Monday, November 1, 2010

Do They Still Come to Hollywood & Vine?

Hollywood & Vine, 2010

At the end of a week of business travel, I had a few hours to myself in Los Angeles last Friday before my plane left. An unexpected family health emergency back East would end up cutting into that time. But mid-morning I didn’t know that yet, and was more interested in using the time to take some pictures.

LA’s a sprawling place. I didn’t have time to just wander. Besides, LA traffic discourages that. I didn’t have any specific photographic subject in mind, either, though I did want to try to do something distinctly LA-like. So I decided to use the old trick of planting myself in one place and seeing what I could make of that one place.

Actually, I chose two places. The first was Melrose Ave. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

A good photographic journey can start with just the place. Sometimes that’s enough. After looking at a map and realizing how close I was to it, though, I upped the ante for my little self-assignment and posed the question, “Do they still come to Hollywood and Vine?

Those of us of a certain age will recall a time—I don’t know if it was real or just something spun by Hollywood PR people—when young beauties in search of motion picture success came to the center of Hollywood, in those days the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, to be “discovered.”

These days I suspect nobody gets discovered that way. They’re probably all up in Burbank doing acrobatics to see if they can get on So You Think You Can Dance or working movie producers’ casting couches the old fashioned way.

Anyway, Hollywood and Vine. It’s pretty disappointing. There’s a bank on one corner, a Borders Book store on another, an old office building-turned-apartment house on the third and a mix of easily forgotten retailers on the fourth. It’s busy, but to be honest I couldn’t find much story to tell there.

Redbury Hotel, 2010

So I moved up Vine to the corner at Sunset Boulevard. If LA has anything akin to New York’s Times Square, the corner of Sunset and Vine would have to be the eastern end of it. It’s ground zero for celebrity-seeking tourists. But rather than running across starlets and leading men, all I saw were tourists of all shapes and sizes from all over the world tripping over each other. Aside from a few landmarks—the Pantages Theater, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, The Kodak Theater, Capitol Records—Sunset Boulevard is one trinket shop and faux trendy boutique after another. The only non-tourists on the street are tour operators hawking tickets, young men with giant foam core signs hawking luxury apartment rentals and Scientologists hawking everlasting life or whatever it is they have to sell. As for opportunity, it’s a street that’s more about what you can’t do than what you can.

Just Say No, 2010

I hung around for a little while and walked up to Capitol Records to see the famous Richard Wyatt mural, which overlooks a parking lot and has sadly faded to an almost unrecognizable state. I checked out the Hollywood Stars Walk of Fame, something that turned out to be just as unimpressive as I’d imagined and just as contemporary as, say, Jinx Falkenburg.

Just Another Sidewalk, 2010

I finally decided I’d had enough and headed off instead to the quieter precincts of Silverlake to see a couple of Richard and Dion Neutra houses.


  1. I felt much the same when I first saw that area. I guess it's good that we don't always get to see some things--keeps the mystique there.

  2. I'm still wondering what happened to cause 100 cops to swarm out of nowhere and descend on Hollywood and Vine & to the north of that Friday night (11/5/10.) Seems like all the action comes out at night in that place.