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Hurry Sunrise 

Hollywood’s last act before daybreak

Wednesday, Dec 12 2001
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Sunrise in Hollywood.

Who ever sees it? Who ever wants to be awake and near a window, on the street or in a car, for this moment of urban renewal whose calm, pharaonic grandeur rivals first light over Death Valley or Montauk Point? Nearly half an hour earlier, traffic along Sunset and Hollywood boulevards slowly builds; sparrows begin a shrill chorus as though cheering -- or warning -- that night is about to end. Then, sometime between 5:30 and 7:15 a.m., depending on the season, the sun cuts the horizon and something happens: The eastern sky is suddenly bordered by silhouettes of palms and billboards, shadows turn gray, and the gathering light almost becomes audible. As far as anyone who’s been on the street during these 20 minutes of daybreak is concerned, all questions and prayers are about to be answered.

Most of us see Hollywood going to or from a job, or when we buy a bit of its nightlife. Even then, it‘s usually from cars that we see the town -- a blur of bus benches, doors and people we will never speak to. But between that time when the last bar closes and the newspapers are delivered, Hollywood becomes a silent, mysterious ground -- a submerged world whose last two or three hours of night can be glimpsed from cars but felt only by walking.

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For many, Hollywood’s sunrise isn‘t merely pretty -- it signals the end of night’s longest, coldest hours, when the evening‘s highs have worn off and the body fights its natural desire to sleep, a time when waking appetites for food and drink are at their lowest, and all we desire is a toilet. No one who’s ever spent nights on a bus bench in a strange town ever forgets the punishing blows this time of night delivers to the soul. Anyone who wishes only to be left alone to fall asleep knows the impossible desire to become invisible. But when shelter and sleep are unavailable, the thing to do is walk and, by walking, hurry along the sunrise.

”All kinds of crazy things happen here. Lot of time, the ladies will bring guys into the bathroom and . . . [makes handjob motion]. People come over drunk from clubs. We have a lot of trouble with people running out without paying their bills. One time, my boss ran after a guy and let the air out of his tire before he could drive away.“

--Security guard,

Denny‘s

Hollywood and Sunset boulevards are central Hollywood’s main drags: Sunset, historical home of recording studios and TV and radio stations; Hollywood, the mannequined street of big windows and sidewalk stars. During the annual Christmas parade, these boulevards appear united by strands of Silly String, rally horns and marching bands. But underneath, their personalities remain vastly different. Sunset has the prostitutes, three 24-hour Denny‘s (Freeway Denny’s, Gower Gulch Denny‘s, Rock & Roll Denny’s) and speeding cars. Hollywood has the cops, brighter lights and a little more foot traffic. Each has its own kind of signs that prey upon different human weaknesses. Hollywood Boulevard‘s whisper Money:

Cash

Checks Cashed

Pay Day

Advances

Money Orders

Sunset’s signs promise mastery of the body, of the soul, of the future:

Groove Fitness

Family Health Center: Movie Stars Training

The future sound of fitness. Details inside.

The family that prays together stays together.

Korean Karate

Gym open 24 hours during renovation.

4 a.m.

A walk west along Sunset from Gower Gulch Denny‘s to the Rock & Roll Denny’s between the Guitar Center and Fairfax takes about 40 minutes. There‘s no intelligent reason for making this hike before dawn other than to keep warm. The diners may have just one or two people keeping to themselves, and even if you were hungry, the $2.99 Sunrise Grand Slam doesn’t go on the menu until 5:30, when the restaurants begin to fill.

El Centro Avenue, a block west of Gower Street, is a gathering place for Hollywood‘s homeless population, though at this hour its members are mostly dispersed, with a few ghosts huddled in the shadows of the Mark C. Bloome parking lot. If you sleep outdoors in Hollywood, you enjoy a certain kind of leave-him-alone respect, but if you are walking at this hour you instantly become a blip on everyone’s radar, since the reason you are here is because you have no place to go or nothing legal to do.

You, in turn, immediately become aware of all the other people with no place to go, and when their dark shapes approach, you intuitively assign names and threat potentials to them. Cop, rent-a-cop, possible thug, prostitute, shopping-cart man, the Mark C. Bloome phantoms all respectively become Five-O, Four-O, Zombie, ‘Ho, Caveman, Sleepers.

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