Every city has a place like this, a place nearly all first-time visitors have at or near the top of their lists to see, but that locals desperately try to avoid. New Yorkers try to avoid Times Square. It is rare to find Parisians on the Champs Elysee. (Of course there are exceptions, but it is a general rule.) For residents of Los Angeles – called Angelenos – this is the place we hate to come.
The last time I was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the famous stretch of Hollywood Boulevard with all the stars set into the sidewalk, for anything more than seeing a show at the Pantages Theatre was well over a decade ago, and with other out-of-towners who think this is representative of my home. Today, I’m here with cousins from Toronto, one of whom has never visited the City of Angels before. So it is unsurprising that when giving me their wish-lists of things they’d like to see here, Hollywood was part of it.
So after a good visit to a place locals love, the Griffith Observatory (click here to read about this gem), it was a fairly quick drive down and across Hollywood Boulevard to get here, to a place I hate visiting. Fortunately, a Thursday afternoon guaranteed reasonably easy parking in the huge structure beneath Hollywood and Highland (best known for holding the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards), parking that could be validated with a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s, and from here a relatively simple walk to see one of the most famous stretches of any street around.
The short time here reinforced my hatred.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame was established in 1960, and runs about a mile and a half down Hollywood Boulevard (with a couple spurs) from La Brea Avenue to Vine Street. At this point, 63 years later, it contains more than 2700 stars set into the sidewalks, honoring actors, directors, producers, musicians, and even fictional characters. Those honored with stars are chosen by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and the stars are permanent. No star, despite the lack of character of a recipient, has ever been removed (to the best of my knowledge). Hence, my excitement at discovering the stars of Robin Williams, Julie Andrews, or Fred Astaire is heavily tempered by the sights of those of Bill Cosby and Donald Trump.
(The Trump star has been vandalized repeatedly but restored, and prosecution of those responsible has kept it fairly untouched for the last few years. I refuse to even take a photo of it for article illustration purposes.)
Heading west on Hollywood Boulevard from my parking at Highland, I encounter two landmarks I actually do like: the El Capitan Theatre and the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre. These two historic theatres both opened in 1926, though the El Capitan has undergone several iterations before being purchased by Disney in the 1980s, and I am excited to show them to my cousins. We first walk to the Chinese Theatre, eager to see both the inside (it is also available to tour) and the famous Hollywood handprints in the front courtyard, which have been placed here since 1927. About thirty seconds after we arrive, we are ordered – rather harshly – to move. No photos will be allowed, and neither will our presence on the sidewalk, as the new season of Star Trek: Picard is premiering here in a few hours. Peons like us are not welcome as the VIPs will be arriving at some point, and their (closed to even eyesight) tent/staging area needs this room. Did I mention I hate this place?
We make our way across the street to the El Capitan, are again unable to even poke our heads inside, and move on.
We fight our way along the only side of the street now open, making our way past tourists, street vendors selling custom photos with your own fake star, people selling photos of you with them in a costume, generic Hollywood weirdos, and the unfortunate local being dragged here by visiting family. The facades of well-known museums beckon, each costing more than the last: the Hollywood Museum, the Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not (yes, I can believe it that a simple ticket is $26, or well over $40 as a combo). Cheap souvenirs are abundant, as are barricades and police getting ready to push the average commoner back even further to accommodate the royalty to come.
I turn to the cousins. “So, this is Hollywood.” They look at me. “Yeah,” they say, “this place sucks.” A knowing nod from me, and it’s back to the car to head for greener pastures. In total, we are here for about an hour, at least twenty minutes of which are spent eating my ice cream and thereby saving well over $5 on parking. It is nearly an hour too much.
For those visiting Los Angeles, I understand the appeal of seeing Hollywood. But this place, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is not it. If you must have a Hollywood experience, tour a studio – the big ones are nowhere near here – and go to a taping. See the Hollywood Sign from the Observatory or even just from the freeway. And if you must come here, please don’t drag a local with you.
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