Movie Fans, Here's Your In-Town Getaway: Culver Hotel

We haven't heard the word "staycation" in some time, or any play on the word "vacation" really, which has concerned us a bit. To live in a world where people are abandoning all holiday-based, make-me-relaxed plans is something serious indeed, both for the tourism industry and for everyone's general de-stressment.

But, we have budgets to mind, too. Good thing that, here in LA, there are several spots that are easier on the wallet but still have a high fun and/or glamorous factor. Walking in Culver City the other day we got to admiring, as we often do, the Culver Hotel, the triangle-y old building near the Trader Joe's/Culver Studios/movie theater area around where Washington and Culver meet.

We adore its Munchkin-y history -- the actors who played the Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz," which was filmed at nearby MGM, stayed at the hotel -- and its elegant dowager air. If you're keen to see a fictionalized account of the reportedly raucous days of the Munchkin actors and the Culver, rent 1981's "Under the Rainbow," which stars none other than Carrie Fisher, Chevy Chase and the great Billy Barty.

Nosing around, the prices for an overnight stay looked right, with some rooms under $200. So we began devising a "Wizard" weekend in our mind, where we could dress as Dorothy, and skip around the halls, and click our heels, and, and, and. And sing! It all seemed possible. We're needing a rainbow, pronto, and we know we are not alone.

More than likely, we'd probably check in, visit one of the fantastic restaurants within walking distance (mmm, Santa Maria Barbecue), and then hit the movies. Now that is a completely doable getaway. There's no place like staying near home.

We would be remiss here if we didn't mention the recent passing of Clarence Swensen, who played one of the Munchkins and was one of the last surviving members of that fabled coterie. Mr. Swensen was 91. We salute you, sir, for bringing joy to so many.

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