Movie making and Hollywood have been intertwined since the start of the 20th century. Director D.W. Griffith, best known for the film Birth of a Nation, was the first person to film a movie in Hollywood. The 17-minute work was titled In Old California, and was shot entirely in an area known as the village of Hollywood. Fast forward a century and modern Hollywood is the epicenter of the film industry, and a major tourist attraction for those visiting Southern California.
Not everything lasts in Hollywood, however, including the very stars upon which the industry counts on to keep the money machine churning. Like everybody else on the planet, they die. That doesn’t mean they are forgotten, and one of the areas where the last bits of their twinkling lives might continue to shine is in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Take a stroll through the resting places of the residents, and you’ll come across names like Mel Blanc, Cecil B. Demille, George Harrison, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, Bugsy Siegel, the dog that played Toto in the Wizard of Oz, and many others. It’s a who’s who of dead famous folks.
The grounds are also home to a unique move experience run by a group called Cinespia. During the warmer season (yes, there is a warm “season” in Southern California), a lush patch of grass becomes the seating area for a handpicked film that’s projected upon the large side wall of a building on the cemetery grounds. Cinespia celebrated its 10th season in 2011, and my wife and I wanted to experience it for ourselves.
A classic bit of Hollywood needs to be approached in a vehicle that adheres to the look-at-me set. Good timing then that the Volkswagen-looking key fob in my hand has the Bentley log on it.
The keys in my hand belong to a Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Looking dignified across all 208.3 inches of its resplendent Crewe-assembled bodywork, the Flying Spur stays true to the Bentley ethos of hiding a weapon of mass destruction beneath a bespoke suit. Said weapon is a 6.0-liter W12 engine, which is supported by a pair of turbos. The forced-induction powerplant is good for 552 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 479 pound-feet of torque at just 1,600 rpm.
There are no surprises with the 2011 Bentley Flying Spur. It has the tenacity of a tank, and the manners of the Queen herself. The handling is actually much better than expected, but I expected it to handle like a 60-foot Viking fishing boat. Though with a car like this, I’m probably feeling far more grip than actual handling thanks to the all-wheel-drive setup and 275/40R19 series Pirelli tires. I am sure that the braking is excellent though, thanks to the positively massive 15.9-inch front and 13.1-inch rear rotors.
Bentley paired the aforementioned W12 with a paddle-shiftable six-speed automatic from ZF. That duo comes together to make sure the entire affair of moving this 5,379-pound leviathan is a remarkably hassle-free event. In fact, the Flying Spur simply lifts up a leather driving glove-clad middle finger, points it in the general direction of Physics, and rockets away like a heavy set rolling in at Teahupoo. The sense of power comes on slowly, builds, then crests into a forward-facing assault on your senses. This is serious speed, in its most dignified form.
I took that form from my driveway in Huntington Beach into the heart of the Hollywood Hipsterville. I expected a bit of rioting at the sight of my Crewe crassness, but it was not to be. The crowds were piling into the lawn of the cemetery by the time I arrived, and they parted like the Marlboro Red-smoking sea at the sight of the Flying B. I escorted myself, my wife, and our British-born chariot to a grassy parking area. Putting the suspension into a raised mode allowed me to climb the small curb, and place the gas-chugging mill to sleep for a couple of hours.
We had a movie waiting for us.
With blankets and refreshments in hand, we found a nice spot of open grass to call our own. A DJ was spinning a wide range of music, as other moviegoers continued to occupy the rest of the verdant real estate. Everyone seemed very happy, engaging in hundreds of conversations and drinking beer and wine as the sun set over our groups little slice of Southern California. The projected images, which were a mix of classic movie posters, began to appear more crisp as the large solar spotlight dipped below the horizon. It was movie time.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High originally debuted in 1982, and is the hilarious effort of director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe. If you haven’t seen the film,
what the hell is wrong with you? it should assume a top position on your upcoming rentals list. Watching the flick on a small screen is always a good time, but taking it in on a larger format screen with hundreds of others? The enjoyability factor goes way up. Jeff Spicoli seems funnier, Brad Hamilton gets far more embarrassed, and Linda Barrett… while, you can figure out how much better her best scene would be on the big screen.
After the film was over, the DJ fired up the music, and most of the crowd hung out for a large portion of the evening. Cinespia stays running for a few hours after the flick ends. Rather than hang out, my wife and I retired to the waiting Bentley, and we were one of the first few cars to leave the cemetery.
Unlocking the Flying Spur and sliding into the hand-crafted premium leather hide seats is akin to plopping down in your favorite den chair after a long day of work. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the cabin of the Bentley is a remarkably comfortable space regardless of which seat you wind up in, and the length of the journey ahead.
Still, it’s not perfect. Far from it, in fact. When sub-$30,000 cars offer ventilated front seats, you would expect an automaker like Bentley to do the same. Additionally, the navigation system looks like it was plucked from a Volkswagen Jetta from three generations past, and the buttons react painfully slowly when touched. It’s items like that, which would make one wonder why they didn’t head to the Mercedes-Benz dealership to sample the S65 AMG instead.
Speaking of the interior, the particular Flying Spur I spent time with is a rather unique beast. It’s a Series 51 edition car, and that means the interior has been jazzed up quite a few notches. Bentley allows customers to sample a wider range of color choices and combinations when shopping in the Series 51 side of the store. What did the shopper decide for our Flying Spur? Aquamarine and Cream. While we find it quite nice of Bentley to allow customers this level of customization, this particular color combination is not… ideal. OK, it’s downright hideous. Especially considering the entire interior upgrade (which includes the 19-inch granite-finish wheels, thick carpeting throughout, and side sill plaques) adds an extra $9,070 to the $184,200 base price. Once you add in the Naim audio system ($7,180), Madrona veneer wood ($1,625), a hefty gas guzzler tax, and a few other options, you arrive at the as-tested price of $216,790. Righteous bucks.
Is that price outrageous? No, of course it’s not.
We’re talking about a Bentley here, which is supposed to be ridiculous, powerful, expensive, and a tad awe inspiring to boot. The Flying Spur is all of that, even with its awful mint and caramel interior. The reason you buy this car, is because you can. Should you pick up a Series 51 with the aqua on cream look, I recommend keeping your eyes on the road, popping in side one of Led Zepplin IV, and applying as much throttle as you can, as you power on towards the horizon. Fast times, indeed.
[Disclosure: Bentley was convinced that I was a famous rapper, not an infamous blooger, and decided to send me a Flying Spur for a few days. A tank of gas was included, and used… quickly. This thing sips fuel like … well, a rapper sips high-end champagne.]