Who among us – when visiting L.A. – doesn't occasionally wonder if there is a TV or movie star lurking somewhere close by in this, the capital of the Entertainment Universe? Some people just won't admit they're the least bit interested in the stars.
A certain wife comes to mind who scoffs at the idea of actually looking for stars, yet can tell you the latest gossip on any given movie actress right down to whether they've had breast implants.
She doesn't quite understand the thrill of the kill I felt when, on my first trip to Hawaii, a friend and I struck true pay dirt while in search of Jack Lord – a.k.a. Steve McGarrett – who was singlehandedly boosting island tourism with his long-running television show Hawaii 5-0. Asking around, we found out where Hawaii 5-O's studios were located and rather brazenly walked up to one of the nondescript office doors, knocked and then nearly fainted when none other than Jack Lord answered the door.
True location stalkers could wait a lifetime for that little bit of serendipity.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and an enterprising young woman from upstate New York has made it a lot easier for you to not only see a star, but potentially to even talk to one. No longer do you have to just wander aimlessly through the streets of Los Angeles hoping to bump into a famous person. Christine Bord has put together a website that gives you details about just when and where the stars will be working on their latest film or television projects.
Visit www.onlocationvacations.com and a dominant part of the home page is a section devoted to giving you the locations where the stars will be filming on that particular day. Armed with a laptop or some other mobile internet device, you now can consult this website for current filming locations as you drive around the city. The site also has detailed information on locations in Vancouver, B.C. and New York City, as well as certain locations across the country where movies are being filmed.
Bord got the idea when she was in graduate school and had to produce a website as part of a class project. She was the type who always looked for famous movie locations while she was on vacation, and the site at first was mostly focused on directing readers to locations where movies and TV shows had been filmed – not necessarily where they were currently in production. But soon the site evolved, with readers sending in email tips about shows that were filming in their cities.
It was a few tips in particular that really made her site take off. She can remember that readers started posting the New York locations where Robert Pattinson was filming Twilight. Soon the site was attracting up to 20,000 people a day looking for current filming locations -- a traffic increase that was aided and abetted by the rise of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Other websites, like www.gawker.com have sprung up to post even the every-day movements of the stars as they go about their lives.
Focusing just on filming, www.onlocationvacations.com compiles all of those reader tips into a current schedule, constantly updating the calendar with details about where the filming will be, what's being filmed, and what stars are likely to be working at that location.
It's not an entirely new idea. We remember back in the 80's there was an L.A. company that would charge $20 a day to give you a sheet with all of the day's filming locations based on permits that had been issued by the city. We tried the service out one day, finding our way to a cemetery location where they were filming the TV show Hunter. The system worked pretty well and we were able to see some stars at work.
That company is no longer in business, but Christine Bord's website gives you essentially the same information for free. Keep in mind the postings are not from official sources, but most of the tipsters are getting the information from the permit notices that production companies are required to post in public view at any location where there is expected to be any sort of disruption related to film production.
Also keep in mind there is a certain kind of etiquette in stalking film productions. Bord says the most important thing is to be polite and respectful – and patient. There are usually some production assistants around who will fill you in on what specific stars are filming and when. In some cases, it may take hours before they get to the main scenes involving the primary actors.
The reward can be a short chat with a real star. Recently, Gerard Butler thrilled some onlocationvacations.com readers with some pleasantries and photos with the star. "If you can catch them on the right day," says Christine, "a lot of times people do get good reactions from the stars." Catching the right star helps. For example, word on the street is actor Denis Leary of Rescue Me is not especially "fan-friendly." And certain production companies are much more likely to allow fan interaction. The L.A. locations for Heroes are said to be generally rewarding, as well as the locations for Gossip Girl in New York.
If you're planning a lot of location visits for your next trip to Los Angeles, it's important to realize the shoot calendar is somewhat seasonal. In the winter, filming slows down significantly so the best time to visit would be end of summer and early fall. December and January are the worst times of the year, and then you'll find that most television shows go on hiatus late spring through early summer.
Other sections of onlocationvacations.com call attention to famous filming locations that you can visit and will immediately recognize from the films. But this site is not alone in this particular arena – there are several websites that do the same thing, and more extensively.
For example, a site called www.seeing-stars.com has a long list of filming locations, categorizing them by the decade. You can find everything from locations for the latest Terminator movie to where they filmed Ozzie and Harriett back in the 1950's. Did you know, for example, that CSI Miami is really filmed in Los Angeles and that the unique headquarters building is actually an FAA facility in industrial Hawthorne?
This website also has complete details on where you'll find the stars shopping and dining and even where you can visit their graves. A number of Hollywood landmarks are also noted, and the site gives details on obtaining tickets for TV shows that have live audiences.
Another site called www.imnotastalker.com is a slickly produced site run by an actress who admits she gets goose bumps visiting filming locations, past and present. The site includes many photos and past filming locations.
Whatever your source of information, the point is there is a lot more information out there nowadays to make your L. A. star search more productive than ever. So come on, admit it. You really do want to see a star.
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: Los Angeles is a key filming location for many movies and television series, although Vancouver, B.C. and New York City also have busy production calendars. The locations in L.A. can range from downtown to neighborhoods to parks to LAX. The Santa Monica Pier is a much-used backdrop, as well as beaches in Malibu or Venice. Many movies have included the more unique buildings in downtown L.A.
WHAT: Visiting filming locations can be a fascinating way to spend a few hours as you learn how the shows are shot and how painstaking every scene can be. Often stars will have time in between takes to interact with the public – assuming they want to.
WHEN: In the winter, filming slows down significantly so the best time to visit would be end of summer and early fall. December and January are the worst times of the year, and then you'll find that most television shows go on hiatus late spring through early summer.
WHY: It's a chance to see a star up-close, and to see how movies and television shows are made.
HOW: For more information on filming locations in L.A., New York City, Vancouver, B.C. or movie productions in other parts of the country, go to www.onlocationvacations.com. If planning a visit to L.A., be sure to check out our recommended lodging.
Photos, from top: Hollywood -- Center of the Entertainment Universe; Santa Monica Pier is popular backdrop; location filming in downtown L.A.; Walt Disney Hall is distinctive building used in many shows
Photos by Cary and Sandi Ordway