party had the typical blow up doll accessory, except she traveled by drone. It’s a great place for activities too, as we hit the beach tracks in dune buggies, cut the waves on jetskis and sunk one too many cocktails at the mainstays Squid Roe and Mandala, whilst occasionally trying to avoid the aggressive drug dealers that are a little too common here. If you go, stay safe and aware.
I returned to the peacefulness of Malibu, for my girlfriend’s birthday, which after a gourmet breakfast at The Farm on the pier, we went paragliding over the bay before bedding down with a BBQ camp on the beach at one of the few spots you can stay overnight, Point Mugu. I won’t even mention that we arranged a group to watch the disappointing first England World Cup match at Rock & Reilly, so instead that night was dedicated to a cocktail evening Night Of Wonders, to benefit the Small Wonders foundation helping children with disabilities, co-hosted by my friend and Stefano Formaggio actress Amelia Jackson Gray.
June wound down with an outdoor patio screening of Fight Club (still a great film) at the cute and charming Alcove Bakery in Los Feliz, and a sumptuous elegant dinner provided by Chefdance, held at the house Vinnie and the boys from Entourage reside in, and let me tell you, hosts Kenny Griswold and Mimi Kim definitely know how to throw a dinner party! Sneaking in a little work, I acted in a commercial at Warner Bros studios that I can’t talk about (but was epic) then ate my soul out on various bites at the LA Street Food Fest with over fifty gourmet food truck offerings, before Sunday driving out to Woodland Park Manor at one of my favorite LA escapes, the mountain community of Idyllwild. Staring out of the floor to ceiling windows of our quaint rustic cabin at the countryside after a long hike gave me just the rejuvenation I needed before hitting Hollywood again for your next installment.
Darren Darnborough is kindly supported by Turkish Airlines.