Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

August 25, 2012 — I was really tempted to just wrap the lyrics of the Kink's Celluloid Heroes around these pics and call it a guest post. But then the “trite” alarm went off in my head, and for some reason I didn’t hit snooze this time. Still, you should know that melancholy little tune was playing inside my head the entire time I wrote this post. And I really need to upgrade my speakers.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an almost 1.5 mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street sidewalk that is lined with terrazzo and bronze stars honoring entertainers from all media, but mostly those in the movie industry. Started in 1960 and run by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, entertainers are nominated and voted on annually and then told that for a fee (Wikipedia says it’s about $30K these days), they can have their name immortalized among the gods and then walked on by the masses.

It’s a little cheesy. A bit of a racket. And a lot hubristic. In addition, over the decade, the area around the Walk of Fame is has really descended into a depressing dinginess.

So, basically, there are a lot of reasons to skip this Los Angeles tourist attraction, although you’ll probably just be trading one bit of depressing dinginess for another. But here’s why you should go. Because it’s pretty much the only bit of planet on which you can guarantee that somebody famous whom you respect stood. I mean, Ray Bradbury knelt here while his star was placed. So did Alfred Hitchcock. Vincent Price. Stan Winston. Pee-Wee Herman. Obviously, I’m just mentioning those in my pantheon, but whatever multi-millionaire has gotten you through the drudgery of this working life, if their star is here, they stood here—actors, directors, musicians, even fictional characters like Godzilla and Lassie, somehow.

The most famous stretch of the Walk of Fame is around Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Pretty much everything I’ve said so far about the Hollywood Walk of Fame goes equally for the 85-year-old Chinese Theatre. Once upon a time, this was the movie venue of movie venues. It hosted Academy Award ceremonies. Appeared in movies. And was the site of some of the biggest movie premieres of all time. Star Wars debuted there. The Wizard of Oz did too. Final Destination 5, as well. And the entire theater is basically upholstered in red carpet since along with those debuts appeared all the actors and directors who made those movies.

Today, instead of it being a glittering beacon of cinematic history, the area in front of the theater is crawling with tourists and those costumed panhandlers who want you to pay to take a pic with them just because they shopped at Party City and have developed the unique adaptation of being able to be fully covered in the dismal Southern California heat. And speaking of those guys, you should watch this documentary about them. Extremely damaging to you if you do.

Still, in that same cement where tourists spit out their gum and cigarettes are far more than just the plain, metal and stone stars of the Walk of Fame. Here are the actual hand, feet, and/or autograph imprints of Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholas, Steven Spielberg, R2D2 and C3PO. The fossil evidence will forever prove that those guys stood there.

I had been prepped in advance for the squalor of Hollywood Boulevard. And knew by common sense the less than impressiveness of brass stars in concrete. But what I was pleasantly surprised by were the murals. I’m not sure if I visited Hollywood Boulevard at a weird time of day or if I was just witnessing the usual economic straits of the area, but just about every other shop that lined the road was shuttered by metal security doors. However, on just about every one of those garage-door-style theft deterrents was painted large black-and-white portraits of those whose names were under our shoe rubber. Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog. Abbott and Costello. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. It was a nice touch.

So I’m going to conclude this post by stating officially that this miserable part of Hollywood is a great spot. Because it shows both the shiny side of glamor and all that disgustingess that the shininess is supposed to distract us from.