Instead of focusing on Hollywood’s boldface names, the new TMZ Selfie Tour gives someone else the star treatment: You. In its first expansion since launching celeb-spotting rides in 2011, the company seeks out some of the city’s most iconic buildings and backdrops while offering to help those who plunk down $59 improve their selfie game.
The daily tour, which launched Oct. 16. was the brainchild of TMZ Senior VP, Business Development & Growth Stuart Alpert, who says the idea bubbled after discussions with TMZ founder Harvey Levin about how ways to expand the tour offerings.
“A few months ago, I was out and about in Hollywood and West Hollywood,” Alpert tells The Times, “And I’d see all these young people taking selfies at all these iconic locations — like the [Paul Smith boutique] pink wall — I thought it was fascinating. So I thought that this was something that could be so much fun — making the next extension of our tour product a curated tour of a lot of the iconic spots in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills [and down] Melrose where our guests can get their own selfies with context and narrative from the tour guides.”
I tell Alpert that sounds like the tour is giving the A-list treatment to landmarks. “That’s right,” he responded emphatically. “And it gives our guests a chance to be a star in their own right in front of these locations that so many other influencers and celebrities have taken photos in front of. And along the way we’re also giving some tips here and there; how to get your best shot, where to stand.”
As inane as a selfie tour sounds, it’s not the first effort to leverage the look-at-me compulsion (Museum of Selfies circa 2018, I’m looking at you). And when you really think about it, the notion of swapping out celeb-spotting for landmark drive-bys makes sense. After all, Hollywood’s elite are slippery as eels in the wild, busy people with things to do and places — most often away from bright red tour buses — to be. The Capitol Records Building and Rodeo Drive? Not so much.
How is the new tour different from the long-running TMZ Celebrity Tour? Instead of several departures daily, there’s just one departing at 2 p.m. And it’s slightly longer, clocking in at 2½ to 3 hours, which allows for getting on and off the bus. It’s got just a handful of stops — nine in all right now — and goes roughly in the opposite direction from the flagship tour (down the Sunset Strip through West Hollywood to Beverly Hills, then looping back down Melrose past Paramount and back up to Hollywood). Many of the spots are instantly recognizable landmarks; buildings and signage with links to the industry while others lean more into the selfie side. There are some baffling omissions (like the Hollywood sign, which seems like a no-brainer), but Alpert said some of those had to do with logistics and time constraints.
It also skews slightly younger, says TMZ’s social media manager Jaysn Lewis. “Not as young as you’d think, though,” Lewis says, noting that the tour tends to attract those “in the 30- to 35-years-old range, compared to the mid-50s for the [original tour].”
As someone who lives within about a five-minute drive of all of the stops on the tour, but takes a lousy selfie, I found the prospect of learning to up my phone photography game compelling. If the TMZ Selfie Tour could help me look like even slightly less than a ham-handed buffoon in pictures of my own taking it would be worth the price. So, with the bar set just that low, I headed off on a Friday afternoon to snap some celebrity-level selfies.
Before embarking on our voyage, I had a chance to chat with the tour’s affable guide, Eunice Elliott at the TMZ kiosk just inside the Hard Rock Cafe on a tourist-heavy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard. She explained that her selfie expertise came from her stint as a morning news anchor at a Birmingham, Ala., TV station.
“Before I went on the air, I would always take a selfie as a way of checking my hair and makeup,” Elliott tells The Times. “So I’ve learned a few things. One is that it’s the angle — it’s always the angle. Another is to say in your head — not out loud but just in your head — ‘I know you see me.’ Have that ‘I know you see me’ energy.”
With that as my only preflight instruction, I made my way to the bright red, 25-seat, open-sided TMZ tour bus.