Living in the Shadow of LA’s most famous landmark: or how I learned how NOT to be a tourist

Recently, as all her friends know, Nadine (and Dan) Clark went to Connecticut and Maine. They flew. Nadine read the in-flight magazine on United Airlines, and tore out an article to bring back to me for Tourist Tuesday. I thought I was going to have to re-type the whole thing in order to share it. Fortunately, I thought to look on-line. Like, DUH!

Anyway, the takeaway for me was this: We have a plethora of good writers in Big Sur – many with books. If all those wrote an article on tourism in Big Sur, geared toward the tourist industry and sent it in to the airlines that fly into LA and SF in particular, we might really reach some of our visitors. Everyone reads the in-flight magazine! Keep it Short, like this one, preferably written with humor or light-hearted, so it will be appealing. Limber up those fingers, and start writing. Maybe MCCVB will follow our lead and write for in-flight magazines, not just the much easier website! Who knows? It might start the butterfly effect and create a more conscious class of tourists.


“When I first moved to LA, I lived on Hollywood Boulevard and Western, which wasn’t so amazing. But then I made friends with an actress named Kelly Coffield who said I could take over the lease on her cute apartment in a big house in Beachwood Canyon. She kept telling me, “Beachwood Canyon is so beautiful and picturesque, and there’s a little market and a little diner,” yadda yadda.

So I drove up there, and it was a dream. It was an old house, so it had a lot of charm, and it was right under the Hollywood Sign. After I moved in, every time I would drive home, I would see the sign and just be blown away. It would bring tears to my eyes. It was so aspirational: “You can do it, Judy! You can make it in Hollywood! Look at the sign right there—you’re driving right to it!”

After a couple of months of living there, I started to notice people standing right in the middle of my street to get a picture of the Hollywood Sign, and I thought, “Jeez, that’s kind of dangerous.” Then I noticed a lot of rental convertibles pulling over, and four or five people would get out and stand in the middle of the two-lane street to get pictures with the sign above them or pictures so it would look like they were holding the sign in the palm of their hand.

Everyone would look at me with this cringing expression, like, ‘I’m sorry, but I just really want my picture.’”

Then the tour buses started coming, pulling over with full tour groups of people standing there to get their pictures taken. I was thinking, “You’ve got to be swear-word kidding me! I live up here! People live up here! This is dangerous! It’s inconsiderate!” And everyone would look at me with this cringing expression, like, “I know, I’m so sorry, but, like, I just really want my picture.” Meanwhile, every single time I drove up the street to my house, I was dodging a human being.

I became a very fervent horn honker. I’m a nice person, but eventually I would just lay on my horn for most of the drive up the hill, dodging people. Every once in a while, I would lose my temper and yell, “People live here!” out the window. They never yelled back. Everyone would always do that sheepish little “sor-ry” smile or hold up a finger like, “One more second!” Thankfully, this was before smartphones, because I can’t even imagine what it’s like now. I don’t go up there anymore. Ever.

To this day, I’m not crazy about taking those “famous pictures” when I travel. And if I do want to go to a hot destination or a good picture-taking spot, I’m so mindful of the people who live there. Tourists either think they’re the only person who have ever wanted to have a picture there, or they give you the “If you don’t like it, then you should move” look, which is another attitude that makes me crazy. I learned my lesson, which was that the thing that I thought was going to be so charming when I first moved to LA ended up being the bane of my existence.

I stayed in that apartment for three or four years, while I was saving up to buy a house. By the time I was ready to buy, I decided I still needed the Hollywood Sign in my life. I chose a place where I can still see it, but it’s very far away from where any tourists would be trying to take a photo.

Judy Greer stars in FXX’s Archer, and this fall she’ll make her directorial debut with A Happening of Monumental Proportions, star in Halloween, and join Jim Carrey in the new Showtime series Kidding.”


2 thoughts on “Living in the Shadow of LA’s most famous landmark: or how I learned how NOT to be a tourist

  1. Obviously the sign needs to be moved to a hill overlooking Bakersfield, the economy of which could benefit from a few more tourists,,,

  2. “Obviously the sign needs to be moved to a” steep cliff somewhere where the selfies eliminate the stupid. O_o (only half kidding!)

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