I'm just back from Los Angeles, where they make up their own rules about reality. Where your lovely hostess asks if, being British, you'd like a proper full English breakfast and you find that the bacon you're eating is Turkey Bacon, (with, according to the label, "50 per cent less fat than pork bacon") and the strangely sweet sausage is, duh, Chicken Apple Sausage (equally less fat-bearing than that awful pork stuff) and the salt you grind over your eggs isn't any old sea salt, it's Trader Joe's Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals (product of Pakistan).
This is the city which leads the world, not just in plastic surgery, but in body hair management – the famous Pink Cheeks emporium, which introduced the world to anal bleaching and age-appropriate bikini waxes a few years ago, now advertises women's pubic hair tints ("What we don't wax, we can age away with darkening") and brown eyelash tinting for the mature gentleman (he doesn't appear to qualify for the pubic tint, though I didn't actually enquire).
This is where grooming parlours are named after famous LA hotels (a dog-beauty place called Chateau Mar-mutt) or Las Vegas crooner venues (a hairdresser called Scissors Palace). This is where the trendiest entertainment is at something called Beacher's Madhouse in the Roosevelt Hotel, where the stage is filled with leprechauns, Oompa-Loompas, gangs of Seven Dwarfs and humans wearing bunny, panda and pink gorilla costumes, and lady punters are all cleavage and stockings, and you're encouraged to dance with both on a "go-go platform"; the two USPs of this fun-free zone are that 1) the audience is restricted to no more than 50, and 2) you can hire a table for the evening only if you buy a bottle of vodka costing $500 – though the pain of this expense is mitigated by your having one of the show's bewigged midgets slide down a wire to serve the bottle in your lap.
This is where everyone new in town is encouraged to try the iFly experience, in which you're divested of your clothing, crammed into blue overalls, kitted out with a helmet, goggles and earplugs, lectured on the positioning of your limbs, then put inside a high vertical wind tunnel on which your splayed-out body moves up and down as if you were skydiving, and your every twist and wobble is greeted with sarcastic cheers by the crowd of passers-by who've paused in the street to watch you; it's quite fun, until you're given the cruel photographs at the end, and discover what the high-pressure wind has done to your sagging cheeks...
This is where you learn that the real stars have grown tired of Beverly Hills and are now moving into gated communities in the East Hollywood suburb called Los Feliz ("the Happy Ones") where pioneers of cinema such as Charlie Chaplin and DW Griffiths once lived. Famous British celebs, by contrast, do not hide behind high walls and CCTV cameras. They're out there. Had you been at a new Italian called Il Covo on 3rd Street last Saturday night, you'd have spotted Eric Idle of the Pythons dining on octopus carpaccio with Jeff Lynne of the ELO, while star-spotters nearby compulsively hummed "Mr Blue Sky" and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
Fresh air that's straight out of central casting
LA's such an extreme place, so technologically state-of-the-art, so health-fascistic, so body-obsessed, so sweetly keen on "authenticity" and so ignorant of where to find it. The best metaphor I found for LA was in a film studio, where I was allowed a peek inside a sound stage. They were filming a new TV show called Hart of Dixie. The actresses swanned about. The cameras gleamed. The monitors shone. The sound desk winked with colours. Millions of dollars' worth of hi-tech computerised folderol hummed and clicked... and whenever the director yelled "Cut!" a strange sound could be heard. It came from two enormous, fat, grey Victorian-looking, elephant-trunk ventilators that swayed down from back wall and ceiling, and nosed about above the cast and crew. "What the hell are they?" I hissed. "It's fresh air," came the reply. "This place is too big to air-condition. So they have to blow it in from outside." Air. The kind you breathe. Imagine. Couldn't they use the bottled stuff? Or access it digitally?
Haven't I seen that tattoo somewhere before?
Only-in-La-La-Land, No 49. Fans of The Hangover II will know that Ed Helms, playing Stu the dentist, wakes up after a night on the Thai tiles with a spiky South Sea island tattoo almost covering his left eye. Fight fans will recognise it as the tattoo sported by Mike Tyson in The Hangover I. Now, incredibly, Warner Brothers, who made the film, are being sued for "reckless copyright infringement" by the original tattooist – who isn't, it turns out, a beach-dwelling native of the Marquesa Islands, but a Mr S Victor Whitmill from Missouri.
It seems he created Tyson's tattoo and made him sign a written agreement that he, Whitmill, owned the artwork and copyright – and therefore Warner Bros, having failed to obtain permission to reproduce it, are guilty of "unauthorised exploitation". Blimey. You'd think they were arguing over The Last Supper.
Whitmill's attempt to halt the film's release failed because Warners said they'd digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Helms's face. (A tattoo of what? An extended finger above the Thai words for "Spin on that, Whitmill"?) But given that the actor appears with the tattoo in almost every scene after the 20-minute mark, that represents a nightmare for the most skilled special-effects techie. My new pals at Warner Brothers tell me the dispute's been settled out of court, but they won't name the vast figure involved. And every tattoo parlour in the land is now wondering if they can be first to claim copyright on the red-rose-in-the-skull, the dagger-in-the-heart, the word "Mum"...