Stardom for the price of a steak

WHAT'S THE price of fame? At Tinseltown Studios, it's an easy question to answer: $44.50 (pounds 28). That's the cost of admission to a novel southern Californian resort that promises to turn everyone who visits into a movie star, at least for a couple of hours.

Walk up to the heavy black gates of the studio - situated just a short drive away from that other land of make-believe, Disneyland - and you will be greeted by paparazzi snapping away as you approach the red-carpeted walkway. A television crew is on hand to interview you about your latest projects and who the co-stars of your next movie will be.

Inside, you are swept into an awards ceremony where, with a little sleight of video technology, you can appear in your very own film clip opposite Henry Fonda or Kevin Costner, be nominated for one of Tinseltown's very own statuettes (the "Oggies") and even give a teary acceptance speech if you are named as the winner.

Dinner is served during the all-singing, all-dancing awards ceremony, in which even the waiters profess their ambition to become a star as big as you.

Harmless fantasy or sign of the times? Tinseltown has been open to the public for just a couple of months and already it is getting packed pretty much every night. Celebrity, it seems, is a compelling draw, even when the stars are fake, the studio is fake, the awards ceremony is fake and even the steak dinner is no better than average. Only the television cameras are real - a sign that, for most people, Hollywood isn't Hollywood without the reassuring artifice of being simultaneously retransmitted on video.

Most of the guests, it seems, are out for a laugh or a birthday celebration. A few arrive in Liz Taylor look-alike outfits, or with outrageous beehive wigs; on one night last week, a gaggle of teenage girls screeched in Beatlemania- style hysteria for half of the show.

But most of them don't seem to have half as much fun as the employees, who get to emulate the cloying style of the real-life Oscars presenters, entertainment journalists and jealous would-be stars. A few of them get to sing and dance, too.

When the pre-show "interviews" are played back during the ceremony, just as they would be on television during the Oscars, there are hoots of mirth from the relatives and friends of the "star" on the video screen.

"I'm talking to the great Glen Peterson," says the breathless would-be television journalist to a balding moustachioed man of a certain age. "Tell me Glen, where did you get that fabulous outfit?"

"The Men's Warehouse," he answers bashfully. The audience erupts in laughter.

The show can seem forced, even idiotic at times, as the staff entertainers trot out every tired cliche about Hollywood superficiality and sing every obvious song from "Hooray for Hollywood" to "That's Entertainment" to the maddeningly ubiquitous theme from Titanic.

Beyond the only-in-California glamour and the obsession with celebrity, the show bears an uncanny resemblance to old beach entertainments in Blackpool - a few silly songs, a few bad jokes, and the chance to have your picture taken in costume. Is this Hollywood redesigned by Butlin's? Or is there a profound statement to be made here about the true nature of the entertainment industry?

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions