August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Hollywood has spent most of the past century in decline, a process that began in the 1920s and reached its nadir in the 1990s, when the average tourist (according to a poll conducted by the LA Visitors’ Bureau) spent a total of 20 minutes on Hollywood Boulevard. Given the Boulevard’s extreme local color at the time–including panhandlers, petty thieves, runaways and drugged-out zombies–20 minutes seems remarkably generous.
During the early 90s, my own visits to Hollywood Boulevard averaged one a year–usually at Halloween, under duress. My young son’s enthusiasm for Hollywood Toy and Costume could not be quelled, so we would arrive at the store in daylight, park directly in front (not a problem in those days) and shop as quickly as possible. We were always sure to leave before dark.
Although Hollywood’s revitalization was a Los Angeles objective for decades–and the focus of much governmental planning and investment–it didn’t occur until Hollywood and Highland was completed in 2001. That shopping mall-cum-theater-cum-hotel accomplished what City fathers had long dreamed of: Hollywood’s return to its origins as a family friendly destination. Tourists came by the busload. New restaurants and clubs followed, and soon Hollywood became a hot spot for Angelenos as well. It was a striking change: within a couple of years, Hollywood’s junkies and teen prostitutes gave way to throngs of suburban and exurban teens in search of an exciting nightlife.
The runaway success of Hollywood’s revitalization became clear to me on Halloween of 2008, when some friends and I decided to go for drinks at a bar on Argyle. Although the trip from my house was about two miles, it took us twenty minutes to drive there because all the streets from the 101 to Sunset were blocked with Halloween revelers. Getting home took over half an hour, and involved getting mooned by a frat boy type whose car was stuck next to mine in traffic on Gower. Since then, I’ve stayed home on Halloween.
Which brings me to last Wednesday’s “near riot” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. When it began, I was on my way to West Hollywood and unaware of the cause of the gridlock. After several police cars appeared, sirens on and sometimes approaching head-on, I realized I had to abandon my plans. Since I couldn’t get home–traffic was by then backed up through Hollywood–I headed toward Los Feliz to wait it out.
Even east of Vine, traffic was at a virtual standstill. While stuck in a line of cars at Hollywood Boulevard and Wilton, I noticed a homeless woman lying on the sidewalk, screaming in agony. A man hovered over her, attempting first aid–or so I thought until I saw him tapping a syringe so that he could shoot her up. By the time traffic started moving again, she was sitting up, though still screaming hysterically.
After I got home an hour and a half later, I learned the “near riot” was caused by DJ Kaskade, who had tweeted his followers to come to Hollywood Boulevard for a free mini performance before the premiere of the rave documentary, “Electric Daisy Carnival Experience.” What should have been a crowd of 500 (at least according to the permit) swelled to a few thousand before the LAPD broke it up. Then came the melee that resulted in arrests and the vandalism of three police cars, one of which was set afire.
And then there was the frustration and fear of countless people who, like me, were caught up in the chaos as we tried to go out for the evening, or get home. We live here, pay taxes and never, ever run amok. But in the shiny new “revitalized” Hollywood, our quality of life counts as little as that of those homeless junkies a few blocks to the east.
December 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
Tom Montgomery sent this wonderful 1933 photograph of Peter the Hermit with his mother and aunts posed on his donkey. From left to right are Anne (Hicks) Siberell, Elizabeth (Hicks) Granfield, Dorothy (Hicks) Constantine, Margaret (Hicks) Montgomery, and Peter.
As I learned from a news article, the Hermit fled Hollywood for the much more bucolic Laurel Canyon because of construction noise in the late 1920s. He probably commuted to Hollywood Boulevard by streetcar (see “Hollywood Before the Movies, Part III: Mansions and Streetcars,” July 6) in order to ply the tourist trade during this period and, as evidenced by the photo above, found additional subjects in Laurel Canyon. Eventually he returned to Beachwood Canyon, a much more convenient commute to Hollywood Boulevard.
If anyone knows the dates of his residence in Laurel Canyon, please let me know.
August 8, 2009 § 1 Comment
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, my entry on Peter the Hermit was read by an Englishwoman named Suzanne Summers, who came across a portrait of Peter and his greyhound at a car boot sale. She bought it without knowing anything about Peter or his odd profession because she loves greyhounds and recognized the picture’s artistic merits.
The photo is expertly composed and lit in a way that highlights Peter’s haunting, pale eyes. The photographer was Bruno of Hollywood, a prolific local portrait photographer. Ironically, it was Bruno who shot the infamous half-nude that Kenneth Anger claimed was of Peg Entwistle in his 1959 book, Hollywood Babylon. It wasn’t until I asserted the model wasn’t Peg in my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign” that anyone questioned the portrait’s veracity. (Though the model has platinum hair, as Peg did in her final year, her face, especially the nose, is completely different. Yet no one noticed, probably because they were focussed on her bare breasts.)
But the man in the portrait above is definitely Peter, who had no imitators. Though his world probably encompassed three miles–the distance between his tent in Beachwood Canyon and his workplace on Hollywood Boulevard–his portrait, framed and labeled “Peter the Hermit of Hollywood, Calif.,” has traveled across the Atlantic and back again, this time in digital form.