The funny thing about Hollywood – the town, not the idea – is that it actually has very little to do with the entertainment industry. Hollywood and Highland is ridiculous, mass-produced, candy-colored, jammed-together, and yet it is a carnival of inauthenticity, not unlike the entertainment industry itself.
The Walk of Fame is a brilliant idea concocted by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to make money publicity, although I do have a fondness for the pink terazzo stars. When Hollywood and HIghland was built a few years ago, the Kodak Theatre quickly became the home of the Oscars, but the mall atmosphere feels distinctly suburban and touristy. Real Angelenos feel like foreigners here, and you can hear many foreign accents all around. Still, I like the energy of this area, although it’s one of the few places in L.A. I feel I really need to watch my wallet and my bag. It feels like Time Square in New York – jammed with visitors, except it is completely new and fake. The real Hollywood—the film making mecca of Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith, is actually further east, in Silver Lake, where I live. Hollywood and Highland, with its Babylon elephants, and huge picturesque concrete frame for the Hollywood sign, is a mere evocation, like the inside of the Venetian hotel in Vegas only evokes Venice, Italy and at the same time is nothing at all like it.
When I come to Hollywood and Highland, I prefer to take the L.A. Metro, especially because it is so time-consuming to find a spot in the massive subterranean parking structure. I enjoy looking at the signed concrete star footprints in front of the Chinese Theater, and finding random folks’ stars along the Walk of fame. The L.A. Metro barely covers a fraction of the sprawling urban area of Los Angeles, which means it’s rather sad, but I insist on taking it—Los Angeles needs a real mass transit system, so I will support it. Plus, each station has its own design, like the stations in the Paris Metro, and the decoration is surprisingly well-conceived. The people-watching on the L.A. Metro is just as good as in New York, except for the general lack of mid-to-upper-level income folks. Rich Angelenos do not take the Metro, whereas rich New Yorkers do, because in New York, the Subway usually the fastest way to get where you are going.
It’s fun to see the tourists at Hollywood and Highland, to feel their excitement, which is ironic to me, because it’s just basically a mall with a great concept. it’s a place to gawk, not to eat or drink.
If you come here and you want real history, try eating at Musso & Frank’s, a restaurant founded in 1913, if memory serves. I hear the martini is the best in town. The food is not very good, but the wait staff is ancient and charming. The Velvet Margarita Cantina on Cahuenga has great margaritas, and fun Day of the Dead decor, complete with old Mexican films playing on screens above your head.
The El Capitain is a beautiful old movie palace where you can catch the latest Disney film, and you might be treated to a live pre-show. That is definitely worth a visit, and you can check your irony at the door.