Hollywood Journal – Intro

As much as I enjoy ranting about greedy developers and sleazy politicians, I realize that this blog would be pretty boring if that’s all I ever wrote about. So I’m going to try to mix it up a little.

For over ten years I kept a journal about the Hollywood area. I’ll be posting excerpts here from time to time. Hopefully this will break the monotony of my ongoing diatribes against the powers that be.

A couple notes about the entry below. Those who have only known the Chinese Theatre in recent years may be puzzled by the mention of the two additional marquees. This was written at time when Mann Theatres had built two large auditoriums right next door, hoping to compete in the age of multi-plexes. These two theatres were torn down when Hollywood & Highland was constructed, and replaced by six inside the mall.

If you don’t live in the LA area, you’ll be wondering why I have a problem with Tutor-Saliba. Even back then they were notorious for cost overruns and long delays, but the city still awards them projects because they’re so well-connected. The names and faces may change, but the dynamics that shape the city stay the same.

April, Nineteen Ninety Eight

Sunday. Early afternoon. I’m sitting in a restaurant right across from the Chinese. In God’s Hands is playing at the main theatre. I look to the right and see that Tarzan and the Lost City is playing next door, and at the far end of the building is the now-familiar sign advertising the Titanic.

Beyond that, across Orchid Ave. is a construction site surrounded by a wooden barrier. The side of this barrier that runs along Hollwyood Boulevard is decorated with pink and yellow stars that have the faces of famous actors painted in the center. The Orchid Ave. side is covered with dull beige paint. And there is a sign announcing that the project is being handled by Tutor-Saliba-Perini. Good God, not again.

Beyond the construction site is the office building that stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Off in the distance I can see a tall apartment complex, a billboard and a little piece of the Hollywood Hills.

*

A few days later I’m in my apartment, just a few blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. It’s after nine PM. I can hear the traffic on the Hollwyood Freeway. It’s always there, kind of like the ocean.

I’m thinking about all the stuff that’s happening in Hollywood, all the changes they’re making. There’s that big project over by the Chinese. The Max Factor building is being restored. The Cinerama Dome is gonna be sucked up into a shopping mall. It seems like the little shops and restaurants along the boulevard are doing better than they were five years ago. And I think the MTA still claims they’re gonna have a subway stop here eventually. I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve lived in or around this area for years. I really love Hollywood. Sometimes it tears my heart out when I see the things the crazy developers are doing. But then, this town wouldn’t even exist without the crazy developers.

The Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

The CapitolRecordsTower is a Hollywood landmark.  It is totally unique, and helped set the stage for the era of space age design.  But it’s not just the look of the structure that makes it significant.  It’s one of a number of buildings designed by Welton Becket and Associates within the city of LA.  Becket was involved in creating some of the city’s most distinctive buildings, including the Pan-Pacific Auditorium [destroyed by fire] and the MusicCenter.  His work helped to define the look of mid-century LA.

Capitol Records is one of two Becket buildings that have become Hollywood icons.  The other is the Cinerama Dome, located just a few blocks away.  In light of the threat that the Millennium Hollywood project poses to the status of the former, it might be useful to review the recent history of the latter.

Cinerama Dome

Cinerama Dome

In the late nineties, Pacific Theaters presented a plan for redeveloping the Dome.  There was a huge public outcry, because in its initial form the plan would have meant ruining the Dome and building a nondescript mall around it.  To Pacific’s credit, they listened to the community, went back to the drawing board and came up with a far better design.  Not only did they refurbish the Dome and restore it to its place as a Hollywood landmark, they also added a beautiful state-of-the-art multiplex which includes a restaurant, bar and patio.  The completed complex was a welcome addition to the community, and it offers the best experience you can have in a commercial movie theatre.

It’s doubtful that the developers behind the Millennium Hollywood project will reconsider their plans, which would erase Capitol Records’ presence on the Hollywood skyline.  I like to think that the LA City Council might actually listen to the community and reconsider their support for the project.  But maybe that’s too much to hope for.