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
“Ticket holders must be in their seats by 5 p.m.,” we are told. And so, those of us who paid $35 for a grandstand spot at the 2003 Hollywood Christmas Parade patiently wait two hours on Sunday for 7 p.m. to arrive. Many in the crowd — grumpy ladies wearing reindeer antlers, proud parents of members of the Shawnee Mission NW High School Band — pretend not to be bothered by two rambunctious toddlers whose mothers attempt to soothe with shiny stickers, toy cars and Mommy’s little red helper (Two-Buck Chuck smuggled in a plastic bottle). Every other overheard conversation involves the Michael Jackson scandal, with the general consensus: “He didn’t do it; he’s just weird.” Sullen baton twirlers slouch by just as the parade is set to begin.
It’s always been kinda charming that you can come to Hollywood Boulevard for the annual Christmas Parade and feel like you’re in Anywhere, USA, what with the marching bands, lassoing cowboys and classic cars. But this is Tinseltown, damn it, the show-biz capital of the world, and our parade promises you can “Come see your favorite celebrities parading down Hollywood Boulevard!”
But imagine you came from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to see the glitzy Hollywood affair, only to find car after car cruising by with people who aren’t even close to your favorite celebrity. By a show of hands, have you ever heard of: Kelly Moneymaker, Christopher Showerman, Damani Roberts, Branscombe Richmond, Tanika Ray, Dee Dee Davis, John Ondrasik, Biggi Krebel or Daniel Roebuck? (You’re disqualified if you actually are these people, their agents or their mothers.) How about James Michael Tyler? Dorian Gregory? Raphael Sbarge? Leslie Charleson?
That’s right, these are the people smiling and waving atop polished cars, saying with their eyes, “Yes, it’s really me.”
With all due respect — no, with no due respect — these people are not celebrities. The organizers of this year’s parade were obviously imbibing the holiday spirits and being extremely generous with their definition of the word. At best, these people are working actors. Not that that’s not something to applaud in this town. But this year there wasn’t even much of the parade’s usually reliable cavalcade of B-list stars.
Back when the parade was young, mega-stars Mary Pickford and Bette Davis flipped the switch that lit the Christmas tree, and Gene Autry rode his horse down the boulevard. A few years ago, you could wave to David Hasselhoff and Mr. T. And in 2002, you could see Destiny’s Child, David Copperfield and Leann Rimes perform. So what happened in 2003? With the exception of a few — God bless Ruth Buzzi, Joanne Worley, Judy Tenuta and Fred Willard — one has to wonder who the organizers had originally aimed for. Did tae-bo infomercial hawker Billy Blanks take the place of Jack LaLanne? Did they approach Mike Myers only to settle for Mindy Sterling from the Austin Powers movies? Maybe after Arnold Schwarzenegger turned them down and they had to put “honorary mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant” in the grand-marshal car, they just threw in the towel.
The “cast of The Bernie Mac Show” goes by, but where the hell is Bernie Mac? The crowd applauds according to each person’s TV ubiquity and gives the army of yellow-jacketed Scientologists a cool reception (though it is heartwarming when somebody yells “Freaks!”). You know things are bad when one of the most recognizable faces turns out to be Larry Miller, who you might recognize from his Sit ’n’ Sleep commercials. (“We’ll beat any price or your mattress is freeeee!”)
When a smiling fellow named Hahn cruises by, there’s a collective “Who?” What show is he on? Some WB sitcom I’ve never seen? The Mayor of Los Angeles? Never heard of it.
Finally, here comes Santa Claus, looking even better and more charismatic in person than on TV. The crowd cheers wildly. Now that’sstar appeal.
Paul Wehunt likes to shoot people, mostly on weekends. And he’s not the only one. This particular Saturday, Wehunt stands on one side of a dirt road in the badlands of west Lancaster, surrounded by blown-up sofas and shotgunned washing machines. Across the road are 30 young men, most of them dressed in unmatched combinations of camouflage and skate T-shirts. Motley as this crew appears, they all have one thing in common: Each of them is carrying a high-tech paintball gun. Some are fully automatic, and some are single-shot. All are loaded and ready to fire.
The guns fire pinball-size bullets of paint wrapped in plastic designed to break on impact. Propelled by compressed C02, the balls exit the muzzle of the gun at 300 feet per second, and when they hit, they hurt. Some of the warriors prefer the cold early mornings, when the paint is harder — that way the balls will leave welts and bruises even through several layers of clothing. Knuckle hits hurt the most, although a group of preteen kids off to the side are whispering about hits to the nuts. One kid laughs and grabs his groin, his face a pantomime of adult agony.
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