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"Hollywood will pay you ten thousand for a kiss,
- Marilyn Monroe
The unaccountably expensive price of this light paperback book will be of little concern to those members of the human race that find pleasure in the suffering of others. For it is here that sixteen carefully planned Hollywood tours are presented, each one featuring numerous stop-off points whereupon the book relates a sensationalist story of an incident such as suicide, murder, rape or bombing. Before commencing with the actual tours however, the book does start with an interesting account of the history of early Hollywood and how remote outposts like Beverly Hills were originally developed.
Once the tours actually get underway though, it's quantity rather than quality that prevails, with several factual errors for one particular point along Sunset Boulevard, for example.
(Shoreham to Sunset. Right to:)
8860 Sunset Boulevard, Viper Room, River Phoenix death site
In the 1940s this bar was called the "Melody Room" and was a favorite hangout of Bugsey Siegel. In 1993 it was owned by Johnny Depp, and was a favored hangout of the young Hollywood party set. On Halloween night, 1993, actor River Phoenix took a fatal drug overdose inside and died on the sidewalk by the front door. The 23-year-old had starred in Stand By Me (1986), Sneakers (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988), and received an Oscar nomination for Running on Empty at 17. Although he was a vocal vegetarian, Phoenix had no qualms about drugs. While visiting here he injected himself with a fatal "speedball" of heroin and cocaine and like his hero John Belushi, was killed by it. He collapsed in convulsions and after being carried outside he died by the front door. The apparently very self-aware star told a doorman, "I'm gonna die, dude" as he was carried past. Appropriately, "viper" was 1920s slang for an opium addict.
Besides yet another airing for the apocryphal comment to the doorman, there are several problems with this passage - everything from the date given for the movie Sneakers, the often-repeated error regarding the date of River's death, through to the claims regarding the method the narcotics were taken that night. Such issues will no doubt be of little concern to those actually taking part in this tour. By now they will driven off along Sunset Boulevard, not to the Chateau Marmont Hotel, where John Belushi died (that was actually the starting point for this tour), but in the opposite direction to the scene of a 1940's gangland drive-by shooting.
Over 500 such sites are featured and just about every celebrity you can think of is mentioned at some point or another. Others that are discussed include powerful people behind the cameras such as Irving Thalberg and Brandon Tartikoff.
847 Ocean Avenue, Stan Laurel death site
After Hardy's 1957 death, Laurel refused interviews for the rest of his life, and after several strokes, on February 23, 1965, he began failing rapidly. Laurel said to his nurse, "I'd rather be skiing than doing this." His nurse asked, "Oh, Mr. Laurel, do you ski?" and he replied, "No, but better be doing that than having these needles stuck into me." With his typically perfect timing, as if on cue he died that very instant. He was 65, the same age as Oliver Hardy when Hardy had died in 1957. At his funeral, the mortuary played the Laurel and Hardy theme song in the background for the mourners.
And just who was Tallulah Bankhead? Well, it seems she was a 1930's bisexual actress, noted for performing naked cartwheels at parties. Fascinating.
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