One thing about out of town company is that you get to play the part of the tourist.
My sister visited from New Hampshire this past week with her 11-year-old daughter. My sister is a native Californian. She relocated to New Hampshire in 1990. We grew up in Sun Valley, just over the hill, and both of us worked various jobs in Hollywood. Rhonda was working at an organization called Children of the Night, which helped to get kids off the street. Additionally she has worked at movie studios including the law department at Warner Bros. where she saw plenty of movie stars, which she dealt with great aplomb.
Now, so many years later, it is funny (and puzzling) to see her put “visit Hollywood” on her “must do” list of things when she comes home. But off we went on Saturday to Hollywood & Highland, the phenomenal multi-story entertainment center at the junction of these two famous streets.
Actually, I like Hollywood & Highland. It has some terrific restaurants (Trastesvere is one of my favorites) plus there’s 75 shops and of course the Kodak Theatre. But we don’t spend all of our time there. Instead, we head off to Hollywood Boulevard to check out the little souvenir shops.
After stepping onto the boulevard though it doesn’t take long to figure why Hollywood has the reputation of being “Holly-weird.” In front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is a cast of folks dressed up as Hello Kitty, Homer Simpson, Batman, etc. They will try and engage with tourists, pose for a picture, then ask for some cash.
As we dodged these characters, folks were handing out brochures for theme parks, restaurants and shows. As I skirted them, what I thought was a brochure was thrust into my hands. However, it was much heavier and I immediately pulled back. There was a young man handing out copies of his CD, perhaps hoping to get it into the hands of a producer. But I knew this game, too. If you accept the CD, you’re asked for money. So I hurried on.
About halfway up the block I turned to my sister, but she wasn’t there. She was caught by the aspiring musician and was paying the token $5 or $10 for the privilege of purchasing his CD. I had to laugh – she wasn’t amused.
But she made it to the souvenir shop. Tables covered with T-shirts promoting Hollywood, plastic Oscars and magnets were everywhere – I lasted only about five minutes before making a beeline for the exit.
Waiting outside was a show in itself. Sightseers crowded the sidewalk speaking in many different languages. Tour buses lined the boulevard with drivers trying to entice passengers with an insider’s view of Hollywood and the stars’ homes.
With nowhere to sit, I leaned against a palm tree, watching. An old man picked through the trash looking for recyclables. Some kids were pointing to stars on the walk of fame, not having a clue as to who these people were. A man dressed badly as Elvis in tight brown leathers and oversized glasses – maybe a street performer? – tugged a small suitcase behind him. Tour buses would pass by, the voice of the tour guide drifting past and overhead were tour helicopters for those with more to spend.
After 15 minutes or so, my sister came out with a bag filled with gifts for friends back in New Hampshire. That was long enough for me.
On Monday we headed over to Universal Studios. I haven’t been there for years, but since King Kong opened I’ve been dying to go. And while the park was busy, my comfort zone was much less compromised. The street performers were professional (and clean as was the park), and there was plenty of seating.
Next time she comes out, Rhonda is going to have to do Hollywood on her own, but I’m in for Universal.
Robin Goldsworthy is the publisher of the Crescenta Valley Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 248-2740.