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2 August 2003

The first thing I wanted to do on the Warner Bros. lot was pee.

I arrived in Burbank in the late morning and Michael met me. He works for Fox Studios, and sometimes for Warner Bros. and said that as long as we were "in the neighborhood," he wanted to stop by the Warner Bros. store and check out DVDs.

It's easier to get into The Pentagon than it is to get onto the Warner Bros. lot. Michael had called ahead for a pass for me, but it still involved visiting two desks, showing personal ID and being run through a metal detector. I expressed surprise at the level of security until Michael poited out that Warner was Time-Warner, CNN, and a lot of other high level media outlets and prime terrorist targets. Then it made sense.

But my bladder was still full, so our first stop inside the Warner gates was the ladies room. I was pleasantly surprised to find it stocked with soft 2-ply tissues (in case you were curious).

We then went to the Warner's store, where the DVDs are discounted and employees get an additioal 20% discount, so I helped myself to "Lord of the Rings," (which Michael tells me is better in the DVD version than it was in the theatre release).

We walked through the lot and he pointed out familiar--but yet not familiar--structures. They were filming on the exterior set for ER, and at another place, which was roped off. We went down a street with stock houses--like the ones used for "Now Voyager" and "Music Man." I saw lots to take pictures of, but wanted to be "cooler" than running around looking like a star-struck tourist (Michael also wasn't sure where photos were alowed and where not). I did snap a couple of photos, which I may post when I get home.

Warner Bros. is a nice studio to visit because they have a sense of their movie history, unlike other places like Fox or MGM (or Disney). The sound stages have plaques which tell which movies were filmed on that stage, for example. There is also a small museum, which we toured. In addition to an entire floor dedicated to Harry Potter, the downstairs was a treasure trove of gems such as the piano from "Casabanca," a note asking Richard Burton to star opposite Judy Garland in "A Star Is Born" (the role ultimately went to James Mason), James Dean's boots, and a great memo from Jack Warner to all employees about rememering to turn the lights off at night!

After we left Warner Bros, we got some lunch and headed over to Forest Lawn. I had asked Michael to take me to the grave of Paul Monette, poet and writer, who died of AIDS in 1995. Michael knew Monette and knew right where the grave was. I've read several of his writings (his book, "Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir" details the death of his partner, Roger Horwitz. It is eloquent and poignant and I highly recommend it, as well as his autobiography, "Becoming a Man," which tells not only of his own struggles with AIDS, but the pain of living in the closet. Monette was a voice of the gay community and Michael says that his first thought on learning that he had lost his battle with AIDS was "who will speak for us now?"

It was very special to be at his grave, which lies next to Roger's. From that site there is a sweeping vista of Forest Lawn and the valley beyond. A lovely place to spend all eternity.

In the evening, after a walk up Rodeo Drive (remind me to tell you about fur and baguettes) we went to see Judy Garland's other daughter, Lorna Luft in a show called "Songs My Mother Taught Me," which was a multimedia presentation pairing Lorna with video clips and photographs of her mother. It was a loving tribute.

But now I'm headed to sleep. I had 3 hrs of sleep last night and it's already 1 a.m.


To have greatly loved is to sail without ballast - with neither chart nor cargo, not bound for the least of kingdoms. Nothing remains, except this being free.

~ Paul Monette

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