I remember when I was young and thought Hollywood was glamorous. Surely all the men would be dashing and handsome and all the women would be elegant and sophisticated. They would have fancy cars with dignified drivers idling at the curb, while they perused the elegant shops and waltzed over the stars of their celebrity friends on Hollywood Boulevard.
Thus my first visit to Hollywood, at age 16, was a big disappointment. I learned that much of Hollywood, and a good portion of Hollywood Boulevard, isn’t even close to what I expected. Since I’m trying to relive my childhood through my children, I took them to Hollywood Boulevard this spring. I did not tell them of my previous experiences, as I didn’t want to be the one to crush their dreams of glamour. And perhaps, I hoped, the Boulevard had cleaned up its act in the years that had passed.
I’m not sure I thought it possible, but Hollywood Boulevard might even be more disappointing today than I remember it being in my youth. It’s a strange juxtaposition actually. You’ve got really cool stars on the “Walk of Fame”, while at the same time you have garish businesses and pushy touts shoving flyers in your face just about every step of the way. It reminds me a little of the streets of Las Vegas. I half expected to see neon lights advertising “girls, girls, girls.”
Just about every business caters to the tourist crowd, but often in strange ways. There are people shilling for tours of stars’ houses, and then there are people in creepy costumes, waiting to make a few bucks off the tourists wanting to have their picture taken with a not-even-close Johnny Depp “look alike”, or a man with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck. Not surprisingly, the wackiness seems at its height around Grauman’s Chinese Theater, home of many movie premiers and three Academy awards ceremonies. Its most popular draw is the concrete blocks in front of the theater, with handprints, footprints and signatures of famous celebrities. Trust me when I say that you won’t see any real stars here, but you are guaranteed see a weirdly bad impression of Rambo, Mickey Mouse or Lucille Ball.
This isn’t the glamorous Hollywood of my imagination, and I can guarantee it was not the Hollywood my girls envisioned either. It certainly is a site to see however, and drives home the point that real life is not like the movies. From one of my favorite Avett Brothers songs:
Now in the movies they make it look so perfect,
And in the background they’re always playing the right song,
And in the ending there’s always a resolution,
But real life is more than just two hours long.