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Hollywood, Calif., is one of my favorite vacation destinations.
I love entertainment and show business, and two weeks ago, I spent seven fun-filled days and nights in Los Angeles.Wade Allen
Hollywood, Calif., is one of my favorite vacation destinations.
I love entertainment and show business, and two weeks ago, I spent seven fun-filled days and nights in Los Angeles.
Meeting up with some of my favorite celebrities proved thrilling. I spent lots of time with my friend Lauren Foulk, who lives in LA.
We spent one evening at the home of James Karen, a character actor, perhaps best known for his work in the Steven Spielberg film Poltergeist. He played Mr. Teague the man who infamously moved the gravestones but not the bodies. Over the past six decades, hes worked with so many famous actors. Jane Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Bea Arthur and Craig T. Nelson, to name a few.
It was a lovely evening chatting with him and his wife, Alba Francesca. Their living room boasts a breathtaking view of the LA skyline and Hollywood. We sat together and watched the sunset.
Lauren and I painted the town red.
We enjoyed the West Hollywood nightlife one evening and ended up meeting JoJo, the actress and singer best known for her song Too Little Too Late.
Lauren and I walked along Hollywood Boulevard, enjoyed many memorable meals and found our favorite actors names along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We spent one night along the Malibu beaches. The views are breathtaking. We drove past Chers oceanfront mansion.
On June 27, I enjoyed lunch at Mels Diner with actor Alan Oppenheimer, who appeared as Mayor Tutwiller in Mamas Family. He shared funny lines with Vicki Lawrence, Betty White and Rue McClanahan.
Lauren and I spent our last day together hanging out in Beverly Hills. It was so much fun.
Although every minute of my trip was packed with fun activities, it was sad to say goodbye.
Today Im sharing three special experiences from the trip memories that will last a lifetime.
TALES FROM HOLLYWOOD
Going to church with Rev. Della
As I walked down the aisle in the sanctuary of Up Church in Inglewood, Calif., nearly a dozen parishioners greeted me with hugs.
Sitting about five pews from the front, I spotted Della Reese sitting near the pulpit.
With her eyes closed, she clasped her frail hands together. Leaning forward, she prayed from her chair.
Reese, known for her role in Touched by an Angel, is also an accomplished singer. And she happens to be the pastor of Up Church, not too far from LAX airport in Los Angeles.
Reese had invited me to attend a Sunday afternoon service if I found myself in town.
I sat in the sanctuary in awe of Rev. Della, as shes known to the congregation.
The congregation greeted me with such enthusiasm. People formed a line to shake my hand and embrace me.
We sang traditional hymns and contemporary praise and worship songs. Rev. Della performed a tear-jerking solo as she set the mood for her sermon.
In the middle of the service, a worship leader brought a microphone to me. She asked that I introduce myself and share what brought me there.
Ive always admired Rev. Dellas work and her life. Shes a Christian example of grace and love, I said. I thank the Lord for allowing me to be here to worship with you all today.
To my surprise, I received a standing ovation and round of applause. Rev. Della looked at me and smiled.
Her sermon was full of encouraging words, scripture reading and quotes to contemplate.
We visited before I left the sanctuary. I sat beside her as she held my hand. We talked and she thanked me for stopping by.
When I told her that I hoped to see her again, she said, I look forward to it.
Having lunch with Mrs. Brady
Ive met few as genuine and classy as Florence Henderson.
The actress, who portrayed Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, has enjoyed a career spanning five decades.
We hung out and ate lunch together on June 28 in picturesque Marina del Rey, Calif., along the coast.
Ive corresponded with her for years, and in January, I wrote to tell her about my vacation in Los Angeles this summer. To my delight, she invited me to lunch on her turf.
We dined at one of her favorite lunch spots. Actually, as she shared with me, its one of a couple of places she can go and not be confronted by onlookers.
Four decades after taping the last Brady Bunch episode, she remains instantly recognizable by the public.
As she and I sat beside each other at a booth near a window at the restaurant, I asked her how she handles the constant demand for autographs and photos.
Her philosophy? It takes one minute to be nice, and five to not be so nice. So she accommodates requests for autographs and photo ops when fans spot her out and about.
Thats especially been known to happen aboard airplanes, she said.
It was effortless speaking with Florence. Once I got past the momentary star-struck feeling of being in the company of an internationally famous TV star, I loved just spending time with her.
We talked about her singing God Bless America each year at the Indy 500 and the recent death of fellow Brady Bunch actress Ann B. Davis.
As we talked about our families, Florence told me about her 11-year-old grandson. She enjoys spending time with him.
When I asked her if he knew how cool his grandmother was, she replied, No he doesnt. He knows me as Grandma Flo.
After dining, the TV star set aside her white-and-blue sunglasses to reach for her wallet. She quickly handed her American Express card to her assistant, who was taking care of us. Florence bought our meal, which I did not expect at all.
I want to buy yours, I told her. It would be my pleasure to buy yours, Florence.
She smiled but still insisted on buying, saying it would be her pleasure to take care of the bill. Her kindness nearly left me speechless.
Still sitting at the booth, we reached to embrace. She put her hand around the back of my head to pull me closer.
I want you to know how much I appreciate this, I said. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I mean that sincerely.
To my delight, she smiled and whispered, I know you do. I can see the truth in your beautiful blue eyes.
Visiting Ruta Lees estate
The flamboyant, glamorous star Ruta Lee has appeared on stage and screen for decades. For separate films, Frank Sinatra and Tyrone Power called her their leading lady.
Shes enjoyed guest roles on TV shows spanning five decades from Roseanne to The Andy Griffith Show.
Her over-the-top show biz personality made her famous for being herself, much like Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Ruta appeared on Hollywood Squares and co-hosted the game show High Rollers.
She appeared at least twice on Lucille Balls classic The Lucy Show. Ruta always delivered memorable performances, co-starring with late actors Milton Berle and Gale Gordon.
In February, I wrote a letter and mailed it to Ruta, explaining that I would be in Los Angeles on vacation and asked if I could meet her. Her assistant soon contacted me and offered to help make it happen. I was invited to her home in the Hollywood Hills.
I arrived outside the gates of that mansion holding my camera and a dozen yellow roses.
My friend Lauren Foulk and I sat upon sofas in Rutas informal den and sipped peach tea.
Then I heard Rutas voice getting closer and closer.
She walked into the room and greeted me with a big hug. I was almost speechless as I thanked her for having me to her beautiful home.
We talked for a while about Rutas work in TV. She asked me how long I had been a fan.
Since I was 2 years old, I told her.
Its the truth. Ive loved you all my life!
Then Ruta took us on a tour of the home. We passed framed photos of her show business buddies Debbie Reynolds, Nancy Reagan, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.
She told me that she knew President and Mrs. Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan, pointing out photos of them together sitting on bookshelves.
Ruta signed several autographed pictures for me before I left. We shared several hugs and it was time to go.
I left with priceless memories. The best part?
Ruta and I plan on keeping in touch. She calls me her new darling, which I just love.
Wade Allen covers education for The Gazette. He is a lifelong collector of autographs and writes a blog about his hobby at celebritycentral.blogs.gastongazette.com.
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Source : http://www.gastongazette.com/article/20140711/Lifestyle/307119879