By: Scott S. Smith, Christian Smith and Sandra Wells
Hollywood the industry has been a global entertainment phenomenon for a century, but the Los Angeles neighborhood that once hosted many film studies is roughly bounded by Fairfax or La Brea on the west, Western Ave. on the east, Hollywood Blvd. or Franklin on the north, and Melrose on the south. Tourists still flock to see the 200 celebrity handprints-footprints in front of the Chinese Theatre, some attend film premieres in front or when the Academy Awards take place in the Dolby Theatre inside, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous. Tours of Hollywood would be boring for locals, but they often don’t realize there is lots more to do, from laughing it up at comedy clubs and snapping selfies with the lifelike figures of Madame Tussaud’s to seeing a show at the beautiful Pantages Theatre or visiting one of the first movie studios, now the Hollywood Heritage Museum.
The Walk of Fame is a 1.3 mile stretch of Hollywood Blvd. from La Brea to Gower and a half mile on Vine St. between Sunset Blvd. and Yucca, which features over 2,700 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks at six-foot intervals. Each has an industry symbol for the main profession of the individual: motion pictures, TV, audio recording, broadcast radio, or theater. It is managed by the local Chamber of Commerce, with a committee receiving an average of 200 nominations each year, with about 20 stars being added. It’s a fun walk to see how many of the names you recognize, while popping inside the elaborately-decorated theaters along the way, if open (such as the Egyptian and El Capitan).
Gene Autry is the only person who has a star for all the categories, while four have four (Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Roy Rogers, and Tony Martin). Another 33 have three, including Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Douglas Fairbanks. The largest group represented by a single star: Oz’s munchkins (122 adults and 12 children). Two of the most recent honorees were Latina singer Ana Gabriel and Bob Odenkirk of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
https://hollywoodforever.com/ is one of the oldest active cemeteries in Los Angeles, founded in 1899, and the resting place for many of the movers and shakers of Hollywood, including Judy Garland, Douglas Fairbanks, Mickey Rooney, Iron Eyes Cody, Don Adams, Valerie Harper, and Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone. It’s even more famous with the living for its cultural events, such as classic films shown on its lawn in summer and the Dia de los Muertos celebration that is the largest outside of Mexico. Karie Bible is the official guide and her tour is the only one you need to be delighted by the colorful history of Hollywood as a whole https://www.cemeterytour.com/guide. She relates the incredible stories and career details about many of the hundreds of notables buried there, including silent film stars and legendary cinematographers, while exploring the truth about scandals and highlighting unsung heroes, enough to fill a riveting 2 1/2 hours.
Outdoor murals featuring Hollywood figures are easy to find if you cruise the town. One is on the side of Hollywood High School on Highland a few blocks south of Hollywood Blvd., painted by Eloy Torrez and many of those featured were students there (photo of part of it, left to right: Brandy, Selena, Lana Turner, Laurence Fishburne, Cantinflas, Carol Burnett, Cher, Ricky Nelson, Bruce Lee, Valentino, and Judy Garland). Alas, the most famous mural, “You Are the Star” (1665-69 Wilcox at Hollywood Blvd.), in which many of the legends are depicted in a theater audience looking at the viewer as if she or he is on stage performing, is faded and deserves refreshing. The most notable other one is on the south side of the Capitol Records Building on Vine, just north of Hollywood Blvd., which was the world’s first circular office building when completed in 1956, designed to look like a stack of records. The dozen jazz greats featured include Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday.
La Luz de Jesus
https://laluzdejesus.com/ is a unique bookstore and art gallery at 4633 Hollywood Blvd. near Vermont, the brainchild of art collector and entrepreneur Billy Shire. The artists featured in its exhibitions have been described variously as post-pop, folk, religious, alternative erotic, outsider, and counterculture. Among them have been Manuel Ocapo, Joe Coleman, Shag, and Joe Sorren. It’s also a fun place to browse the unusual costumes, toys, novelties, and volumes about the region and its art, music, movies, culture, and offbeat subjects, with titles like Spectacular Illuminations: Neon L.A. 1925-1965, Dream Treehouses, Transhumanism, and Razabilly: Transforming Sights, Sounds, and History of the Latina/o Los Angeles Rockabilly Scene.
https://paramountstudiotour.ventrata.com/en/studio-tour, founded in 1912 by Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, and Adolph Zukor, is the only major studio still functioning in Hollywood. The parent company is Paramount Global, which includes what was known as ViacomCBS and and the streaming service Paramount+ (with 33 million subscribers). Among the studio’s most acclaimed films have been 12 winners of the Best Picture Academy Awards, including “Terms of Endearment,” “Titanic,” “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump,” and “The Godfather.” You can see the Oscar statue for the latter in the lobby of the studio tour, which was recently revived after two years hiatus. While waiting, a list of many of their other best-known films scrolls on a screen, including “Saving Private Ryan,” “Roman Holiday,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Top Gun,” “Clueless,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Many of the multiple “Star Trek” TV and movie franchises have also been shot on the lot, as were motion pictures as varied as “Citizen Kane” and “King Kong” (the lot is also rented by producers not affiliated with Paramount, so it’s always very busy).
The small-group, two-hour tours are led by guides who are very knowledgeable about the films made on the lot, pointing out the stages for classics such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Rear Window,” “Sunset Blvd.,” “and “White Christmas.” Because it is a working studio, most can’t be entered and while we were there, “NCIS Los Angeles” and “This Is Us” were among those being shot, though we were able to go onto the set for “Dr. Phil” because it was on hiatus. We also visited the central square where at one time one might see the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Katharine Hepburn, the Marx Brothers, or Lucille Ball strolling by (more recently, Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivered some of speeches from a building there in “Vice”). Most fascinating were the giant special effects “blue screen” and a lot that was filled with water for “The 10 Commandments” for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. When pharaoh’s army came through, this required making reverse images of each of 700 frames, then a painstaking process, to drown them.
Hollywood is back…to the future.