Even if you don't live anywhere near L.A., you know about the Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch.
During the Halloween season, a steady stream of celebrities mingle with the public at the festive site located in the heart of West Hollywood, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood where many stars live and work. Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, and Fergie have all stopped by with their kids — and sometimes, all on the same day. There's even a pen to house the paparazzi who stand by with their cameras ready at all hours, waiting to snap a photo of regulars such as Halle Berry and her daughter or Usher and his sons riding the giant slide, decorating a pumpkin, or stopping by the petting zoo. Celebs have made bringing the kiddies for a face painting or a pony ride a tradition.
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Lyra Marble, the owner of Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch, explained to Yahoo that the famous have become the most popular feature of her business, but it didn't start out that way. Marble's mother, who had a farm in Oregon but lived mostly in L.A., founded the business in Beverly Hills in 1986 because she felt there was a need for it.
"My mom loves kids. She's from a family of seven children, a big Catholic family, and I'm an only child, so I think she just had extra creative energy," Marble said. "[The family] had a Christmas tree business, so she just thought, 'Hey, there's no real pumpkin patch for kids,' because people don't have time to drive an hour and a half or whatever [to pumpkin patches outside the city], so she started building all the props. All the props you see around she created. She had the farm up in Oregon, brought pumpkins back, and just did it for the kids."
Flash forward nearly two decades, and double-decker buses packed with tourists cruise by. Even locals crane their necks to to see who's shopping for a pumpkin. The rise of celebrity media has also helped to make Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch a star. The onlookers have all seen the paparazzi photos and know that this is celebrity central at Halloween time, mostly because it's so accessible. Stars don't have to plan a day trip for the family to a spacious pumpkin patch in the suburbs; they can just stop off on their way home from the studio.
"People come up from Orange County, on vacation from Germany — you know, [thinking] maybe Heidi Klum will be here — but other than that, what drew people here to begin with and drew the celebrities was that we're really a family business... We're really trying to create a space that's really fun and joyful and is bringing the kids closer to nature and creativity, and you don't get that a lot in the city."
It's true. The pumpkin patch is nestled on a side street near the intersection of Doheny Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, in a lot that feels too small to hold a football field or even a City Target, and is surrounded by tiny houses and quaint little businesses, such as sidewalk cafes and a boutique gym. Like everywhere else in WeHo, parking in the vicinity of Mr. Bones is so tight that the streets are lined with cars even early on weekday mornings.
Customers of Mr. Bones don't have to worry about parking, though, because most of the time, it offers valet (free during the week, $6 per car on the weekend). After all, this is West Hollywood.
Marvin Azcunaga, one of several men working the valet stand this fall, confirmed that his is a fun gig. The sweetest part?
"Celebrities and just the fact that we get to drive cars that we never thought of driving," he shared.
Besides valet, the festive venue comes with an extraordinarily well-dressed crowd and West Hollywood-style prices. Admission is $3 for children under 12 and $5 for adults on weekend. However, it's free during the week. Once inside, the cost of the activities range from $1 for a trip down the inflatable Mr. Bones Super Slide to $15 for some of the most elaborate face painting designs. Of course, pumpkins are extra, ranging from $5 to $30 for traditional pumpkins and more than $50 for some specialty pumpkins.
The paparazzi pen
The downside of having a star-studded clientele is that the surrounding paparazzi can get out of control. Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch handles that by keeping all the photographers behind a wire fence that still allows them to shoot. A couple of guys providing security keep the paps in line. The stars know the photographers are there, so if they don't want to be photographed, they know not to go.
"Everybody is [treated] absolutely the same here, but we've learned that we have to have everything in place all the time to make sure everyone has an awesome experience," Marble said, adding that some of her regular celebrity customers call ahead. "Years ago, we weren't used to this level of paparazzi that West Hollywood has and they were hiding in the trees, on cars, on people's roofs, and we had [the patch] fenced and screened off, and we were trying to contain it. Then we just realized that's impossible to do. Now, what we do is we let in the guys who are good, professional, well behaved; They play by the rules. We have somebody out who talks to them. [The paparazzi] stay on site while the celebrity is here. They get their shot, everybody has a great experience. Then the photographers don't get to exit until the celebrity's gone.
"I was actually going to lose my business," Marble explained. "The city was really upset, because it was such a nuisance to the neighborhood. We had always had celebrity clients, and I felt like I needed to protect them from the media, and I was torn as what to do. I realized I had no choice but to make the best out the situation that existed."
Robert, a paparazzo who only wanted to give his first name, has been working the pumpkin patch for the first time this year since it opened for the season Oct. 3.
He's there "pretty much every day from about 9:30 to about 6. I'll take breaks," Robert explained. "I'll go and drive somewhere else, and then if I get a tip somebody's come, I'll come back. [But] most of the time, I'm here."
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Robert was the lone person in the paparazzi pen on a recent Wednesday morning, but he said that's rare. He was joined by 40 to 50 others when Lopez and her kids came by on a Saturday afternoon.
"You never really know [when celebs will come], but I'd say the prime times are the weekends — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But then, you never know, because Harry Styles was here on a Wednesday at 2:30."
Follow the camera flashes
While Robert was in a very crowded paparazzi pen during J.Lo's visit, an artist who goes by Ella was over in the face painting tent painting a sugar skull on the singer's 6-year-old daughter, Emme.
"She loved it," Ella revealed. "J.Lo was like, 'Are you sure?' But Emme was all for it. It was spooky but nice."
[Related: Stars Get Into the Halloween Spirit]
The cost of the activity is high compared to other places where face painting is offered, but Ella isn't the teenage amateur you'd expect to find working at most pumpkin patches. She's a professional makeup artist who attended art school in Europe and works on movie sets during most months of the year but not October. She's reserved that for Mr. Bones the past six years.
She estimated that she paints about 150 faces per day on the weekends there.
"It's an art form, every year you get better and better," she said.
Next year, the pumpkin patch will relocate, most likely to somewhere else in West Hollywood, Culver City, or Santa Monica, Marble said. The owner of the current site is planning to develop the land.
But people should have no trouble finding the new location. They just need to follow the paparazzi.