The bus is roughly the color of an infection, like a swelling filled with ... well, filled with us, I guess. And it shouts. The bus plays video clips throughout the tour, and the fire-alarm voice of the TMZ narrator blares out of a silly number of speakers.
For the first 10 minutes of our ride, a guide stood at the front and said there would be a reward for spotting a celebrity. It was an extra-large T-shirt. Then he told anecdotes about the TMZ newsroom while trying not to topple over around sharp corners.
"Once someone found a human head on the trail up to the Hollywood sign," he laughed. "They tried to sell pictures to TMZ, and Harvey Levin told them, 'If it's not the head of a Kardashian, then I'm not interested!'" He left a pause that I think we were supposed to fill with either laughter or applause, but no one was sure which, so we all opted for silence instead. Then we watched a video clip about Dane Cook's dog shitting in a courtyard.
Stuck in rush hour traffic and fresh out of material, our guide started "riffing" with the pedestrians who passed by. He would call out to them, ask their names and then, without the slightest hint of irony, ask if they were famous. They were not, it turned out.
"Good," said our tour guide, "because otherwise we would all be wondering why you were walking instead of driving." He put his hand up like he wanted to shield a secret. "DUI!" he sang.
The seats were designed so that I couldn't slouch lower than the wall of the bus.
Someone mistook an SUV for Shaquille O'Neal. Then she confessed that she didn't actually know what Shaquille O'Neal looked like, but that she heard from a friend that he shows up on a lot of these tours. She did not win the T-shirt.
I snapped a hasty picture just in case.