Infinite Impressions of the Hollywood Sign

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hope Anderson Productions

Like everyone who lives in Beachwood, I encounter an amazing variety of visitors on their way to the Hollywood Sign. The Sign draws a diverse international demographic, including multi-generational familes, busloads of school children, Mormon missionaries, sari-clad Indian women, motorcyclists, aspiring models and TV announcers, guitar-toting musicians, Segway riders, brides and grooms and recent graduates in cap and gown.

The tourists most likely to hike up to the Sign are young Europeans and Asians. Americans–except for student groups–make the trip by car, although they often need to ask–or demand–directions. Until recently, I dutifully told them how to drive as close as possible to the Sign but lately, because of gridlock in the upper Canyon, I’ve been advising drivers to continue to the end of Beachwood Drive, where they can park before continuing on foot.  Never mind that the views of the Hollywood Sign are spectacular from the Hollyridge Trail: they always resist.

How different were the two elderly Asian women I once saw heading toward the Sign with the aid of walking sticks. Moving slowly but steadily uphill, they behaved more like pilgrims than tourists. I’m sure it never occurred to them to drive up.

A week ago, as I walked my dog on Beachwood Drive, a car suddenly pulled over just ahead of me. Expecting a request for directions, I slowed down as I approached the passenger’s side. The door flew open; a young woman jumped out and sprinted up the street. From the car came snatches of conversation, perhaps Swedish–I couldn’t tell. The driver spoke in aggrieved tones to  his backseat passenger, who responded calmly, waving an immaculate manicured hand. The door stayed open; the front seat passenger had disappeared. Walking on, I spotted her standing around the corner, one hand over her eyes, distraught. She was about 20 and model-slim, in a chic grey dress with a pleated skirt. She wore a scarf and gold jewelry. Although dressing up for pictures at the Hollywood Sign is not unknown, she was by far the most stylish tourist I had seen in the Canyon.  

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes, no problem,” she said, waving me away.  But she didn’t move.

There was nothing more I could do, so I walked on. It occurred to me then that the experience of  the Hollywood Sign is colored by individual perception, and that there are as many perceptions of the Sign as individuals to see it. The possibilities, therefore, are infinite. Whatever the distraught young woman eventually thought of the Hollywood Sign, her recollection of it will be forever colored by whatever it was that made her flee her companions. Like the Hollywood Sign’s iconic power, the reason for her defection remains a mystery.

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