May 1, 2014
What is your perception of Hollywood? While working on a project for the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, Nick Boles discovers that the Hollywood he thought he knew has gone ‘new school’ with a culturally creative vibe and and an eastside eclectic flavor, all while retaining the retro-glam of iconic Hollywood.
When my friends would come to visit me in Los Angeles, I told them to avoid Hollywood Blvd like the plague. Filthy streets, green haired transvestites, and used needles came to mind from growing up in the area. I would shepard them into Santa Monica (my current residence) in order to avoid breaking their romanticized vision of the walk of fame. However, after working with the Hollywood Business Improvement District over the five weeks this spring, my perception of the area has changed dramatically.
Each day I walked down the boulevard to see the people, places, and things up close and personal. The area has a personality that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. Here lies a giant melting pot of tourists, artists, hustlers, businessmen, criminals, homeless, and philanthropists all squeezed together within a small radius. The combination results in a mosaic of culture that encapsulates the multiculturalism of a major city.
To give you a glimpse into the offbeat beauty of Hollywood, let’s walk through one of my days working off Hollywood & Vine. The day starts as I wait for coffee at the local Starbucks and strike up a conversation with a foreign music producer working across the street on an Electronic Dance Music project. Then, I head over to the Burger Factory for a $3.99 pancake platter and eat next to the local construction workers, while watching a server from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles start a screaming match in Spanish with a patron who cut her in line.
After the meal, I walk down the boulevard to see lingerie shops, bars, food trucks, and museums. Friendly hustlers pitch an opportunity to see the private home of Justin Bieber through a tour van, and ecstatic tourists jump in the back seats. As I get closer to the Hollywood and Highland intersection, picture flashes fill the air and foreigners pose for photos with a Spiderman who desperately needs to wash his outfit. The crowd begins to thicken as performing artists offer CDs of their music, artists offer hand drawn pictures of movie stars, and singers improvise wacky songs about the day.
Overstimulated by the intense energy of the destination, I head over to Musso & Franks. All the noise quickly dissipates and I feel like I’m in another era. The waiters walk around with old school outfits carrying martinis and fine steaks to the older elite of the Hollywood scene. After a quick drink, I’m back out on the streets dodging animal-saving canvassers and “I need weed” cardboard signs held by stoned panhandlers. The noises of cruising cars, hungry salesmen, and construction cranes fill my ears. The smell of cigarettes and fresh Carne Asada tacos whisk through a warm breeze that rustles the leaves of Palm trees, cooling the hot California sun. Eventually, I get back to work, but miss the excitement produced by merely walking through the streets of the Hollywood. Addicted to the action, I already want to return to the engraved terrazzo walkways.
After work, there is a fundraiser at the Redbury Hotel down the street. I get the chance to rub elbows with some of the movers and shakers of Los Angeles, inside the well-decorated atmosphere of the second floor bar and patio. Sipping Old Fashions and talking politics, it felt as if I were in the nation’s capitol. It wasn’t until the event ended that I realized all of this happened in the same city.
Hollywood is no Shangri-La, but it is rich of culture and diversity. The gritty area has character that can’t found be found in Santa Monica, Downtown, or anywhere else. The city represents a crossroads for all walks of life, creating a beautiful clash. The next time my friends are in town and want to see where the stars are born, we’re going to Hollywood.
Nick Boles is an LA native, current Santa Monica resident, and is currently serving in the Coro Fellows Program.