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Sunday, August 16, 2009
by Pam Ripling
I mentioned earlier this week that I grew up in North Hollywood, California. I used this fact to garner envy and respect from my out-of-state pen pals, who didn’t know that North Hollywood is a completely different town, separated from its famous, parent-named city by a mountain pass. Although quite a number celebs did call the San Fernando Valley home, NOHO, as North Hollywood is now commonly called by today’s locals, was merely a bedroom community back in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
So, not counting my hometown, there are really two Hollywood, Californias. The physical one and the make-believe one. In the brick-and-mortar world of sidewalks and streetlights, Hollywood is a place I don’t like to frequent. First on my "hate-it" list is the traffic. Old streets, congestion, parking problems, never-ended street maintenance. Pan handlers, street entertainers who get into frequent altercations with each other. Buses, taxis, homeless. Many a tourist laments, “Huh? So this is Hollywood and Vine? What’s so special?”
Pop on those rose-colored glasses, Aunt Mabel. For here, on the streets of Hollywood’s fairy-tale image, are where dreams come true. Here is the Walk of Fame, which next year will celebrate 50 years of immortalizing celebrities with 28 new stars for Russell Crowe, Adam Sandler, Emma Thompson; Ringo Starr, Bryan Adams, Van Morrison and (posthumously) Roy Orbison, among others (see complete list here.)
Here is Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which furthers the magic with imprints of stars, forever “preserved” in concrete. So in love with its glittery, famed inhabitants, Hollywood makes room for their notoriety and their particular needs. Did you know that a tunnel exists below the Chinese, leading under the street and into the Roosevelt Hotel across the street? Sid Grauman felt it best to allow his famous clientele to escape the theatre peacefully after those big Hollywood premieres. (Note: The Chinese spans the generations... Gene Kelly's prints are right beside those of Daniel Radcliffe! See the map, here.)
As if Hollywood didn’t already pay enough glorious homage to its stars, entrepreneur Spoony Singh built the Hollywood Wax Museum “with the vision of bringing people close to their favorite stars. More than 40 years later, the Hollywood Boulevard attraction is the longest running wax museum in the nation.” If you can’t see them in person, you can catch up with their likenesses here, for around $13.
It’s often said that you can find anything you want in Hollywood, from the benign to the decadent. Tour stars’ homes, tour stars’ graves. Tour stars’ studios, and sit where they’ve sat at the bistros and clubs on Sunset Boulevard. Me, even though it’s only a 40 minute drive, I prefer to watch the glam from the comfort of my own living room—on American Movie Classics.