Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hollywood Boulevard

Since my trip to Los Angeles didn’t make it into my paper in any direct sort of way, here’s a brief reflection based on the experience of driving along Hollywood Boulevard and passing Grauman’s Chinese Theater a few hours before a movie premiere. This slightly-crooked photo was taken from the car as we were driving (notice the star on the streetlight).


Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars.
—Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust

Traffic slows perceptibly several blocks before 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. The first star appears high up on a street light, marking the threshold of HOLLYWOOD with sparkling gold letters. The street narrows—on each side, crowds surge against each other, colliding, pushing in opposite directions. The streetlight stars come into view one after another now, announcing the location again and again to the crowds and the cars. The cement below echoes this proclamation. Lined with stars, it, too, signals place. This is hallowed ground. This is Hollywood.

Everything converges at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard—Grauman’s Chinese Theater—a spectacle of columns and minarets and stone lion-dogs stationed as sentinels to guard the front entrance. The red carpets have been rolled out onto the starry cement in preparation for tonight’s premiere. The fans have already begun to gather, forming a dense mass that will grow denser still. They are pent in by short metal gates. They press against the gates and against each other, straining to reach the edge of the red carpet, straining to see the stars who aren’t there and the commotion that has not yet begun. Now is the lull; for now, they jostle each other indifferently, carelessly, without malice.

In a few hours, the real violence will begin. This is, after all, 6925 Hollywood Boulevard—the location of Kahn’s Persian Palace, the setting for Nathanael West’s infamous riot scene—a place where waiting fans coalesce into a vicious mob, where the pursuit of leisure engenders savage violence. For now, though, they are just a group of people with cameras and posters, waiting for the show to begin, waiting for the thing that will save them from their terrible boredom.

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