It’s no secret I’m addicted, possibly in love, with watching TV shows on my fancy DVR at home in between procrastinating on my wedding planning. More recently I’ve become infatuated with spotting places filmed in my current home town of Long Beach, CA on Showtime’s Dexter and HBO’s True Blood. I grew up in Los Angeles and watched film crews invade my old neighborhood from time to time, and I revel in it every single time! I use to work in Downtown Los Angeles during college and I would sneak out of the office to watch film crews and their trailers take over the vacant business district on the weekends, and try to spot a celebrity in between takes. This is why it’s so thrilling to recognize all those places I walk or drive by daily in a city I consider my second home, Long Beach. I annoy my fiancé and roommate all the time with my pointy finger wagging at the television saying where the scene was filmed in Los Angeles or Long Beach at least once a week.
My longtime fan girl weakness is vampire fiction and movies, and at first I was not a fan of True Blood, but the show really sucked me in after a while (vampire pun!) and it’s a guilty pleasure of mine, even if I still hate Sookie Stackhouse (don’t hate me!). Every time I witness a scene from True Blood that takes place just outside Fangtasia (the show’s local vampire bar) all I see is a local drinking hole named Alex’s Bar. A promo for the show was filmed outside the bar and you see people are protesting Vampires with cardboard signs, then Jessica suddenly appears walking out of the bar and pushing her way right through the crowd seething in anger and all I can do while I watch this promo is talk at the television and say, “I use to drink at that bar! I puked 10 feet from that alley on my way home one night!”
My friends and I use to live walking distance from Alex’s Bar while in college, and consider it one of our top 4 favorite Long Beach bars. The other element of Alex’s Bar that makes me giddy is when I see it filmed, or copied, is the decor of the bar. The entrance is slightly hidden from street view and once you enter from the small parking lot near an alley you see red walls from floor to ceiling, dim and red lighting, a shelf behind the bar with an array of alcohol choices, and wide open space. I fell in love with the bar because I loved the dark environment and bright red coloring (my favorite color!). Alex’s Bar has the mysterious vibe that I love and still cherish, with or without the Vampires. Just like the characters on True Blood I long to have a drink of my favorite poison, and brood in the corner while I complain about how much life sucks. :) I prefer a vodka cranberry as my drink of choice, of course.
On the other spectrum Dexter is a lot harder to watch quietly with me in the room since I am constantly bombarded by scenes filmed near my house! There is always at least one scene where Dexter is on the phone, while driving, and he’s lying to someone about what he’s doing and where he’s going while cruising down Ocean Boulevard or somewhere near Naples and Belmont Shore.
When they decide to show the Miami Metro Police station I notice it looks awfully like the condo buildings near the Marina and Naples. In a previous season Dexter is following a prospective target and follows them into a parking garage near the Long Beach Convention Center and I spent the entire 15 minute scene rewinding and fast forwarding pointing out all of the other local buildings I could recognize. I get a bit obsessive with my DVR features. I’m not great at remembering an episode name or season, but I’ll always remember when a scene is filmed anywhere near recognizable landmarks in Long Beach or Downtown Los Angeles. I almost fainted with delight when I noticed the corner of Alamitos and Ocean Boulevard while Dexter was (of course!) driving by the neighborhood on his way to satisfy his “Dark Passenger.”
I relish the small moments of spotting local spots, but it also wears on my friends’ patience. Some people like to get lost in the fantasy of the TV shows, and to hear that Dexter isn’t filmed in Miami is a disappointment to some. They do show clips of the familiar streets of Miami and the skyline from time to time in the episodes, but secretly I’m talking to myself saying, “That’s just stock footage.” Just like in theater, appearance is everything. I think it’s amazing that they’re able to smoothly transition scenes, blur the skyline in the background when Dexter is dumping bodies off the coast near Long Beach, crop scenes so you can’t see they’re chatting in Shoreline Village, and make sure the audience is totally focused on the plot line (or for some blood and skimpy clothing) and sold on the show in front of them. Growing up with Hollywood in my back yard has helped me appreciate how many magical moments in movies and television are filmed within arm’s reach of my home. Even if I wasn’t part of creating that moment I can at least take pride in how awesome it is where I live, and a place I like to call “Home.”
Visit Stephanie’s personal blog at scarlettburn.wordpress.com.