Magazine article Sunset

Hooray for Hollywood

Magazine article Sunset

Hooray for Hollywood

Article excerpt

The entertainment capital embarks on a comeback--with restored theaters, legendary celebrity haunts, and tours

* I WALK INTO MUSSO & FRANK, AND SHE'S not there. Then again I'm early, a rarity. We are going to meet for dinner, then catch a movie at the Egyptian. There'll be stars, I hear; a real Hollywood gala. Like something out of the old days.

I wait for a while by the back entrance, then decide to have a drink. They say Musso's is Hollywood's oldest restaurant. It's a classic, all right. Waiters in ties and little red jackets. Nononsense food done well: flannel cakes, stuffed cabbage, open-faced turkey sandwiches, and today's special: chicken pot pie.

I walk up to the maitre d'. He doesn't know who I am but still greets me like a regular.

"Good evening. I'm meeting a friend. We'll need a table for two at 6."

"Would this be a gentleman or a lady?"

"A lady She's tall. Blonde. Hair to her shoulders. Probably be wearing black. Just let her know I'll be at the bar."

"Very good. And what is the lady's name?"


"And your name?" So I tell him.

I order a martini, gin, straight up with a twist. It arrives perfectly chilled, accompanied by a little carafe filled with an extra splash, a Musso's trademark. The bar is quiet, just one other guy, talking about his golf game. I tune out the duffer and take a look around, and begin thinking about Hollywood, both the place and the myth.

Finding the Hollywood in Hollywood

A lot is happening in Hollywood these days, a lot of hopes and dreams and dollars being invested in the idea that the romance of the movies can fuel a comeback for one of the most famous places in the world. Many blocks of Hollywood proper can't be called anything but seedy. Still, boosters are banking on a Times Square-style revival here.

In March 2002 the Academy Awards show returns to Hollywood Boulevard for the first time since 1960, in a $350million complex rising beside Mann Chinese Theatre. Nearby Disney has redone the El Capitan. And Grauman's Egyptian, where the original Hollywood premieres took place--starting with Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks--has been reincarnated as the American Cinematheque. At the Egyptian, you step off the modern boulevard and into the Hollywood of almost 80 years ago, under the gaze of the pharaohs that stare down from the walls and among the spirits of all the screen legends who congregated here.

In the real Egypt, 80 years ago is like yesterday. In Hollywood, it's ancient history. It wasn't very long ago that Hollywood was just a farm town. Founder Harvey Wilcox named the town after the summer home of a woman his wife met on a train. Then he figured that a place named Hollywood should have some holly. He went ahead and planted the stuff. It died.

There's a lesson in that: Don't go searching for holly in Hollywood. As for finding Hollywood in Hollywood, that's tricky too. You need to know where to look. What a lot of people don't realize is that old Hollywood is actually all over town, like bits and pieces of film on the cutting-room floor: In places like Paramount Studios, where you can still see (if not drive through) the Bronson Street gate--the one Norma Desmond goes through in Sunset Boulevard. At legendary bars and restaurants like Musso's, where one regular, a frustrated screenwriter named William Faulkner, once termed Hollywood the place "where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder." Or at the Formosa Cafe, still so perfectly film noir it was used as a period piece in L.A. Confidential. And in hotels like the Chateau Marmont and the Argyle that have somehow held on to a sense of history while appealing to a new generation of Hollywood types.

You can also pay homage to older, vanished generations of Hollywood types. Go out to the old Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard: There are bouquets of roses on Tyrone Power's "good night, sweet prince" grave site and fresh lipstick kisses smacked onto the front of Rudolph Valentino's crypt. …

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