Hollywood – the magical movie factory where stars are made and young women don’t feel safe.
Moving on from the fun of Vegas we stopped in Los Angeles for a few nights to explore Hollywood and its surrounds. Staying on the outskirts of Hollywood was an experience of surprise and sadness. The illusion of the TV capital of the world was shattered the afternoon we arrived in the area when we got to see first hand the reality of everyday life for the ordinary person in Tinseltown. It is certainly not glamorous and more like something out of a crime TV show.
Ironically the area we were staying had once been a celebrity playground – 70 years ago. Sadly that heyday is long gone as the area has descended into one of drugs, gangs and urban ruin.
We ventured from our hotel and decided to walk towards the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An innocent yet bad decision on our part. We passed homeless people sleeping on the side of the road, their shopping trolleys bundled with bags. One old lady wrapped in layers of unkempt dirty clothing sat on a public street bench having a conversation with an imaginary friend as she rocked backwards and forwards oblivious to the world around her.
Across the road a couple of young men were huddled together yet we could clearly see they were exchanging packets of something between them. Had we walked into the set of some movie or TV show?
Then, as we walked down Hollywood Boulevard still some way from the tourist strip, things became all too real as we started to be followed by a group of three teenage boys. They stayed about 10 to 15 feet behind us matching our walking speed step for step.
Silently, Ange and I both hustled our walking a little faster, grasping our bags tightly to our bodies. We didn’t need to say a word to each other to know we should just keep walking, don’t look back. Our curious and jovial banter quickly stopped and we walked in silence. Externally confident but internally shaking in our knickers we kept going knowing the boys were still following behind as they laughed and joked while constantly keeping in step with us.
A fourth boy rode up on his skateboard to join the group. Ange and I remained firm, walking at pace with eyes forward knowing the tourist district and the safety of others was not THAT far away, or so we hoped. After following us for several blocks and being completely ignored the group of boys stopped and veered off to a shop or alley on the side. Only after we had walked another couple of hundred metres did Ange and I breath again, looking at each other then behind, just to make sure we really were alone. We then spent a fair bit of time discussing how unsafe we felt and how surprisingly destitute real Hollywood was.
Now remember whilst I live in Hong Kong – one of the safest countries in the world – I grew up in Auckland where there is definitely a good deal of crime and you do have to have some street sense. That’s where I had been taught ignore the protagonist and keep on going, but I don’t think I have ever felt quite as unsafe as I did that first night in Hollywood.
Not long after our street stalking, about an hour or so of walking from our hotel, our walk along Hollywood Boulevard evolved from a road of squalor to a star lined strip of shops, lights and pageantry where people wandered with their heads down in a pilgrimage to read the stars below their feet as they slowly strolled the sidewalk of the Walk of Fame.
We’d finally made it!
We too found our eyes drawn down to the pavement taking in star after star not realising just how many celebrity stars there were. Nor did we realise they were categorized and that some people have more than one star – ie they have a star in more than one category.
We laughed and squealed as we came across names we knew, names we loved, names we hated and names we had forgotten.
Did you know Kermit and Big Bird have their own stars? Yet … Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher don’t … I’m guessing there is a cost and process involved that might be fed by popularity and motivation of obsessed fans … although I am sure the original Hollywood stars were given based on true merit.
We looked up from the pavement briefly and were surprised to discover the Chinese Theater across the road from us. It looked like something out of the movies (especially given I had just seen Iron Man 3 before heading to the US) … oh wait, it has been in a LOT of movies, and TV shows and I think it is still used for movie premieres so it ends up on TV a fair bit. It isn’t really anything like a Chinese temple I have ever seen in Asia although it is obviously of Asian influence. It was quite a sight to see in real life. Up close it has some beautiful and intricate artwork.
Until we ventured over to the other side of the road we didn’t realise why people were milling around in front of the Chinese Theatre. Down on their hands and knees tourists and locals alike were paying homage to movie and TV stars old and new – celebrity feet, hands, and signatures pressed into the immortal mantel of concrete in the forecourt.
We spent quite a while here looking through the autographs and seeing how we “measured up”. As you can see old Arnie certainly has the measure on me. My fingers only just covered his palm … scary! 😉
It was curious to me that movies like Harry Potter already have their autographs in front of the theatre. I thought you only got to leave your mark here if you had given an outstanding and significant contribution to the entertainment industry…
On the other hand it was really nice to see Star Trek had its place here and that the entire 1960’s Enterprise crew was represented. With over 50 years of Star Trek, multiple TV series and movies i am glad the show and the original actors had been given this honour.
There were quirky plaques as well – Trigger’s hooves, Donald Ducks feet and Whoopi Goldberg’s braid … we definitely had a lot of fun in front of the theatre.
Just when we thought we were done for the night we bumped into Wolverine and Batman.
And for the first time on the trip *I* was suckered into giving these boys US$5 for a photo or two. Given the effort they put into their costumes I thought they deserved something for it, and they were a great laugh.
All touristed out we discovered the LA Metro and realised we could have caught the train from very close to our hotel into the middle of Hollywood … sigh … the things you learn in hindsight. Newly educated, our trip back to the hotel was much shorter and much safer, although as we discovered even the centre of Hollywood has its fair share of real life dramas … but THAT’s for another post!