Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hooray for Hollywoodland.

I was very lucky on Monday afternoon and had a spare hour to pop down to The National Portrait Gallery by Trafalger Square. They have an exhibition on at the moment which I have been simply itching to see. Its called 'Glamour of The Gods - Hollywood Portraits' and runs until 23rd October. If you are in anyway a fan of old Hollywood or Black and White Photography, I suggest you get yourself down there! It was a bargain (in my opinion) £6 entry fee which is well worth it as some of the prints are originals or taken from the original negatives, and a lot of the photo's in the exhibition are pretty iconic. This exhibition is a high 9 feather boas put of a possible 10.

I can't really explain why, but I am a bit of an old Hollywood nut. I love the glamourous exterior of it combined with the seedy under belly of it, actually anything to do with it at all. When I was about 22 I got sent to Hollywood for a shoot. The reason for me going was slightly seedy in itself but it was an amazing opportunity to visit such an interesting place. However, apart from the swanky hotel I was put up in, (The Mondrian), I didn't get to see any glamour, although the room was 4 times the size of my flat.

My most vivid memory is of the chaperone who was supposed to be 'looking after' me dumping me one evening at his friends place high up in the hills before disappearing. The friend was apparently a photographer who decided to take a shower while I sat on the sofa and asked me if I wanted one. To this day I still have no idea what this episode was about. Maybe if I was a different type of person I would have a more interesting tale to tell than just sitting on the sofa, but I'm not a different type of person.

Then a few years later my boyfriend at the time (the Baboon) and I did a road trip around California and visited Hearst Castle in San Simeon en route from LA to San Fransisco.

This place is probably the most amazing place I have ever been to. It was built for William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper tycoon that 'Citizen Kane' is based on, and is absolutely astonishing. During the 1920's work started on what would later become, a castle with guest house, zoo, swimming pools, a cinema and airport all on top of a huge hill. Its a real test of what can be achieved if you have the dream, the will power and the cash.  It should definitely be on your list of places to see before you snuff it. Visiting Hearst Castle was the catalyst for my interest in old Hollywood and below are a few juicy book titles that I like and recommend to anyone else that has an interest in the history of Hollywood.

1. Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger (Juiciest book of all).

2. The Assasination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H Wolfe (An absolute gripper).

3. Mr S - The last word on Frank Sinatra by George Jacobs (Fascinating insight by Sinatra's PA)

4. Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford (Probably complete cobblers but a great read none the less)

5. Get Happy - The LIfe of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke (Heart breaking)

6. Furious Love - Elizabeth taylor + Richard Burton by Sam Kashner (Unputdownable)

7. Clark Gable: Tormented Star by David Bret (Insightful)

8. The Worlds Greatest Hollywood Scandals by John Marriot (Poor mans Hollywood Babylon)

9. Patty Hearst: Her own Story by Patricia Hearst (Unbelievable story of kidnap and Stockholm Syndrome)

10. John F Kennedy: An unfinished life by Robert Dallek (Eye popping)

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