Los Angeles, April 2018 –
What a strange place Hollywood is. As Dorothy Parker replied to the question ‘what is it like there?’ – ‘There is no there, there.’ As Clive James once commented: “…really, aren’t Americans strange? They are the new Japanese, living a life of ritual, with every evening an occasion and no one allowed to be alone.”
Apart from the hackneyed (but to a movie fan, still stirring) markers of Old-Gold Hollywood, what defines it are the people, both gone and extant:
Although the current inhabitants are a mixed bag of lollies…the grave, kindly old panhandling gentleman outside a liquor store, where we picked-up some half-decent wine, told us that he’d been on the wagon for 8 years. We gave him some cash, and inside he went. And then there was this chap:
We even saw one of the Musketeers heading for a liquor store near Hollywood Blvd:
And TVC found that our new friend, Morgan, was a little stiff, aloof and phlegmatic:
Our modest but nice hotel off Hollywood Blvd had a sign in the lift (sorry, elevator) that had not been thought through: “Whichever floor you’re on, you’ll find our service on another level.” However, it surely was the only hotel with a Genuine Hollywood sign in the backyard:
Old Hollywood is a mixture of faded grandeur, broken dreams and morbidity.
So, for example, on Hollywood Blvd, you’ll see genuinely broken-down people, some destroyed by drugs, some by the even more lethal weed, disappointment; some selling tours and tat (no-one pretends to sell credible maps to stars’ homes anymore – that’s left to vending machines charging a dubious $10) while awaiting their Big Break, and others making basic bank by selling food, films and dreams.
Amid faux rappers, allegedly from Compton, you can find understated cinemas and restaurants…
There is a lot of ‘product identification’ in Hollywood. Some simple examples –
…and where River stopped flowing:
Street cred might come straight outta Compton, or Watts, but The Varnished Culture prefers Bel Air, Beverley Hills, and Brentwood…
Everyone is smoking weed, which is legal in California. TVC had a conversation with a barman who supported the reform by saying that in his experience, people were much worse on booze than pot and he rejected the ‘gateway drug’ argument. His experience would trump ours but we reserve judgment. However, we did find people fairly nice, polite and mellow, irrespective of class. But maybe they are high on the Hollywood dream, like Norma Desmond:
While there are a lot of incongruities, there is a lot of repetition and uniformity about La La Land. P devised a (theoretical) plan to attempt a gastronomic version of Leaving Las Vegas, where one would go on a suicidal rite of passage via the endless cavalcade of fast-food restaurants – Taco Bell, KFC, International House of Pancakes, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and of course, McDonalds (the golden arches are apparently the most famous sign in the world, ahead of the Hollywood one on the hill). These are everywhere, like weeds. The sameness is perhaps summed-up by the stars on Hollywood Boulevard and on Vine, all in rows like graves at Arlington, and one in particular – Walter Brennan: 120-odd films; three Academy Awards; one performance.