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Stephen Schochet

 

 

 

Tales Of A Hollywood Tour Guide

by Stephen Schochet

 

On one tour we stopped at Rodeo Drive. The people were returning to the bus after their visit and Steve Garvey came walking by. A life-long Dodger fan I said," Hi Steve." Happy for the recognition, he came over to meet the people on the bus. Unfortunately, the entire group was from England and Germany and not a single person knew who he was.

While giving tours of Hollywood in the 1990s, it was a pleasure for me and my customers to see ninety-something George Burns being driven around in a black Cadillac. The comedian always rode shotgun and smoked his trademark cigar. He would roll down the window, say hello and smile for the cameras. The women on the bus frequently commented on his cuteness. Usually Burns rode to Forest Lawn Cemetery to talk with his late wife Gracie or went to have lunch at the Hillcrest Country Club. Since the 1940s, George had sat at Hillcrest’s famed “Comedian’s Round Table” with legends such as Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, The Marx Brothers and George Jessel. When we encountered Burns, he was the last survivor of the group. The Hillcrest board of directors was always very strict about the club members following their rules. But they amended one policy so that anyone ninety-five and over could smoke.

Once, when I was leading a tour through Beverly Hills, my group had a pleasant experience meeting the nine-times-married Zsa Zsa Gabor. It was a few years after the notorious incident when she slapped a policeman. We met her inside Fred Hayman, a now shut-down boutique on Rodeo Drive. The former Miss Hungary of 1936, who was always willing to sacrifice her time to go overseas with Bob Hope to entertain American troops, graciously took pictures and shared a cappuccino with us. Zsa Zsa also gave beauty advice to my friend Laura, the store’s gorgeous bartender, who looked like super model Cindy Crawford. It reminded me of the time a few years back when Gabor was questioned by a girl who was about to break off her engagement. The wealthy fiancé had presented her with a Rolls Royce, diamonds, a fur coat and a stove. What should she do? “Give back the stove,” said Zsa Zsa. (When Zsa Zsa approached the bar, she stated that Laura had beautiful skin. She emphatically advised the younger girl to stay away from booze to maintain her looks. Then Zsa Zsa said, “By the way, darling, put a little extra brandy in the cappuccino today,” and laughed good-naturedly.)

When I first started training as a tour bus driver I rode with other guides to see how they did it. One guy, unfortunately did not endear himself to the customers with a patter of stale and sometimes sexist jokes. At one point he showed the Hollywood Sign, and told the tragic story of actress Peg Entwistle, who unable to succeed in the transition from stage to screen, jumped fifty feet to her death from the top of the letter H. He finished the tale with the tagline,"Of course the last person to jump was a tour guide who didn't get tipped." There was a pause and then an Australian customer from the back of the bus shouted out," Oh yeah? Well there'll be another one tomorrow!"

 

 

Stephen Schochet is the author of the upcoming book

Hollywood Stories: Short Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies. He is also the author of two acclaimed audiobooks

Tales of Hollywood: Hear the Origins of Hollywood!

and

Fascinating Walt Disney: Hear How Walt Disney's Dreams Came True!

These entertaining gift items are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 1-800-431-1579 or wherever books are sold.

View samples at www.hollywoodstories.com

 

 

 

 

 

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