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Driving Tour: Hollyweird

Driving Tour: Hollyweird

Yesterday I decided to drive around Hollywood and pretend like I was a tourist, snapping pictures of some of the many things over there that have caught my eye over the years. People say “Hollywood” when they want to talk about Los Angeles or the movie industry, but there really is a Hollywood proper, and it’s not where all of the stars live, except a few who live in the hills above it. Really, Hollywood is a mostly seedy place where there are as many people getting off Greyhound buses from America’s heartland as there are teenagers nodding on heroin lined up on the edges of its sidewalks, all of them peppered with dingy pink stars.

The truth is, even though I lived there for two years, I still feel kind of like a tourist whenever I go to Hollywood. It is a strange place. It is a place where the population is always changing but still remains mostly constant, full of people from another place, a city full of misfits who are all hoping to make it big and who will almost all amount to nothing. But one thing the people in Hollywood have always had on me and others like me is that they are people who dream big and who really go for it. There is some magic in that, especially because it is almost sure to fail.

One time I went to an AA meeting in Hollywood, and they were playing “In Da Club” by Fifty Cent as everybody walked in the door, like we were going into some kind of nightclub. And I thought, wow, I don’t belong here. But there was something about it that was fascinating to me anyway, the idea that somebody might accept their new identity as a sober person as an opportunity to make an AA meeting into an event worthy of a DJ, that arrivals were worthy of a soundtrack. It was ostentatious and totally against everything that I had come to understand about AA’s mission, and many people would have felt uncomfortable and left the meeting under the circumstances, but I stayed, fascinated by the whole spectacle for some reason. And that has been my relationship to Hollywood all along.

Can you imagine? Calling your mother, telling her about the “home” you had found in a motor hotel, just down the street from the Seventh Veil Nude Girls Girls Girls! nightclub? Hoping to get an audition for a bit part in a pilot that never gets picked up? Following one of the many, many classified ads for auditions, or paying thousands of dollars to a subpar photographer for lackluster headshots that will be thrown into dumpsters with thousands of others just like it? Keeping your head up, day after day, because maybe your story will end up being one of the lucky ones? Maybe the door will open just for you?


That, my friends, is what dreams are made of.

Comments (13)

  1. Jan 8, 2010

    I wanted to say no first, that I can’t imagine that.
    Then I thought of the many things I’ve done and given up in the pursuit of my writing.
    So I guess I can imagine it.
    Let’s hear it for dreams.

  2. Jan 8, 2010

    I’ve lived here so long now that I’ve become pretty immune to all the Hollyweirdness. But I do still occasionally experience something I’ve come to call “Movie Deja Vu”. I’ll be driving along when suddenly I feel that I’ve been here before, and that it all seems strangely familiar. Then I realize that it’s just that it’s been a location for countless cop shows over the years. Very weird feeling. Blurs the reality/fantasy lines.

  3. Jan 8, 2010

    There is another side to Hollywood that most people don’t see. My husband is involved with the Chamber of Commerce there and it’s pretty amazing how involved in the community all of the business owners are. They’re trying to change the stigma of Hollywood and make it a better, safer place. There are still tons of clubs and 253 million Thai restaurants, but with the addition of the W and a bunch of new restaurants, along with a community program to help get the kids off the streets, the seedy side is hopefully going away.

    Sorry—didn’t mean to make it sound like a PSA!

  4. Jan 8, 2010

    That’s what I wanted to hear!

  5. Jan 8, 2010

    Gretchen, I know exactly what you’re talking about! There was a house on the way to the house where I lived in Beachwood Canyon that had been in some movie, I think it was a Soderbergh movie, and I kept looking at it every day, thinking, WHAT MOVIE IS THAT FROM? Also, the people, like a guy who lived down the street from me had a small part in Swingers, and I kept driving past him and thinking, “that guy has to be the guy in Swingers,” but not being sure, and then I looked him up on IMDB and sure enough it was him.

    Where I am now is used to depict “small town America” a lot, so I’ll see a house and think, “Wait, that was in Big Love, I think.” It’s weird.

  6. Jan 8, 2010

    Mo, you’re totally right. I actually took some pictures of the new W yesterday but didn’t end up editing them because I ran out of time. But there definitely is an effort to clean the place up, and it’s cool too because there are some great old houses over there in the hills. The only thing is, if you live there, you’d have to send your kids to private school probably.

  7. Jan 8, 2010

    I remember my first visit to Hollywood about 14 years back. I think the term ‘awesome scumminess’ works best.

  8. Jan 8, 2010

    Awesome scumminess is apt, yes. LOL

  9. Jan 8, 2010

    I actually work in downtown LA and since my employers subsidize public transport, Hollywood was one of the locations suggested to me when I moved here.

    And I picked Pasadena because of everything you said in your post. I think my mom would have had a full-on fit at me living there. Still, a lot of my co-workers are in that neighbourhood and they like it fine. Personally, I like the ease of parking in Pasadena.

  10. Jan 8, 2010

    Hollywood is great for single people who don’t mind dealing with traffic. I think with a child it would be a disaster, particularly in the early days where you’re having to run to Target three times a day. I get annoyed with my traffic here sometimes and it is NOTHING like Hollywood. You’ve probably all figured out where I live by now, but I’m officially keeping it a secret, for those in the area it’s the place with the Farmer’s Market that is really crowded on Thursdays. 🙂

  11. Jan 9, 2010

    I love that you took the time to do this, to document those things that might fade into the background otherwise. I think to do this in DC sometimes, and then let life get in the way. Must. take. time.

  12. Jan 10, 2010

    Kris, this is actually the thing I’ve liked most about blogging, that it gives me a reason to record stuff on a regular basis. I had all kinds of things to write about years ago, and I never got around to it, because life gets in the way. When you have a blog, you are motivated to not let that happen.

  13. Crash Commanda
    Jan 11, 2010

    The last picture is the greatest. Good metaphor for life, not just in Hollywood.

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