Sounds like a good plan. Try websites like www.couchsurfing.com
(use the forums) to pick up local friends and work, also I use www.craigslist.org
to find local gigs, temp work, etc...there will be a LOAD of jobs in LA. The best thing to do is sign up for email alerts for the categories you want, that way it gets dropped in your inbox and you are one of the first to respond when a guy needs help on a Saturday, etc.
You are correct, it is far more expensive to vagabond in the US, but entirely possible for sure!