In the heart of what is known as K-Town or Koreatown in Central Los Angeles lies the old vaudeville, art deco Wiltern theatre, built in 1931. Our first visit to this, one of many historic buildings from an era of expansion in Los Angeles. The facade of the building has clearly remained the same since the days of the Warner Brothers Western Theatre, the name under which it opened. Whilst showing many signs of internal aging, the venue is clearly well loved and looked after by its fabulous staff.
We checked out of the Casa del Mar around mid afternoon and took to the cars and headed East along the Santa Monica freeway in stop-go Saturday afternoon traffic. Even though it always appears that there are far too many cars on the road, journey times are more than often surprisingly swift. Having spent much time in Los Angeles in the past, in fact I owned a house here in the 90’s. I noticed then that the standard of driving is surprisingly good as people get used to driving on freeways, at speed at a very young age. Since the motor car boom of the 50’s, there can’t be a city on Earth where the car is so important. Nearly 6 million cars were registered in the Los Angeles area in 2009, that’s a lot of cars. Having said that of course, more recently, especially in Santa Monica, the public transport services have improved dramatically.
A mere 15 minutes later we were pulling up backstage at the Wiltern and as usual, Kevin Hopgood our production manager met us and saw us into the building. Downstairs in the dressing room, we were greeted by the pungent aroma of a lone bain-marie, keeping a large bowl of tasteless vegetable soup warm. A far cry from the magnificence of our European catering team. Oh how we missed them today. Backstage catering in the US is pretty hit and miss. It can sometimes be spectacular and sometimes extremely mediocre. Today’s offerings were in the latter category. The staff were great though and made us all feel very welcome. That’s just the way it is.
After our dining experiences, it was time to start gearing up for tonight’s show. Having Nigel Hitchcock with us means that it’s a large band of nine musicians and the dressing room feels quite crowded at times but the laughs and merriment always build to a head just before we insert our in-ears and head for the stage. As usual the jokes and songs were flying and the Anglo-US banter was in full swing. Just after 8pm, we walked onto the stage to another grand cheer from what turned out to be an incredible LA crowd. Rather like London and New York, Los Angeles audiences have always had that ‘difficult to please’ feeling about them but there was absolutely no evidence of that this evening. They couldn’t have been warmer or more appreciative. By the time we left the stage for the final time we were musically and emotionally fulfilled, slightly sad at the thought that there are only two more to go.
We headed North to the 101 freeway, still crammed with incomprehensible numbers of cars yet moving very swiftly. I’m convinced people drive faster in LA at night than they do in the daytime. Actually, it’s a fact. There’s less traffic. Duh! It wasn’t long before we turned onto the Ventura freeway, always an interesting experience on a Saturday evening, and up on to the 405, San Diego freeway to our Van Nuys airfield exit. On board the jet for the final flight, we toasted another great evening and headed for San Francisco international airport. On our approach we flew through a 747 wake turbulence which certainly woke everyone up as the plane rolled violently. Remarkably few drinks were spilled and our vastly experienced pilots requested another approach vector to avoid any repeat of encountering this highly dangerous phenomenon which can easily flip an unsuspecting business jet upside-down. Five minutes later we were on the ground and heading off to our hotel of choice in the heart of this great city.