Travels with Barbara Beckley: Discovering hidden Hollywood

Story and Photos by Barbara Beckley

Barbara poses on the Friends set during the Warner Bros. Studios insider tour.

Walking where Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love. Chatting with Kelly Osbourne. Strolling past the house where The Brady Bunch hit TV series was filmed. Sipping an old school cocktail at an old school bar.

Sometimes you don’t have to travel far from home to visit a “distant land.” All the above — and more — surprised and delighted me thanks to a stay at The Garland Hotel in nearby North Hollywood.

I’ve lived in Alhambra — greater L.A. — all my life. But I’m in travel, not entertainment. So I’d never heard of The Garland Hotel until I checked in. Turns out this bright orange 1970s style high-rise has been a magnet for recording industry heavy weights since it opened in 1972.

Tucked away in residential North Hollywood a block from Studio City, the hotel is just minutes from Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studios, independent recording studios, and Hollywood Boulevard’s sizzle. You can purchase tours to Universal and Warner Bros. from the hotel concierge, and the hotel has free shuttle service to both these attractions and to Hollywood Boulevard. Which all adds up to a fun and hassle-free Hollywood escape.

Musical stars, including Dolly Parton, the Eagles, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana, stayed here. “Entertainment pros still call us home,” owner James Crank told me over martinis in the macramé-filled lobby bar. All round us, guests with British and Australian accents were discussing scripts and recording sessions.

The Garland was literally born into the industry, having been built by Mr. Crank’s mother, the late movie and TV actress Beverly Garland. Being a smart businesswoman, she made the hotel an instant go-to with her movie and television colleagues. Her portrait hangs in the lobby. Mr. Crank took over in 2000 and was quick to ensure that guests like me enjoy an insider Hollywood experience on and off the property.

“To get to your room, you’ll be crossing the Portola Bridge where Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love,” the cheery desk attendant told me. “Cool,” I said. Walking over the open air bridge from the lobby to my room, I wondered if the proposal took place on their way back from a stint at the lobby bar, where I’d just been.

In the morning, I took the “insider” neighborhood walk. It’s offered every Tuesday by a hotel staffer, who points out the unexpected attractions in this primarily 1970s residential neighborhood. Just two blocks way, I was thrilled to see the Brady Bunch House — newly redone by HGTV, the split-level ranch-style home was featured in the exterior shots of The Brady Bunch 1970s sitcom — and to discover Woodbridge Park, a cute little enclave of shops and cafes. (Like our Mission Avenue in San Marino.) We stopped for a latte at the Aroma Coffee & Tea Company. It’s a favorite hangout of producers and writers, our guide said.   

I took the Deluxe Warner Bros. Studio Tour at the concierge’s recommendation. Just like he promised, it really was a behind-the-scenes adventure. During the tour, I lunched at the Commissary Fine Dining Room, surrounded by industry heavyweights, and even chatted with Kelly Osbourne, who was entering as I was leaving. I sat on the Central Perk Cafe couch on the set of Friends and took selfies on sets including the Big Bang Theory, Gilmore Girls, and Pretty Little Liars.

If you ever wonder where old baby dolls go, it’s the Warner Bros. Prop Room. Rows and rows of baby doll heads— creepy — along with everything else imaginable, towered from floor to ceiling. And in the costume department, “we have eight miles of clothes and two miles of shoes,” the guide said.

Taking the free shuttle to Hollywood Boulevard, I enjoyed cocktails at Musso & Frank Grill, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Dark and windowless, with comfortable booths, Musso & Frank’s is right out of Hollywood’s golden age, little changed since it opened in 1919. “Yesterday, TV star Edward James Olmos was sitting over there,” the bartender told me. Keeping it retro, I ordered a Harvey Wallbanger. Without blinking an eye, the bartender blended vodka, Galliano, and orange juice as if it were still 1972.

Walking back to meet the hotel shuttle, I spotted it — Beverly Garland’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Thank you, Beverly,” I said to myself, “for a wonderful adventure.”

For more information, visit www.thegarland.com, www.wbstudiotour.com, and www.mussoandfrank.com


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Jan 2021


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