By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
At 6801 Hollywood Blvd., a man power-scrubs Whoopi Goldberg’s new star in preparation for its unveiling ceremony five hours later; soap and pink terrazzo dust stream into the gutter. Just past the Kodak, a Marilyn Monroe mannequin is getting its skirt blown up by fake subway air, while about 200 feet away the first commuters are boarding real trains. Some like it hot, but judging by the dummy‘s feral, rabies-infected look, this Marilyn likes it not. In the window with her are some cutout photographers strapped with old-fashioned Rolleiflexes, while behind them the store offers a big, clean version of the T-shirt-and-ashtray shops found on the other side (the suddenly wrong side) of Highland. Marilyn Manque grits her teeth in a frozen moment of pain or ecstasy, and a cold wind actually does kick up on the block.
Heading west on Hollywood, past the Chinese Theater, the boulevard suddenly darkens, as though someone hasn’t been paying the light bill on this end of the street. A huddle of guys looms on the corner of Sycamore Avenue, and pedestrian radar alarms sound subconsciously. Then a black limo appears, and it becomes clear that the men, all white and all in windbreakers, are Scientology Four-O guarding yet another of the cult‘s Hollywood properties. The Association for Better Living and Education and neighboring Author Services Inc. look like a combination of the Vedanta Center and a Christian Science Reading Room. ASI’s display windows are full of old pulp-magazine covers featuring yarns by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, along with several enlarged photos of L. Ron, one in which he‘s strapped with a Rolleiflex. Take a few steps toward ABLE’s gate, and one of the windbreakers comes over to check you out.
Along this stretch of Hollywood, a few blocks before La Brea Avenue, poles with barn-door spotlights appear along the boulevard, in some misguided allegory of moviemaking. The end -- or the beginning -- of the Walk of Fame comes at the southeast corner of Hollywood and La Brea. You can‘t miss it -- it’s where that gaudy and forgotten silver gazebo celebrating the four film goddesses sits. The gazebo was planted on that corner in 1997, and said goddesses seem to have been chosen by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce‘s diversity committee: Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Dolores Del Rio and Anna May Wong. A tiny Marilyn Monroe, skirt once more a-blowin’, stands at the gazebo‘s pinnacle.
Stare as long as you will, but the chromey sculptures don’t look very much like their inspirations. The fiberglass women‘s hair and plunging gowns vary, but their faces do little more than suggest their stars’ visages and seem pretty interchangeable. The gazebo is topped by a little spire whose neon shaft of letters spells ”Hollywood,“ but otherwise the shrine is dark -- the footlights aren‘t on, and not even the barn-door lights on a nearby pole are working. The goddesses’ name plaques seem to reflect the town‘s transient nature. They haven’t been drilled in with masonry bolts but are instead held in place by some kind of industrial glue -- great globs of which have dripped down and frozen on the pedestal.
On the sidewalk nearby, stars summon memories of Elvis Presley and the Beatles. (Later, for one brief moment following George Harrison‘s death, this corner will be packed with mourners and media.) There are no benches for people to rest upon while contemplating the scene. Still, it is a good place to observe the receding night. Across the street, a hooker in a striped top and white pedal pushers emerges from a motel alley, goes to a pay phone and pretends to speak to someone. The first of several old men in shorts and sweatshirts appears, walking briskly in the gutter or cycling with fluorescent-orange safety vests. A tall white trannie, with a gauntly severe expression and black boots covering half of her long bare legs, staggers along Hollywood and turns down La Brea.
At 6 a.m. straight up, the plastic bags of trash cans near the gazebo are removed, while at the exact same moment a Zombie puts down a can of malt liquor on the counter of the Sunset and La Brea 7-Eleven, a young, blond prostitute walks into the Subway sandwich shop next door, and another day of construction starts on the Cinerama Dome site near Vine. And all the while the Sleepers do not stir on their sidewalks. Eleven minutes later, the streetlight nearest the gazebo flickers out, the sparrows begin shrilling, and a dying honeybee trembles on Dolores Del Rio’s arm. The hooker in the striped top leaves the pay phone, walks around her motel again and heads for Hollywood High, where she finally finds a client.
The sky has gone milky in the east, security guards bring in the newspapers that have collected on the steps of office buildings, and cars frosted with dew are pulling out of motel parking lots. At the Chinese Theater, a dozen people have queued for an 8 a.m. showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer‘s Stone; some sit in beach chairs as though awaiting the passage of the Rose Parade. ”The funny thing,“ a cameraman for Fox TV says, nodding at the tiny line, ”is these people’ve been here [two nights], and there‘s no reason for it. And there’s only one child in the group!“