In a Time of Drought, Remembering Hollywood’s Brief Independence

September 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

Clausen's Ranch, at the foot of Beachwood Canyon, c. 1895/ Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

Clausen’s Ranch, at the foot of Beachwood Canyon, c. 1895/ Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

When I was making my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign,” I was surprised at how many of the people who signed my releases wrote “Hollywood” rather than “Los Angeles” as their address. A century after its incorporation into Los Angeles, Hollywood’s history as an independent city seemed to endure in the minds of residents, whether or not they were fully aware of it.

Hollywood went from mostly unsettled land to a metropolis in a matter of two decades. Most of what is now the district of Hollywood was purchased in 1877 by Harvey and Daeida Wilcox, a wealthy Kansas couple who came west to Los Angeles and, after the death of their only son, went looking for a rural retreat. After laying out streets and building a home, they deeded property to churches and enticed other like-minded Christians to move to their town. New residents opened businesses and grew citrus and exotic fruits like pineapples and avocados. But by the turn of the century, Hollywood was more than a farm village: it had become a resort for city dwellers who came by bicycle and streetcar from downtown Los Angeles. Two restaurants catered to daytrippers, and the rather grand Hollywood Hotel provided lodging for those who wanted to stay longer. Among the town’s charms was its microclimate: noticeably cooler than downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood was known for its ocean breezes. (In spite of Hollywood’s tall buildings, these can still be felt near Sunset and Vine, and sometimes carry a whiff of salt.)

In 1903, Hollywood was incorporated as a dry, Godly city: the un-Los Angeles. Its first laws were sumptuary: no alcohol for any purpose, either at home or in businesses; no gambling, no brothels. Its dryness was absolute: liquor going west from downtown had to be transported around Hollywood, a substantial detour that pleased neither merchants nor the Los Angeles City fathers. Though Harvey Wilcox, the stricter of Hollywood’s founders, died in 1891, his widow Daeida (despite her remarriage to Philo Beveridge, a bon vivant who enjoyed flouting the law by drinking wine) kept up her husband’s teetotaling tradition.

Things might have continued along these lines for a while longer if not for the problem of water. Hollywood had very little, and more often than not found itself in drought. The start of construction on the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1905 allowed City Hall to present the town with an ultimatum: either become part of Los Angeles or make do without its water. Knowing the town wouldn’t survive without access to the Aqueduct, Hollywood gave up its independence, becoming part of Los Angeles in 1910. Today, in the fourth year of a severe drought, it’s difficult to argue with the decision.

Lake Hollywood, Jewel of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

Lake Hollywood, Jewel of the Los Angeles Aqueduct


Yet Hollywood still feels distinct from Los Angeles, even in the midst of its current building boom. In 2000, a referendum was launched to return Hollywood to independence, but Los Angeles fought hard against it and it failed. Today Hollywood’s seven years as an incorporated city are remembered through its bylaws, which reside in bound volumes the Los Angeles City Archives. But Hollywood’s larger legacy is quotidian: its customary use by residents when giving their address.

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/hollywood-before-the-movies-part-i-ranches-orchards-and-laws/
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/hollywood-before-the-movies-part-ii-city-of-churches/

The Journey Is Greater Than The Destination

September 4, 2014 § 2 Comments

Copyright Hope Anderson Productions

Copyright Hope Anderson Productions

For years I’ve been working on a novel. It was inspired by a trip I took shortly after finishing my first documentary, “Jim Thompson, Silk King” in 2001, though at the time I had no sense of it as anything more than an adventurous vacation. Soon after I returned from it I flew to New York, where JTSK was in a festival; it showed on September 8th. As fate would have it, I got back to Los Angeles hours before the attacks of September 11th, and for a long time no one wanted to think about documentaries, or entertainment in general. After marketing JTSK as much as I could during that grim time, I made its previously planned companion, “The Jim Thompson House and Art Collection.” By this time it was 2005, and my 2001 trip had receded long enough for me to start writing a novel based on it. As I was finishing the first draft, I moved to Beachwood Canyon, which involved selling one house and buying another that turned out to more of a fixer than expected. When I was finally settled, I began preproduction on my documentary Under the Hollywood Sign, another long-simmering idea. Although I initially thought I was making a little neighborhood documentary, Beachwood’s history turned out to be enormous, and UTHS grew into a major project: thirty interviews, many hours of footage and hundreds of images. The project kept me occupied for the next three years, at which point it was late 2009. In 2010, I finally dug out my novel and starting writing again. Every summer since then, I’ve done another draft; now, four years later, the result is tangible: a 355-page manuscript about a journey, and the embodiment of my own long trek.

Beyond the films and moving house, why did it take me so long? There isn’t any simple answer, but it’s clear that reading novels doesn’t teach one to write them. And writing novels doesn’t equal finishing them: a previous attempt ended in frustration. (Recently I learned that Joyce Carol Oates’s late husband left a novel–his only novel, chipped away at for decades–unfinished when he died. It was not reassuring.) From a practical standpoint, the work would have gone faster if I had revised printed drafts rather than doing it on my computer. Because the novel existed only virtually, a number of gaps and errors went unnoticed for too long. But the biggest setback came during the summer of 2013, when a Time-Warner technician cut the power and crashed my computer. (He had assured me that I could keep working while he ran new cable to the house.) When everything went black, I lost the draft I was working on, including a substantial part of the last section. Although I had saved a previous draft on Dropbox, I was never able to recover what had disappeared. Worse yet, I was afraid to look at the manuscript, much less work on it, for several months.

But eventually I did. This summer I knew I had to finish so I soldiered on, finally getting to the end on Labor Day. This month I’ll send the manuscript out to some friends who have kindly volunteered to be my first readers. After that, I’ll work on selling it. One way or another, it will be published. But let’s face it: we’re not living in the Age of the Novel and no one really cares. So why did I bother? Because, with the exception of my (easily fulfilled) goal of motherhood, all my ambitions have paled in comparison to my desire to write a novel: it’s a dream I’ve had since the age of twelve. Accomplishing it has taught me many things, one of which is to love the process, not just the result. And even if only my friends and family read it, my reward has come already: I’ll soon be starting two new projects, neither of which would have come my way if I hadn’t persevered on this one.

“Peg Entwistle: The Life and Death of An Actress,” Now Available for Sale or Rent on Vimeo

July 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

My new release consists of two short films: a biographical documentary featuring interviews with Peg Entwistle’s surviving family, as well as previously unpublished photos and artifacts; and a silent black-and-white feature about her fateful walk to the Hollywood Sign in 1932. It’s available as a download for the first time; $4 to rent; $9 to buy.

Here’s the trailer:

For more about Peg Entwistle, my ebook Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign is available at Amazon and other ebook sellers:
http://www.amazon.com/Entwistle-Hollywood-Sign-Hope-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00FSOGCV4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1405712489&sr=1-2&keywords=peg+entwistle

My Documentary Feature, “Under the Hollywood Sign,” Is Now Available On Demand

April 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Poster by Nathan Church/ Copyright Hope Anderson Productions

Poster by Nathan Church/ Copyright Hope Anderson Productions


The documentary that inspired this blog is now available as a download, either for purchase ($18) or rent ($5). Under the Hollywood Sign explores the history and present-day life of Beachwood Canyon in historical pictures, new footage and interviews. Here’s the link:

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/uths

To purchase a DVD, please go to: http://www.underthehollywoodsign.com

“Barbara:” A New CD Recalls Beachwood Canyon’s 1960s Music Scene

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

BARBARA  - MOCK CUV copy
As musical canyons go, Beachwood has never been as famous as Laurel, whose reputation was burnished by Joni Mitchell (see “Ladies of the Canyon”). Nevertheless, Beachwood Canyon had its share of 60s and 70s musicians, including The Doors, J.D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt, as I found out while doing research for my documentary Under the Hollywood Sign.

Though I already knew that The Doors had taken their name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception , it was his widow Laura Huxley’s assistant, Stephanie Horsley, who verified that the band also lived in Beachwood Canyon. Horsley lived on Hollyridge Drive in the late 1960s, in a house overlooking the one The Doors were renting. In her interview, she recalled window-rattling jam sessions, after which the band members and their girlfriends would sleep out on the roof.

Another of my interviewees was the musician and producer Alan Brackett, whose band The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was active from 1966 to 1970. The PBC made three albums, contributed songs to movies such as “Run Angel Run” and had a Billboard hit, “It’s a Happening Thing.” Now Alan has announced a new CD featuring (and named for) the band’s late, great vocalist Barbara “Sandi” Robison. “Barbara,” which includes five previously unreleased songs, is available for sale at https://www.createspace.com/2050813

For more information and tracks, visit http://www.peanutbutterconspiracy.com

How Jeep’s “I Love You California” Ad is Worsening Hollywoodland’s Already Horrendous Traffic

January 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

Frame from Jeep Cherokee's "I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube

Frame from Jeep Cherokee’s “I Love You California Ad/Courtesy YouTube


Several months ago, Jeep Grand Cherokee started running a commercial set to California’s State Song. I wrote about it and the song’s origins in this post https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/i-love-you-california-the-song-the-era-and-the-ad/

Lately I’ve noticed that increasing numbers of visitors to Beachwood Canyon expect to be able to drive to the Hollywood Sign–not to its vicinity or to a lookout, but all the way up to it. Over the weekend it finally occurred to me that the Jeep ad, still in heavy rotation, might have something to do with this idea, so I watched it a few times.

Six seconds in, we see a Grand Cherokee ascending a hill that appears to be directly beneath the Sign; from the trajectory, it seems clear the Jeep is heading straight up to it. But it’s not, and it can’t. The hill in question is the so-called Millennium Plateau* which lies not directly under the Sign but east and far south of it. Although Jeep filmed at the Plateau, you can’t drive there: the road is closed except to police and fire vehicles, and to cars on official business. (Disclosure: I have been permitted to drive up the road to an area above the Sign for filming purposes on two occasions.) You could walk to the Plateau, but even if you’re up for a considerable hike, it’s nowhere near spitting distance to the Hollywood Sign. It’s not even the best view.

As long as we’re on the subject of tourist traffic in Hollywoodland, this weekend saw some of the worst traffic ever–and it’s only January. Saturday brought total gridlock on the streets leading to Lake Hollywood Park. On several blocks of Beachwood Drive north of the Gates, there was no street parking at all. The merchants in Beachwood Village have opposed parking restrictions near the stores on the grounds that restrictions would affect their businesses, but as far as I could see everyone who parked on my block was heading in the opposite direction, toward the Sign. Most of these sightseers were gone for hours, and the car with out-of-state plates blocking my garage sat there all day.

The influx of cars has become so severe that one elderly resident apparently died while waiting for paramedics who couldn’t get through a the traffic jam at the north end of Beachwood Drive. As a result of constant gridlock, many of our streets–including upper Beachwood Drive–will soon get permit parking. While I’m happy for those residents, my neighbors and I can forget about ever having friends or family over during daylight hours: all the spaces outside our houses will be taken up by tourists’ cars.

Those who say “You knew the Sign was there when you moved in,” should realize that this wasn’t the situation when we moved in; it dates to when GPS became ubiquitous on phones and has become a crisis only in the past two years. The tourist season is now year-round and affects us daily, and rarely in a good way. So here’s some advice for visitors: if you must come to Hollywoodland, please use public transportation to the Village and prepare to walk. Buy something more than bottled water from the Market and Cafe, especially if you expect to use the restrooms. And don’t smoke anywhere, including in your car. In a bone-dry canyon during the worst drought in memory, one spark equals catastrophe.

*The Plateau is where camera crews filmed the light show at the Hollywood Sign on New Year’s Eve of 1999. The lighted Sign drew such a stampede of cars into the Canyon that all access, including that of emergency vehicles, was completely blocked. It’s a nightmare that haunts residents to this day.

Now Available on DVD: “Peg Entwistle: The Life and Death of An Actress”

December 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

DVD Cover Design Copyright Hope Anderson Productions, 2013

DVD Cover Design Copyright Hope Anderson Productions, 2013

photo 2
My two short documentaries on Peg Entwistle are available on a new DVD for $12. The first,”Peg Entwistle: A Life,” is a biography featuring interviews with family members, as well as previously unpublished photos and artifacts. The second, “Last Walk,” is a black-and-white short feature about her fateful walk to the Hollywoodland Sign in 1932. You can order it at http://hopeandersonproductions.com/?page_id=3361 or rent it at http://vimeo.com/ondemand/17445/100467934

For more about Peg Entwistle, see my ebook Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign http://www.amazon.com/Entwistle-Hollywood-Sign-Hope-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00FSOGCV4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1405712489&sr=1-2&keywords=peg+entwistle

Wild Things of Hollywoodland

November 12, 2013 § 4 Comments

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O'Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O’Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

When I describe the wildlife in Los Angeles to people who haven’t lived here, I get comments like, “Oh, we have mountain lions in New York,” only to learn the mountain lion sightings took place forty miles north of Manhattan. There’s no comparison between that and, say, a coyote running alongside your car on Sunset Boulevard, which is what happened to me about nine years ago in Echo Park.

Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.

But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/humans-and-wildlife-in-beachwood-canyon-an-update/

Just Published: My eBook, “Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign”

October 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign/Hope Anderson Productions

Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign/Hope Anderson Productions

My new eBook contains previously unpublished writing about the actress’s life and death, as well as essays that have appeared on this blog. It also features photos and film stills from my short film, “Peg Entwistle’s Last Walk,” one of which appears on the cover.

Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign is available from Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and other eBook sellers for $9.99.

http://www.amazon.com/Peg-Entwistle-The-Hollywood-Sign-ebook/dp/B00FSOGCV4
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/peg-entwistle-and-the-hollywood-sign-by-hope-anderson?keyword=peg+entwistle+and+the+hollywood+sign+by+hope+anderson&store=ebook

Peg Entwistle’s Childhood Home in London

October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Peg Entwistle's House 10/11/13/Hope Anderson Productions

Peg Entwistle’s House 10/12/13/Hope Anderson Productions


Yesterday I visited the house in Barons Court where the actress Peg Entwistle lived from soon after her birth in 1908 until she immigrated to the United States with her father at the age of six. The house, # 53, is at right. Many thanks to Heath Woodward, whose forthcoming play “Goodnight September” tells Peg’s story, for taking me there.

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