Tour De Force

I’m not a fan of bus tours. I either fall asleep in the middle of the guide’s presentation, forget everything I heard, or am suspicious of the accuracy of the information presented. They could be making it all up.

A guide in Savannah, Georgia, informed us while touring an old plantation that house slaves were once ordered to whistle while bringing food from the kitchen to prevent them from tasting it en route. This turned out to not be true, or so said several reliable sources I checked. Apparently, it was just a silly urban myth…or rural, in this case. But that summer Mary Ellen had me whistling “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” every time I brought a sizzling steak in from the grill.

When we arrived in L.A. for our vacation last week, our first scheduled tour was a bus trip throughout the Hollywood Hills area where the driver, Tom (also our guide), pointed out the homes of various celebrities. I had envisioned huge mansions with humongous swimming pools, a Tesla and a Mercedes in the driveway. And, of course, there was always the slim hope I might see George Clooney or Julia Roberts taking out their recycling.

Our first stop was the home of Bette Midler, but all we saw was an eight-foot-tall row of hedges hiding what the guide said was a majestic home. Next, we saw the opaque hedges that supposedly guarded the home of Eddie Murphy. Then another colossal line of hedges that impeded the view of Jim Carrey’s mansion.  Evergreens around the perimeter of the property prevented us from seeing Sharon Stone’s home. The former homes of Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn were all behind giant hedges. In fact, out of some 18 celebrity homes we pulled up to, the closest we got to really seeing anything of interest were the back-alley garage doors of the late Lucille Ball’s home.

I didn’t want to sound ungrateful, but I asked Tom why we couldn’t actually drive up and see any of the houses. Tom explained that stars deserved some privacy and if we got any closer there would be a lot of gawking by all of us on the bus, which might make them feel uncomfortable.

“Yes, I said, “that’s why I paid $99.95 for each of our tickets. I want to gawk. Gawking is the whole idea.

The guide asked if we had any final requests. I wanted to see the residence of Buster Keaton, one of my comedy heroes, who died in 1966.

“Who is Buster Keaton?” asked a young the lady in the front of the bus.

“He was a silent movie star,” I responded.

“How could he make a movie if he didn’t talk?”

I tried to explain this to her as we were about to pull up to the gate.  The guard came over to the bus and sternly asked what we wanted.

“We are looking for Buster Keaton’s house,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” he responded, “I am not allowed to reveal who lives here.”

“I don’t care who lives here now,” I said.  “But did Buster Keaton live here years ago?”

The guard just stared at me, expressionless. Not a word. I don’t think he knew who Buster Keaton was, either, but he was doing a great impression of the master.

The next day we planned to visit Paramount Studios. Mary Ellen asked me if I thought we’d see any big stars walking around. I told her we might or we might not.

I was hedging my bet.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at [email protected]