October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
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.
September 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
The most interesting thing about the article is not that Cronenberg was able to shine big bright lights on the Hollywood Sign, but that he comments, “I was frankly just surprised to learn the sign wasn’t lit in the first place. If it were Paris, it would be lit at night!”
If it WERE Paris, Hollywoodland would be an enormous, flat public park with no houses in it. And the Hollywood Sign would be called the Eiffel Tower. But it’s not, and it’s not. I would have thought this was obvious.
August 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Hollywood Sign is often visible at night because its white paint reflects ambient light and moonlight. The recent paint job only increases the phenomenon, and those who live near the Sign report the nightly influx of noisy groups of partiers. Adding insult to injury, these visitors leave their bottles, cans, condoms and cigarette butts for residents to clean up.
The fact that people are smoking in a high-risk fire zone is disturbing, as a single spark can (and has) set the neighborhood ablaze. As for the bottles, cans and condoms, the least these revelers could do is to taken their trash with them. Another word about the condoms: not only is it illegal to have sex in public, but Hollywoodland’s wild animal patrol–raccoons and skunks, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions–should give anyone pause.
August 11, 2013 § 6 Comments
A few years ago, after weekends of gridlock on the Canyon’s northwestern streets left residents unable to leave or return to their houses, LaBonge responded by clearing a hillside above Lake Hollywood Park so that tourists could take pictures near the Sign. Eliminating some of the brush was probably a good idea, but cars and buses came in ever-increasing numbers, creating havoc on Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake Drive. It wasn’t long before a wildfire broke out from a cigarette flicked into the chaparral by a tourist. But it’s all good according Tom LaBonge, who once wanted to build a lookout tower in Beachwood Village for tourists. Never mind that he proposed putting the tower in the parking lot of the Beachwood Market, which happens to be private property, or that very few tourists want to walk, let alone climb steps, for a look at the Hollywood Sign. For Tom LaBonge, it’s about the tourists all the time; we residents can go hang. (I often wonder where he thinks his salary comes from.)
His latest idea for Hollywoodland is jaw-dropping, even by past standards. LaBonge has proposed an immediate elimination of 50% of the parking on Beachwood Drive north of Beachwood Village, meaning that one side of the Canyon’s only thoroughfare would be permanently off-limits to parked cars. The reason for this is obvious: LaBonge, a lame duck, wants cement his tourism-centric legacy by granting even greater access to sightseeing buses and vans (all of which exceed weight limits, not that this is ever enforced). The implications of this plan are devastating, not only to those residents who have nowhere else to park but to those of us who have garages. Apparently LaBonge thinks no one will ever need parking spaces for visiting friends, family or workmen, and that upper Beachwood Drive is his for the taking.
There’s a hearing about the proposal scheduled for Wednesday, August 14th at 7pm at 6501 Fountain Avenue. I’ll be there, and I hope other Beachwooders–particularly those who live on Beachwood Drive–will attend as well.
May 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Recently I was driving through Hancock Park, my former neighborhood, when I noticed a house with a sign reading “Armed Guard on Premises.” Although break-ins are common there–I was a victim twice–this seemed an extreme measure, so I asked my niece who lives nearby about it. “They just say that,” she said. “There’s no armed guard.”
Now I live in Hollywoodland, where a steady stream of tourists headed for the Hollywood Sign passes my house each day and coyotes patrol by night. Actually, coyotes patrol by day as well, as these photos, taken on a recent midday–attest. This is the big-eared coyote that appeared in a post a few months ago, and these days I see it often. At night, I often hear coyotes hunting vermin on the hillside above my house, a circle-of-life function that goes naturally with nocturnal lurking.
December 2, 2012 § 1 Comment
Four days of intermittent rain have brought clouds and mist to Beachwood Canyon, which in turn have completely shrouded the Hollywood Sign. In the above photo, the Sign should stand to the right of the turreted house, as it does in any number of photos on this blog. But it’s not there–and if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never guess its location.
Given the arid local climate, the Sign’s disappearance is a rare occurrence, and I can remember only a handful of days during my seven years here when I couldn’t see it from my house. Ironically, on the first of them I was trying to show the Sign to Kelly Brand, the actress I cast as Peg Entwistle in my short film “Peg Entwistle’s Last Walk.” Although we were probably only 100 feet below the Sign at one point, we couldn’t see it at all.
But today the Sign’s invisibility was a gift. Normally Sundays bring nonstop tourist traffic up Beachwood Drive, and a Grand Prix-like roar that doesn’t stop until sundown. But all day long, traffic was light; with nothing to see, no one came.
November 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
It wasn’t until days later that it occurred to me that the director, Ben Affleck, took significant liberties with the timeline. At the time of the Iran Hostage Crisis, which began on November 4, 1979, the Hollywood Sign–the same one being repainted today–was not only rebuilt but had stood for over a year. The old 1923 Sign began to be dismantled on August 8th, 1978. The new Sign was completed on October 30th, 1978.
What makes the discrepancy odd is that Affleck has taken enormous pains to match, in shot after shot, his film with archival footage of the Iranian Revolution and the Hostage Crisis. In the end credits, stills from the movie appear alongside archival pictures of the hostages, the American Embassy and Tehran street scenes. The resemblances are astonishing.
Naturally, a shot of the brand-new 1979 Hollywood Sign wouldn’t have had the visual impact of its pre-1978 decrepitude. But it seems strange that Affleck’s talent for cinematic verisimilitude didn’t extend to the Sign in this otherwise perfect time capsule.
Postscript: After this piece was posted, a new Awards season trailer for “Argo” turned up on TV. It opens with a helicopter shot of the Hollywood Sign as it actually was in ’79–newly built and freshly painted. Coincidence?
October 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
For a static monument, the Hollywood Sign is remarkably changeable. It can look narrow and almost delicate when viewed from the east or west, and massive when seen from the south. Its paint captures changes in light, so that it can appear blindingly white, golden, grey or even pink, depending on the time of day. In its current restoration, a run-up to the 90th anniversary of the original Sign (and Hollywoodland itself), it is even more mutable than usual, and to my eyes more fascinating.
August 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
While this might not sound like a serious problem, it is huge for those of us who live in the Canyon and have schedules to keep. Once we get stuck behind crawling tourist traffic, we are trapped for a mile. Drivers are completely unable to pass north of Graciosa, where Beachwood Drive is a narrow, two-lane ribbon. South of Graciosa, where the road is considerably wider, passing is possible but fraught with hazard. Sudden stops and swerves are common tourist driving tactics, as is road rage: How dare you pass us! seems to be the general attitude, as if no one should have anything better to do than chug up and down Beachwood Drive at 2/3 the legal speed. (I’m neglecting the fact that some tourists go even slower than 20 mph. 15 mph is common.)
The mile-long stretch between Franklin Avenue and the Gates has no stop lights and only two stop signs. At the posted speed of 30 mph, it took me 1 1/2 minutes to drive it at 6:45pm today. Yet it often takes five times as long, an inexcusable length of time for such a short distance. Getting stuck behind tourist traffic on Beachwood Drive is getting more common–and more frustrating–every day.
If you’re reading this and contemplating a visit to the Hollywood Sign, please drive at the posted speed. If you need to take a photo, please pull over, signalling first, and let the driver behind you pass. I’m thanking you in advance, not just for myself but for everyone concerned.