By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
A few blocks away, a young, tattooed woman in a black evening dress gets pushed out of a car at Hollywood and Vine. The car drives off; the woman scurries up Vine. Hollywood Boulevard doesn‘t have as many people sleeping on the street, partly because so many of the doorways of the boulevard’s shops are sealed off by accordion gates or steel roll-down doors. One night, however, a man in a wheelchair dozes in a detox center‘s small doorway, covered by a blanket, only his feet showing. Hollywood Boulevard seems cleaner than Sunset -- or at least there always seems to be a man hosing or steam-blasting some part of the Walk of Fame. It also feels safer, as though there is a little less evil and madness here, which perhaps explains why you occasionally come across people who just seem to be walking for the hell of it and not in search of drugs or sex. Then again, the relative presence of humanity on Hollywood could be because of the all-night CCS check-cashing place at Whitley Avenue, or the 24-hour World Book and News stand on Cahuenga Boulevard, or the ’round-the-clock Hollywood Cabaret topless club (”Girls Girls Girls“) with its large window frame scarred by cigarette burns.
But these few outposts do not make Hollywood an all-night town, to put it mildly. At best it resembles some end-of-the-world movie set whose extras make motions that are unconnected with consequences: No one standing at that phone booth on Wilcox Avenue is really making a call; no one sitting on a bus bench at Cahuenga is waiting to be taken anywhere. You have to credit whoever handles scenic design here: The sidewalk lawns of the Hollywood Athletic Club and the Harmony Gold Preview House are immaculately maintained, even while most of Sunset‘s sidewalks are mottled by the stains of crushed palm-tree berries and vomit.
A small, bloody Rorschach stains the walkway of a KFC on Sunset, just east of Fairfax. A while ago, the night went wrong for someone on this spot. The red droplets, appearing almost black under streetlights, continue east along the sidewalk in a crazy swaying pattern, appearing in two entwining lines of Morse code. At Orange Grove, the droplets cluster again, as though the person had stopped to let a car pass. Across the street they continue, in front of Blockbuster Video and down the side again before vanishing somewhere in the neatly tended curbside grass, near cigarette butts and a Trojan wrapper. By tomorrow night, the blood will have been washed away.
In the necropolis of predawn Hollywood, everyone is a Zombie, everyone looks lurky and ominous. Adding to this Omega Man spookiness is the spectral jazz piped out onto Sunset near Wilcox from two buildings on either side of the street. On one early morning, some old piano riffs blare out of speakers on an office building being renovated behind plywood boards at 6565 Sunset, while a very cool sax solo exhales upon an empty sidewalk in front of Copy Central across the street. The one conceivable reason for these eerie concerts is to keep Sleepers from trying to bed down in the buildings’ shadows by keeping them awake.
Reflecting the patriotic mood of the times, the building being refurbished at 6565 (”Warning. Area Is Under 24 Hour Surveillance“) is now bathed in red, white and blue light; its primary tenant is the Hubbard College of Administration International, a Scientology organization. Another Scientology outfit, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, is headquartered across the street in the old Yale Electronics store. CCHR is Scientology‘s anti-psychiatry arm, whose perennial exhibit is called ”Psychiatry Kills“; its windows are filled with huge posters showing a man receiving painful electroshock treatment.
Across the street, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, a Sleeper darkens the top of a stone retaining wall, while a man with a flashlight studies a door that opens onto the church grounds. Farther west, next door to the L.A. Weekly, more people are sacked out against the side of a newly renovated office building.
The Sleepers vanish at Hollywood High School at Highland Avenue, where Sunset noticeably changes atmosphere -- the shadowy lighting seems borrowed from a Jacques Tourneur film, and a large black cat guards a walkway to the school. Now the air becomes heavy with moisture, and that nutmeggy, peculiarly Southern California fragrance hits the senses, a smell of imported vegetation and watered lawns. Suddenly we remember why we fell in love with Los Angeles: That scent, that perfume of parties and botanical gardens, of campus grounds and well-tended palisades parks, is what hooked us so many years ago. And now we smell it again and once more feel ennobled, encouraged, patted on the back, made aware of possibilities that have been hidden from us.
At Rock & Roll Denny’s, a young prostitute in blue-jean cutoffs is laughing in a booth with a gawky middle-aged white man, telling him, in her ghetto lilt, how she might move back to Arizona, or might not. She goes outside to smoke a cigarette, spots a dead ringer for Donald Rumsfeld beginning work on his Grand Slam and pounds on the window in front of him. Rumsfeld glances up in disdain, continues eating. The other white guy has paid the bill, and she now follows him to his car. They look like sweethearts in a Mickey Rooney movie. Inside the diner, a well-manicured Amerasian hooker who‘s been doing okay business standing in front of the Travel Inn Motel orders a cup of oatmeal to go, with lots of brown sugar but no raisins.
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