Opinion: A sightless sight-seeing experience


I’m not a fan of bus tours. I’m suspicious of the accuracy of the information presented. They could be making it all up.

A guide in Savannah, Ga., once informed us that slaves were ordered to whistle while bringing food from the kitchen to prevent them from tasting it en route. It turned out to be a silly urban myth … or rural, in this case. But that summer, my wife Mary Ellen had me whistling “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” whenever I brought a sizzling steak in from the grill.

We vacationed in LA last week and scheduled a bus tour throughout the Hollywood Hills. I had envisioned huge mansions with humongous swimming pools, and a Tesla and Mercedes in every driveway. And, of course, there was the slim hope I might see George Clooney or Julia Roberts taking out their recycling.

Our first stop was Bette Midler’s place, but all we saw was an 8-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. Another colossal line of hedges impeded the view of Jim Carrey’s mansion. Evergreens prevented us from seeing Sharon Stone’s home. The one-time 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 seeing anything of interest were the back-alley garage doors of Lucille Ball’s home.

I asked Tom why we couldn’t actually drive up and see any of the houses. Tom explained that if we got any closer there would be a lot of gawking by all of us, making the stars feel uncomfortable.

I paid $99.95 for each of our tickets. I want to gawk. Gawking is the whole idea.

I asked the guide if we could 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 approached our bus.

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

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

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

The guard 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.

At 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.