Los Angeles: Hollywood Boulevard, Part I

by on March 7th, 2015
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First, it’s important to know, when discussing “Hollywood,” that Hollywood is not Hollywood anymore. That is, it’s not the glamourous spectacle that it was during the Golden Age. That Hollywood is gone. Second, there is not just Hollywood; there’s also North Hollywood, which is definitely not a tourist attraction, and there’s West Hollywood, which boasts many attractions for both locals and visitors. I’ll be discussing that area in another article. Now, on to THE Hollywood and Hollywood Blvd.

On my earlier visits to Los Angeles, I headed to Hollywood Blvd. via Highland Ave., which runs north and south and crosses Hollywood Blvd. right in the middle of the action. Later, I cut some time off the drive by taking Fairfax Ave. through West Hollywood and north to the western end of Hollywood Blvd., a residential section that belies its close proximity to the center of old Hollywood.

The intersection of Highland and Hollywood is a great starting point for a tour of the area. Just south of Hollywood on Highland, you’ll find Hollywood High School, where such notables as Robert Redford attended. At the intersection itself is the Hollywood & Highland complex, built over the Hollywood subway station, and housing, among other things, the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards ceremony takes place these days. The last time I was there, that complex was under construction (been awhile), and on my first visit in 1997, the subway station was under construction. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Speed, you remember the fight to the death between Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper atop the runaway subway car. After Reeves prevails, he rides that car right to the end of the line, where it blasts through the barriers and winds up sliding on its side down Hollywood Blvd. That slide took place right where I’ve described.

Immediately east of the H&H complex is the Chinese Theatre–no longer Grauman’s Chinese, but part of the Mann’s Theatre group. This is, of course, the location of the famous forecourt, and tourist buses stop in front on a regular basis for their riders to disembark and look around. On some of my visits, there were folks out front offering free tickets to tapings of sitcoms in Burbank. You can also spot would-be actors dressed as famous folks from the past. I was studying Charlie Chaplin rather closely one time because something wasn’t quite right about him. That’s because, as I soon realized, Charlie was a girl.

Nearly directly across from the Chinese is the venerable Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a grand old dame of the Golden Age, restored and looking great. If you want to stay right in Hollywood, you can book a room there. Most other locations would not be as appealing. The Roosevelt has served as a location for scenes from TV shows in my recent memory, but its link to movie history came on May 16, 1929, when it was the site of the very first Academy Awards ceremony. According to Robert Osborne’s 70 Years of the Oscar, The Official History of the Academy Awards, Abbeville Press, 1999, that first ceremony was held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt, a black-tie affair attended by 270 academy members and their guests. First Academy President Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. presented the 12 awards to the winners, with 20 certificates of honorable mention going to the runners-up. There were no members of the press present or live radio coverage of the ceremony. Because it was the first, no one could have imagined how big a deal it would become.

All these points of interest are located within a block of each other, but there are plenty of other iconic sites just to the west and a bit further to the east of them. I’ll mention some of them in Part II of this article. Please check out my current pieces, and look for those I will be writing, based on my five visits to Los Angeles.

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