The tacky section of Hollywood stretches from the Madame Tussauds wax museum on Hollywood Boulevard to the The Hollywood and Highland Center.
Here you'll often see attractions that are weird, but in a charming way. There's the street performer who drums on Kikkoman Soy Sauce containers, a Spiderman character who climbs on stuff and yells “boo” at people, and dwarves dressed as smurfs, to name a few regulars.
Here you'll also see the occasional tragedy, as happened two weeks ago with the horrific stabbing death of Christina Calderon.
But most of what goes down in the area is neither horribly violent nor terribly charming. Mostly, it's just odd. Living one street over from the Walk of Fame's tacky section, I've found myself witnessing — or even participating — in extremely bizarre social interactions. Here are the ones that take the cake.
1. The tourists waiting in line every day to take a photograph with a gigantic sculpture of Shrek
For anyone who tries to argue that there's just as much culture and history in Los Angeles as there is in New York City, the sight of tourists waiting to take pictures with the Shrek statue is a civic embarrassment. But that doesn't seem to stop anyone: Apparently, people fly to California just to pose next to … this.
Shrek is situated by the entrance to the Madame Tussauds wax museum, a place that prides itself on creating realistic-looking wax figurines of celebrities. The Shrek statue does not look realistic, however, because Shrek is not a real person. He is a cartoon character. And yet somehow Shrek is our version of the Statue of Liberty.
2. The guy sitting in a trashcan, giving sass to people who needed to throw things away
One evening in March, I witnessed a man reclining on a Hollywood Boulevard trashcan, his feet hanging out and his butt covering access to the trash bin.
A passerby approached. “Where am I supposed to put my wrapper?” he asked.
Without missing a beat, the trashcan sitter replied: “Hold onto it. I don't give a fuck.”
3. The driver in a nice, new car who threatened to hit my shitty car because I turned a little too slowly on Sunset
Many important movie producers drive through this area, speeding around and crashing into anyone who dares make them late to their formulaic romantic comedy meetings. I crossed paths with one of these drivers after I put safety first and made a careful, slow turn onto Sunset. The driver in the much nicer car next to me got so enraged that he swerved into my lane twice, threatening to hit me. Dear god, please don't get your shiny new paint on my 2005 Volvo. Anything but my 2005 Volvo.
4. The guy with three computers in Starbucks giving me unsolicited computer advice, leaving his computers unattended to smoke cigarettes outside for hours
I want to believe that he really cared about me, but I worry that he was just waiting for me to get distracted so he could add my computer to his collection.
5. Nice man who asked me to wish him luck on his comedy show, then suddenly turned into a mad man when I did
In the parking lot of the local library, a man who seemed to be a typical, nervous young actor yelled out at me that he was performing a comedy show later that evening. Would I wish him luck? How cute. Of course I would.
“Good luck!,” I said, giggling. Then he asked if I was laughing at him, his voice suddenly taking on a very accusatory tone. “No!” I said. This is when he told me that he would become a star one day and get his own television show. It would have been great news, except he was yelling at me as he told me this. He continued to yell at me about his future success as I walked away and crossed the street.
6. The $10 store that aggressively promotes its limited-time-only $5 sale — as it's done every single day for the past four months
“You came at the right time, every item's only five dollars,” a familiar voice tells you as you cross the street. Britney Spears' “I'm a Slave 4 U” plays on a loudspeaker. A digital billboard flashes advertisements urging you to visit the city of Phoenix. You just wanted to go to Starbucks, but the employees from the Everything's $10 luxury boutique have other plans.
They make eye contact with you and smile. They ask for high fives and dance. They shout into megaphones, wave signs that say “$5 SALE!” and twirl the signs.
Underneath the celebrations, there is a growing sense of panic. One day, they warn, the $5 sale will end. You must go shopping now, or else you will miss it. They will tell you this tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that. They will give warnings about the impending end of the $5 sale to your children, and to your children's children, and to the children of their children.
7. The producer on an Amish-focused reality TV show looking for volunteers in the street to yell “nice ass.”
A few random people agreed — while the Amish looked like they were beginning to question what they were getting themselves into.
8. The tourists who got excited about a bomb threat at Hooters
Last April, there was a bomb scare at the Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard, and the LAPD searched the restaurant and blocked off the street.
While you'd think people would try to avoid Hooters during this time, a gaggle of tourists stayed behind. They excitedly hugged the bomb barricades to photograph the empty street. A clearly annoyed cop yelled at them to back up, but the group of ten or so people only budged a few feet. Pictures had to be taken — clearly, their Facebook friends back home needed blow-by-blow documentation of the entire non-event.
Hey, at least it's better than photos of Shrek.