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If You Like Hedges and Front Gates, Do I Have a Virtual Tour For You!

I Went on a Virtual Tour of Hollywood Homes so You Don’t Have To

There are so many tourist attractions and activities to see and do in Los Angeles. One way to combine a few of them (or viewing them from a vehicle at least) is by doing a tour of Hollywood homes.

Obviously, travelling to LA right now is not an option for most of us. However, thanks to COVID, virtual tours of tourist locations have become all the more common.

It’s a strange feeling getting ready for a tour of Hollywood homes by grabbing a coffee, a laptop and plopping myself onto the couch. Still, I was excited to take part in a stereotypical international tourist experience, to lose myself in a virtual tour of something different and unfamiliar… Somewhat unfamiliar at least.

I participated in this tour in real life during my childhood. I wanted to compare the virtual tour to the lived experience, and it brought back some memories. For the most part, the tour was exactly as I remembered, for better or worse.

Mainly targeted towards a US audience, the tour started over Zoom on Sunday night, which was 11am on Monday morning for us in Australia. Many of the guests with cameras turned on were in the elderly, retired age demographic.

It was a bit of a shock to be sharing a Zoom call with that many strangers (there were 183 participants, many couples though). It would feel strange at any time of the day, but on a Monday morning felt especially off putting. My camera was quickly turned off.

As the tour started, the first thing I noticed was that the streets were empty. It felt very post-apocalyptic compared to memories of how it would usually look, based on the scenery supplied, it appears to have taken place during the LA lockdowns in 2020.

The tour began by showing footage of all the typical Hollywood sights; The Dolby Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and of course, the Hollywood sign, as it did in the real life version of the tour.

Viewing these locations for the first time in my childhood was amazing. It felt like we were at the world’s capital for entertainment. I remember seeing the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign and being totally mind blown (I was 11 at the time).

But viewing these same locations virtually, left much to be desired. I found myself losing interest the same way one does when watching television at times, unintentionally drifting away in thought- or more commonly, looking at a phone.

One exciting advantage of experiencing the virtual tour was their cut in shots from inside the Dolby Theatre and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Thanks to some real estate footage, we also got a glance inside the homes of some of the highlighted celebrities on the tour.

Unfortunately, viewing the outside of said celebrity’s houses required a bit of imagination and trust.

There is not a whole lot to look at pulling up to the homes of celebrities like Donald Sutherland, Quintin Tarantino, Charlie Hunum and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. Apart from their front hedges and gates being a little fancier than average.

Some houses like Laurence Fishburne’s had a small gap in the front gate. Our tour guide, Doug, made a big deal about being very lucky to gain a glimpse inside at the sliver on his front door.

Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Los Angeles (California, USA), Hollywood Boulevard — 2012 — 5100” / CC BY-SA 4.0

It was around this time I remembered that I did not enjoy the Hollywood Homes tour the first time around when I was a kid. It verges on surveillance at times as the tour bus slows down in front of people’s houses, hoping they might gain the slightest of peeks into someone else’s life.

While I remember being impressed by the Hollywood landmarks, that is a very small portion of a Hollywood homes tour. For the most part you are driving around random streets looking at the fronts of people’s houses. Or in this case, watching a laptop screen of people’s houses.

It became cringe worthy when our tour guide Doug, began to tell us about the celebrities or their spouses that had come out to yell at him as he is with a tour group. He appeared to take pride in being an annoyance to the likes of Courtney Cox, or Jason Statham’s partner Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

It was slightly more comfortable being able to partake in the tour from the comfort of my own lounge room, but only slightly.

Overall, unless you’re really into Hollywood celebrities and/or the architecture of Hollywood, Bel Air and Laurel Canyon, I would not recommend this tour. In real life or virtually.

If you find yourself in LA, maybe pick one of the many other activities to do. If you’re looking for a virtual event, I would suggest taking one in a location with many more historical monuments. Something that is more aesthetically pleasing than mainly hedges and gates.

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