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A Tour of Hollywood on Oscar Day, Part 1

Omnipresent helicopters swirl loudly above my apartment as I wake up and start to grasp the reason everyone is invading my neighborhood: The Oscars. This is going to be a long day.

“The best night in the world to be in Hollywood.” – Ronald King

tour1I start the day with a Rice Krispie treat and coffee at around 10:30. If I want to know what Hollywood is like on Oscar day, I have to start early (for me, at least). I head towards the Farmers’ Market, armed with my reusable bag for carrying produce and a library book that needs returning. I glance at the booths to get a preview of the merchandise, as I don’t want to carry purchases for my walk down Hollywood Boulevard to get as close to the Oscars as possible. I step behind the booths to hit the library book drop when a woman cries out in front of me. Startling. She limps, but she seems ok. Probably homeless. She doesn’t say another thing as she shuffles slowly and I walk away in the opposite direction.

There’s an ad for “United States of Tara” towering above Hollywood Boulevard at the Cahuenga intersection. I think that it’s good to see that mental illness is finally getting it’s own TV show as another homeless guy appears sitting against the steel curtain of a closed shop.

“Advertising – that’s what Hollywood’s for.” – Ronald King

I walk west toward the Kodak Theater (site of the Oscars, for those not in the know) and a man standing outside a shuttered building asks me for change while a woman sits by his side. I have a quarter left over from breakfast and he says, thanks, every little bit helps. I drop the quarter in his hand, every line of it covered in black. I pull back a little too quickly and continue on my walk and join the procession of tourists doing the same thing. Not sure why I gave him my quarter.

My eyes alight on my favorite homeless guy. It’s funny, the people I recognize the most in this town are of course my friends, the staff at my favorite restaurants, and the homeless guys that populate the street. Why is he my favorite? Because of one night when I pulled into Ralph’s and he was watching the Dodger game on a portable TV he had plugged into an outside electric outlet. Now I see him every Sunday as he stands and watches the TVs outside the CNN building, tuned to every news show possible. He’s never asked me for change and I don’t know for sure if he is homeless. Maybe he just likes to watch TV outside. He walks the other way without an ounce of recognition as I walk into the crowds of Hollywood Boulevard.

“I thought it would be bigger.” – A friend’s comment when visiting me in Hollywood

As you’d imagine, there are plenty of movie theaters on Hollywood Boulevard. The Guinness World Record Museum used to be a movie theater. The Vogue Theater is on the other side of the street, about a block down and boarded up tight. Today was the first time I saw the lights of the Pacific Theater marquee, now a church and maybe that’s the reason the lights are on. There’s also the old Ritz that is now a Spanish language church. Still working as a theater, but closed today, is the Egyptian, with Darth Vader and Shrek in front of the shut gates. The El Capitan is blocked with that marquee serving as another location for red carpet commentary. On the biggest night for movies, on Hollywood Boulevard, not a single movie will be shown.

To get past McCadden Street into the realm where you can see a celebrity(!) up close, you have to go through a security pat down with the whole beeping wand thing. I guess that is true of any spectator event. At noon, this line stretches at least a block on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard. A man in a tux appears and starts to walk up the street. Immediately the cameras come out and follow him around. They may not know who he is (seat filler, anyone?) but just in case, he will be photographed. Oh yes, there will be photographs.

tour2I walk back down to the Farmer’s Market because I’ll be damned if I’m getting up this early on a Sunday and I don’t get some fresh squeezed orange juice and some garlic flavored pistachios. I pass one of the same homeless guys. He throws a Dr. Pepper can in front of me in disgust. As usual, I ignore his actions whether they are talking like crazy, throwing things or lying passed out under a huddle of rags. What can I do? What can anyone do?

Well, we can laugh. Like the four girls who pass the wig shop and look at the big blue, purple and pink wigs. We can get high after purchasing a bong or a vaporizer from one of the many head shops on the boulevard. We can eat, like the girl carrying a two-pound jar of peanut butter with a spoon in it as her boyfriend bums cigarettes. (No, I don’t have any.) We can wrinkle our noses as we smell the urine coming from the alley. We can watch dark clouds rolling in today and hope that the rain will maybe get rid of the urine smell for one day. We can take photos beside the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars of Ronald Reagan or Lassie and show it to our friends (ironically or not) when we get back home. The Hollywood Walk of Fame takes you by all of this and more. Maybe it’s why the tourists tend to stick to that two block radius around the Kodak Theater where the raciest thing you see is Frederick’s of Hollywood.

“The Entertainment Capital of the World” – Oscar telecast

But, if I want to truly see Hollywood on it’s night of nights, I have to get out of myself. I’ve walked down Hollywood Boulevard. I’ve seen the photo panhandlers. I’ve seen the stars. I know my neighborhood. If I want to see the town through the eyes of a tourist, I have to go beyond the normal. I have to take an actual tour of Hollywood.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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