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There are a lot of famous roads in the United States, Bourbon Street, Beale Street, Wall Street, Las Vegas Boulevard, Broadway and so many more that a history of these really gives you an insight into what this country wants and needs. That is of course kitsch and lots of alcohol. I have walked along many of these famous pathways and drank my fair share of overpriced booze and I can say that not many roads are as overhyped, underwhelming, and important to the fabric of entertainment in the world, as today’s subject Hollywood Boulevard.
10 million people each year can’t be wrong. Ten million people crowd Hollywood Boulevard and walk over a mile to see the names of some of the most famous people of the last hundred years. With over 2,700 and counting stars, the monuments to stardom are as American as apple pie. But the street is more than just stars on the ground, it is also footprints, sex shops, con artists, the homeless, and a place that swims in the dreams of those who hang a hope that they too will someday be well known.
I started my day early as it gets crowded and I didn’t really want to be next to the unwashed mass of tourists like me for very long. The day was cool as I came out from the underground parking lot at the Hollywood and Highland complex. I had my walking shoes on and I’m above this altitude. Ahead the stars came down from the night sky.
The Walk of fame was not the first attraction to the area but it is now the main draw. Construction of the walk started in 1958 and the first permanent star of director Stanley Kramer was laid down on March 28, 1960. Now if that name isn’t familiar to you that’s ok, one thing that you will notice as you walk down the street, there are a lot of stars of people who were once important that now, well the time has slipped on by. As a fan of classic Hollywood, a lot of these names are well known to me but even I ran into a few that I had never heard of.
Hollywood is a tourist trap that sucks in the souls of those from the midwest and makes them believe that you can make it the land of glitter and lights. I mean you look down at your feet and see all those names and you too think, well if they made why can’t I? Of course, they had talent, good looks, and a lot of luck but sure the thoughts cross everyone’s mind like poison. You go back to the middle of nowhere USA and dream that someday you too will get that star after climbing to the highest peaks only to be taken down in burnout of your own ego. Yeah, that’s the dream that Hollywood sells.
I start my walk at the famous Chinese Theater that is known the world over and the first thing that you see isn’t a glittering street of the famous but instead, people selling food, a con artist trying to take your money, and people dressed up in customers trying to pass along whatever fresh disease that they currently got. In other words, paradise. I start to take pictures, brushing off the giant Elmo and the rapper shoving CDs in my face saying that they are free, who the hell still has a Cd player I ask, no answer so I move on. In front of the Chinese Theater are the famous footprints in concrete.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is the kind of landmark that makes you wonder why it’s even famous to start with. You have seen it on television and yeah movie premieres used to take place there but why that place? Well, its secret as a cultural landmark has to do with the footsteps set in concrete in front of the building.
But let’s find out how the tradition even got started. The movie palace opened on May 18, 1927, and has hosted like I said a lot of movie premieres, like the one for Star Wars in 1977. It also has hosted three Academy Awards (1944-1946) and has all those footsteps upfront. Now if you look at the picture below you can see that the location of the theatre was originally that of a mission by an old actor named Francis X Bushman. There is almost 200 imprint currently with the first one for Mary Pickford on April 30, 1927.
Now the general story as to how it got inspired to even start goes something like this, fresh concrete was laid down, and while soft someone stepped in it, and bam! a tradition was born. Not what I would call a great story but hey lots of things happen as a result of an accident, like you I am sure.
Now if you can’t make it to Hollywood, a full-scale recreation can be found at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando Flordia, but with the cost of a ticket these days I think it might be better to just go to Hollywood.
After leaving the steps I walk along the street, the further you go away from the freaky Elmo, not the less safe but for sure less family-friendly than the street gets. As you near one end of the stars you come across a big artwork of diversity.
This artwork is on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea Ave. is called The Four Ladies of Hollywood. It was created in 1993 by Catherine Hardwicke and it is supposed to represent the diversity of women in Hollywood in an art deco style. The four ladies are supposed to be Dorothy Dandridge, Anna May Wong, Dolores Del Rio, and Mae West. I know that those names don’t mean much to most but there are some pretty famous women in there. Dolores Del Rio is important to me as a Mexican-American. She was a star in the 1920s and 1930s and was to many one of the first Latin female stars in Hollywood. Now I say supposed to look like these important women because they look nothing like the ladies they are supposed to be, which is fine, it’s still some great art. I put a pin in my mind that I will need to come back to these women at a later day to really tell their story.
We keep walking over more homeless and we see more stars, lots more stars, so many stars that are forgotten or are on the verge of being forgotten. But look at some of those big names, so many tragic stories are under my feet as I walk.
So how do you get a star with your name on it, am sure you are wondering. You could pay for one for like $10 from the many people who will a make a mock one for you but if you want the real thing, well, of course, it takes a lot more money but it goes a little beyond that. You have to be nominated first by an outside group, so yeah you cant buy your own star. It costs about 50K as of 2020 in a fee to submit a name. Anyone from studios, fan clubs even random strangers with cash can try to get a star for their beloved star. All that is required is that the star is or was active, yeah they can be dead, for at least five years and they have to agree to show up. around 20 new stars are granted each year and like I said, the star has to show up. 40 people who were granted stars declined because they had to show up. The most bizarre star moment was when Barbra Streisand agreed to show up and then didn’t show up.
I keep walking and I’m already tired not knowing how much more I’ll have to walk. Growing up not too far away in Orange County I had visited Hollywood more than a few times and walked the street a few times but I had never really gone that far. A block or two was as far as it would get before I gave up and went back to wherever I had started from. Also, it’s like many tourist traps to locals, it’s something that they keep far away from. Living here in New York City, Times Square is very much in that mold. Tourists go and locals keep away but I think most cities have a place that.
I’m across the street from where I started and I am at the El Capitan Theatre, home of the Jimmy Kimmel show.
The El Capitan opened in 1926 and was called “Hollywoods’s First Home of Spoken Drama” as it was the center of Live theater for Los Angeles for its first decade. It is the home for the premiere of most Disney films as they own the building. A great experience if you ever get a chance to go.
I start the walk towards the beginning of the walk of fame, trying my best to dodge the homeless and piss on the street. Sex shops, souvenir shops, and smoke shops line the street so cover your kid’s eyes because this is real Hollywood. Picture after picture I snap away with my phone as I look at the names real fast. The further away from where I started, the more the names seem like they were part of a history that I didn’t know. These people worked hard to be remembered and yet here we are, I’m looking down at names that are just that names, they might as well just be numbers to some.
I make it to the other end of the walk of fame and I’m tired. It’s a nice day in Hollywood, the weather is always nice it seems. I start to walk back to the start of my journey and I start to think about all these names, big and small. We all have dreams, we all want more from our lives than what lot we are thrown into. Some people find it but most will live out uninteresting lives satisfied with what they have in front of them.
I’m near my starting point and I grab a few more names. I see a game of three-card monte on one corner and see the people with eyes wide knowing that they have never seen anything like this back in Wisconsin, what tales they will have to tell back home. I buy a sausage in a bun from an old lady in a cart and I sit and watch the people walk by. It’s time to go find my car and head off to my next adventure.
I wish my life was non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really dieCelluloid Heroes- The Kinks