Unless you are new to the ‘Blogle, you already know that two weeks ago I returned from Los Angeles where I was lucky enough to cover the ESPYs. I couldn’t have gone without your donations, nor would it have even happened without Keri Potts of ESPN. Many thanks to all of you that made it happen.
In case you missed them, I’ve already posted pictures, video, and other info from the ESPYs pre-party and the actual night of the ESPYs. They contain most of the good stuff that most of you may care about, but given the magnitude of a trip like this for some ‘Blogler from smalltown Alabama, I wanted to do one last post (in two parts) to recap the whole trip. I also have tons of pictures, video, and other info that really didn’t have much to do with ESPYs or Auburn, and I figured some of you wanted to see it anyway. So here’s how it happened…
I flew out of Birmingham on Tuesday morning with a quick stop in St. Louis followed by a three-and-a-half hour flight to LAX. I knew that I was going to see Coach Chizik at some point in the next few days so I finished up his book on the flight. This was a pretty major accomplishment for a guy who usually can’t even finish a magazine article of considerable length. It took me less than a week to finish the whole thing and I was actually left wanting more. I was proud.
Anyway, once I landed I was ready to go and take in L.A. (I had been one time before for the 2002 game against USC, but only for a day), but the problem was that I had to find a way from LAX to Hollywood; around 15 miles away. I had been told to find a shared shuttle because it was cheaper than a taxi. It definitely was, but I hadn’t expected to wait a half hour for the van to get there, nor was I expecting the driver to drive around the loading area (I estimate a good 452 miles) twice looking for other passengers. This made me very antsy because I just wanted to get to the motel, drop of my stuff, and go.
We eventually left the airport on the way to Hollywood. I had Google Maps pulled on my phone to make sure he was going the right way; mainly because I have never taken a taxi or shuttle of any kind, especially by myself in L.A., and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being driven to an abandoned warehouse. Of course he took a way that was not recommended on Google Maps, but we did actually end up getting to the Rodeway Inn on Sunset Blvd. in pretty good time. One good thing about the trip was that he showed me everywhere I didn’t need to go as an alone out-of-towner.
So I got in my room at the Rodeway Inn, a quaint little motel right across from the In-and-Out Burger, and it wasn’t anything special, but it had a king bed and did the job. I had no complaints.
I had a few hours before Keri was coming to pick me up to go to the ESPYs Style Studio and the pre-ESPYs party, so I headed out to get a lay of the land. I needed to eat so I just started walking in hopes that I’d find something good. I passed a Chik-Fil-A, but I felt like that was cheating. At any given point in my office in Birmingham, I can see three of them all at once. You don’t fly to L.A. to eat at Chik-Fil-A, so I kept looking.
I made my way down Sunset a little ways before I had my first “L.A. moment.” I know some people in California are nothing like what you’ll see in Alabama, and I’m not completely naive to the differences in our world, but when the first thing you see out and about in a new city is a girl wearing a tiara, sparkly high heels, and riding a bicycle with a guitar on her back followed by a guy with a handlebar mustache, playing a harmonica, and riding a unicycle, I think it’s okay for me to say “yep, I’m in L.A.”
I went down to the next intersection and was about to across the street when I heard police sirens coming up beside me. One ended up screeching to a stop to block the intersection while two other cars turned and fishtailed around the corner.
So let’s recap… I’m ten minutes into Los Angeles and I’ve already seen two people holding instruments while riding bi- and uni-cycles, and something resembling a car chase scene from a t.v. show. Not stereotypical of L.A. at all…
Once I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning (it was around 3 pm CT), I decided to get something fast, so I walked across the street to give In-N-Out a try. All I ever hear is about how good it is there, probably because the people who tell me that are from Alabama and never get to eat it. It was okay. It sort of reminded me of Sonic. Nothing special.
I left there and pulled up Google Maps again to figure out where everything a tourist needs to see in that area was. Hollywood Blvd. ended up only being two blocks away so I walked up there to check it out. While there, I took a bunch of pictures of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (that I’ll probably never look at again), Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and whatever else I thought looked cool.
After I got tired of that, I went back to the motel to get ready. Keri picked me up a little while later and we went to the W Hotel Hollywood to the ESPYs Style Studio. Basically, this was a floor in the hotel where 10-12 retailers showed off their products to anyone that was invited to the ESPYs. Since I was with Keri, I got two wrist bands that gave me full access. A few of the products I remember seeing handed out like they were candy were Otter Box cases, XBoxes, and HP’s new tablet. It was cool to just walk around and take it all in and act like I didn’t care that I was surrounded by millionaires.
I kind of went in to a small case of shock because it was just one famous person after another. I knew who I was looking at, I just couldn’t tell you their names. There were too many at one time. I do remember Doug Flutie, Matt Leinart, Willis McGahee, Greg McElroy, and Michael Jordan, though. No, not that Michel Jordan. The Michael Jordan that plays “Vince” on the now sadly off-the-air t.v. show Friday Night Lights. I was told Cam came by quickly before we got there, but that he would be back the next day.
We left from there to go eat before heading to the party. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was a Mexican place. Not like Alabama cheap Mexican. Like L.A. upscale Mexican.
While we were eating, I asked Keri a few questions about ESPN like “Why does Joe Schad hate Auburn?”, etc., but I never got a proper response. I also got to explain to her the Auburn-Alabama rivalry and why Auburn is obviously better. She is now enlightened.
From there we went to Spot 5750 for the pre-ESPYs party. It was on the way where I remembered why I would never want to live in Los Angeles: no parking at all. I know it can be a pain to try to find a legal parking spot in downtown Auburn on a Saturday night, but this was ridiculous. And it was a Tuesday night at 8 pm. There was nothing for blocks.
We eventually settled with valet, and I took up a spot on the black carpet outside the club. It was time to do part of what I came there to do.
It wasn’t too crazy. There were lots of cameras and lots of lights. Most reporters had a microphone and a camera guy and a tripod, etc. Not me. ‘Blogler had a still camera around his neck, and a Sony Handycam in one hand. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to see these people again, but I will say that the most nerve wracking part about the whole thing was trying my best to keep from looking like an amateur to them while I interviewed someone. I really wasn’t bothered about asking Stephen A. Smith and Warren Moon for an interview. For some reason, I was worried about not stepping on the other reporter’s toes. I know in that industry that’s really the last thing that matters, but I’m not in the industry, or at least wasn’t at that point.
So as you saw in the video I posted, I saw a lot of athletes and celebrities. I knew most of them, but like at the Style Studio, there were so many so quickly, I just couldn’t put a name with the face quick enough. Most of the time, I just found myself gazing at everybody, and not really trying to do any reporting. If you were me, you would have done the same. Believe me.
The number one guy that I definitely didn’t mistake was Cam. I saw him start down the line answering questions and I decided that I didn’t care what the other people thought anymore so I squeezed in and got ready. He got closer and closer and I got some questions ready in my head, then of course, his handler pulled him out of the line. I got a ‘War Eagle’ out of him, but that was all. No worries, I’d see him the next day on the red carpet at the ESPYs.
A few minutes later I looked down the line and saw that he had gotten back in and was talking to Vibe Magazine, so I ran down there to try again. I yelled something about Cammy Cam Juice at him when he was done with them, but his handler pulled him away again. Then Serena stepped on my foot as she ran in late to the party she was hosting. So that was kinda cool.
It was about that time that Keri came out of the party, and at this point I thought I might be able to go in the party for a few minutes just to see what was going on, but she handed me a ticket and said I could go in whenever.
The line kind of cleared out, so I decided I was done with the “work” and ready to go party with some celebs. I had a backpack full of cameras and my laptop, which made going through the metal detector interesting, and had no place to put it. So yeah, this dweeb was walking around in the club with a very full, very heavy backpack. Oh sorry, Mr. Novitzki, didn’t mean to bump you with my book satchel.
Once I was in, the first person I saw was Cam. He was surrounded by tons of people, but the only one I knew was John Sally. I kept my eyes on him because I’m a stalker like that, but really just because I wanted to talk to him. I mentioned this in my recap, but after a few minutes Cam just sat down on the corner of a couch and looked like a bored little kid. Nobody was talking to him so I went up and told him I went to Auburn and all that. You can read all about that in the other post.
So I spent the next few hours just walking around trying to look as cool as you can look with a backpack on in an L.A. club, while eavesdropping as best I could. I was really tired and ready to go home, but I wouldn’t let myself. Plus, I also wanted to see one of my new favorite music groups, Karmin (interview later). They were the opening act for Estelle, who I nor Cam had any idea who she was. I did recognize one of her songs as I was perched on the balcony right above the stage while staring down at her backup singers reveling in their choreographed dance moves.
Once I got my fill of the loud and crowded party and got over the fact of who was there, I decided it was time to go. Keri had already left so I was own my own in terms of getting back to my motel. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea because once I got outside, half the club was hailing cabs or waiting on their rides. This is when I decided it would be a good idea to walk to my motel at 1:30 am. I knew it was at least a mile away, and I knew which way I needed to go, so I just started walking, backpack and all.
I got about a half mile down the very dark, very shady part of Hollywood Blvd., pulled up Google Maps, and then realized that I had almost two miles to go. Understandably, I picked up the pace. Have you ever seen those walking races in the Olympics? Yeah, I could have won a gold medal.
I didn’t run into too much trouble, other than the homeless guy who once I passed him started yelling that all East Coasters needed a bullet in their skull. Besides that, it was fine. In fact, at one point I ran into about 100 Norwegians that were all smoking and wearing track suits outside out of a theater. That definitely eased my nerves.
So now I can say that I’ve walked 2+ miles down Hollywood Blvd by myself after midnight. If Beautiful Blogle or Mom Blogle had known that I was doing it, they probably would have flown out there to kill me before the streets did. But I made it, and I’m a better man for it.
The next day I was pretty much on my own until the ESPYs. I remembered that Cam was supposed to be going the Style Studio, and I still had my all-access bracelets on, so I went back up to the W Hotel. I hailed a cab by whistling, which I have never done before. I promise I’m not as naive or as much of a worrier as I sound, but the whole way there I was thinking “does he expect a tip? how does this work?”
It ended up being seven bucks and I gave him $10 and got out quickly before he could complain. But then he started yelling “Wait, Wait, Wait!” I thought it was about my tip, but then I realized he was telling me to wait because a truck was about to run me over. I made it, barely, and went inside.
I had my video camera in hopes that I would maybe get a quick interview or something with Cam. Again, it wasn’t meant to be. The only time I saw him was when the elevator doors opened to the floor, someone got off, but he stayed on. Oh well, I’d get him on the red carpet.
I did, however, get some stalker footage of Coach Chizik, Tim Jackson, and their wives walking around with their swag. I also, very quickly, got Danica Patrick as she was going into a meeting or shoot or something with Justin Bieber. The Biebs was quick and tiny so he was hidden behind his bodyguards most of the time, but I did share the same air with him for a few minutes. You’re jealous. Admit it. Anyway, here’s a little video that I got:
Once I realized Cam wasn’t coming back and most of the big names were gone, I decided to leave and do a little more walking around Hollywood. But first I noticed that there was an extremely high amount of famous people walking around the lobby of the hotel. I knew I was going to do a lot of walking for the rest of the day, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to sit for a second and see who I could see.
I already told this story on Cubelic & the Kid, but here it goes again…. There I was, sitting on a white leather couch, taking it all in, when I notice two ESPN executives talking. I was trying to lean in and hear what they were discussing when a bouncy blonde runs up and pinches the woman executive on the butt. The bouncy blonde was Brooklyn Decker… and I mean her personality and running style was bouncy. Not what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.
So I spent the next few minutes trying not to drown the lobby with drool and even snapped this uber-stalker picture just for you:
Once she left, I figured it wasn’t going to get any better, so I left and went back out to Hollywood Blvd. There are some weird people on that street. At any given time, there is somewhere between 25-50 grown adults dressed like cartoon characters, superheroes, or some sci-fi thing just walking up and down the boulevard.
Basically, they are waiting for tourists to ask to have their picture taken with them, but what they don’t tell you is that they want $5 for the two seconds that they spent standing there posing. If you don’t know that or refuse to pay, they will rip their mask off and berate you until you feel stupid enough to pay them. It’s pretty ridiculous and very sad.
I have some footage of these winners along with other random Hollywood Blvd. stuff here:
Next I decided to eat at my new favorite place that doesn’t exist in Alabama, Baja Fresh. After that, I went back to the motel to get ready for the ESPYs.
The show was in downtown Los Angeles which was about 10-15 miles away. I was told the subway was the way to go, so that’s what I did. I’ve ridden the MARTA in Atlanta a few times, and this was sort of the same thing, but with about ten times the rails and a hundred times the confusion. I figured out which train I needed to start on, but after that I had no idea. I figured like the MARTA they would name a few points of interest at each stop. They did not.
So I asked the guy sitting next to me how to get to the Staples Center, which is right next to the Nokia Theater where the ESPYs were. He told me where to go and asked why I was going there. He thought it was cool and we spent the next 15 minutes talking about sports.
When the time came to get off the train, the guy who was sitting in front of us and had appeared to be sleeping the entire time, chimed in and told me that I should get on another train that would drop me off right in the parking lot of the Staples Center rather than a few streets away as the first guy had told me. He seemed nice enough so I took his advice.
He ended up walking with me and told me I’d need another token for the next car, at which point he told me he’d wait for me while I bought it. The skeptical, untrusting boy from out of town in me immediately thought that he was going to try to get something out of this. Nobody in L.A. is this nice, are they?
It turns out he was. We ended up getting on the next train, talking about the ‘Blogle (he even bookmarked it on his phone), and he made sure I knew where I was going once I got off the train. His name was Ray, I believe. I’m grateful that I ran into him.
I’ll end part one right here because I’m sure you’re tired of reading (if you made it this far). I have more footage from the red carpet at the ESPYs in part 2 so be looking for that soon.
Dude, how could you not love In-n-Out?! Zach and I ate there like 4 times when we were out in Phoenix for the National Championship game.
It was good. I’d eat there again. I was just expecting more.
In & Out is like Sonic?? I’ve lived in both CA & AL. They aren’t even on the same playing field :)
I love your blog and certainly enjoyed reading about your adventures in L.A. Looking forward to the follow-up. And fwiw, next time try breathing heavy into camera while filming. Gives it more of that realistic stalker feel. (jus’ sayin)
I don’t know why I made that connection in my brain. The bun just reminded me of Sonic.
I will definitely breathe harder into the camera next time. :)
Next time you have the In & Out URGE and are feeling adventurous, say “animal” when you are ordering the burger (you have to know this, it’s not on the menu) and they will drown it and then grill it in a tangy yellow mustard. No extra charge last time I was there, and I found it to be pretty tasty. Keep up the good work. Great posts. You are a natural and very readable “travel writer”, calling it like you see it. Good stuff.
Sounds a lot better.
Thanks for the compliment. I know this is a very long-winded post, but I like details.
Ahh, you had the plain burger. This explains it. Animal-style is the ONLY way to go. It’s not just the mustard, but the grilled onions that make the burger so good. And yes, you can get your fries Animal-style as well. There’s always the risk of an early coronary, but it’s worth it.
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