"Go on, if you push open the gate a bit, you can get a picture of the inside".
Several members of our Hollywood Stars walking tour rushed forward to try and get some snap shots of Michael Jackson's former front yard. This was the same house where he had been found dead. Our guide had turned around this corner on that day to find the street surrounded by dozens of reporters and television crews.
Earlier that morning we had all crowded around our tour guide, in the forecourt of 'USA Hostel Hollywood'. He struggled to find change as we handed over our twelve dollars a head (seven for the tour and five to catch the public bus to where 'the real stars' live in Beverly Hills - it actually only cost three dollars but it would have seemed petty to quibble). He couldn't remember anybodies names so just called them by their country ("Hey Sweden, have you got five dollars?"). He was trying a little too hard to be wacky and witty. He claimed to be a comedian.
"Hey, do any of you guys know 'Flight of the Concords'? I was in that! I know those guys!" he enthused to blank faced, continental types.
I had actually seen every episode of 'Flight of the Concords' but couldn't quite place him. A few nights earlier there had been a free comedy night at the hostel. There were six comedians and twelve audience members. The microphone wasn't working but most of them used it anyway as they didn't know what to do with their hands. The 'comedians' seemed more like actors - bad actors doing bad impersonations of what they thought a comedian was meant to be. This mainly involved being loud and swearing a lot, apart from one odd looking woman who just stood there and mumbled. It was her first time. People had probably told her that she looked funny. The room grew oppressively quite and time seemed to grind to a halt. Our silent prayers were answered when the kind-hearted compere came to her rescue. He gave her a hug and squeezed her hand as she shuffled off into anonymity.
Our guide/comedian had great news. He had just talked to his contact on his mobile - he was going to let us see inside the house of Snoop Dogg! A slightly overweight Scandinavian girl became very excited at this news. Most of the group crowded around Snoop Dogg's heavily enforced gates while a shirtless figure appeared on the balcony and started trying to chat up the crowd. The guide tried to nudge the more attractive ladies towards the front.
"Who is it?" whispered several members of the crowd (you wouldn't want to hurt a famous person's feelings).
"I think it's thingy from 'The X-Files'" said my wife.
"You mean David thingy?"
"Yeah" she said, "David thingy from 'The X-Files'".
The Scandinavian girl was trying to flirt with him but it wasn't going well. He already knew her name and where she came from and what she did. She lacked the courage to ask him who he was or what he was doing there. He deemed to honour the assembled crowd by ordering that the great gates of Snoop Dogg be opened. There were a couple of ordinary cars inside that needed washing. We could just about make out a ladder and some buckets at the back. We thanked him for his time and wandered off to see some other famous houses (or at least their walls or hedges or possibly some security guards).
There are no pavements in the most expensive part of Beverly Hills. Not even poor people walk. We trampled over their well maintained grass verges and herbaceous borders as we were herded on to the habitats of the rich and famous. We saw the wall outside of Ben Stiller's Beverly Hills estate. He had never actually lived there but it was still a famous person's house. Dustin Hoffman's residence had even bigger walls and even better security - he preferred to live at his beach house in Malibu.
"If you see any nice cars you should wave at them in case there's somebody famous inside" advised our guide, "but if they're just pick-up trucks or ordinary cars then don't bother because they're probably just nobodies like the gardeners".
We walked on past the house of Dr Phil - apparently he's a 'somebody' in America but none of us had ever heard of him - peering through fences and gaps in hedges to try and catch somebody famous. We waved at the security cameras and held up flashing cameras over the unwelcoming walls. Around the corner there was a police car waiting. There was nobody in it and it had no plates. It was just another stage prop, designed to scare off undesirables. Like us. We took pictures of it.
Apparently the guy on Snoop Dogg's balcony wasn't even famous. He just had an Uncle who was something to do with famous people. It's not what you know, it's who you know.