What makes this tour important? You don’t go to New York and skip the Empire State Building. You don’t do L.A. without doing Hollywood. L.A. IS Hollywood. Hollywood IS L.A. So there you have it.
Tour Starts: At the Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland station. Hollywood & Highland is Hollywood’s current epicenter.
Tour Ends: At the Red Line’s Hollywood/Vine Metrorail station. Hollywood & Vine is Hollywood’s other “epicenter.”
How to Get There: If you’re coming from any distance, there are 3 options:
- By Rail: Take Metrorail! The tour starts at the Hollywood/Highland Metrorail station exit on Hollywood Boulevard, right next door to the Hollywood & Highland Center. There’s just one exit to the boulevard. See http://www.metro.net/ for rail transit maps, fares, trip planner and station locations nearest to you. Metrolink and Amtrak trains provide easy connections to Metrorail via downtown’s Union Station.
- By Bus: See http://www.metro.net/ for bus transit maps, fares, trip planner and stops nearest you. Bus stops are directly in front of the Metrorail station.
- By Car: For this tour, parking is fairly easy but can be expensive. The best bet is within the Hollywood & Highland Center: $2.00 (with validation) for up to 4 hours, $1.00 for each 20 minutes thereafter. Street parking is either more expensive or limited to 1 or 2 hours.
- Hollywood High School: 25 minutes
- Sunset & Vine: 45 minutes
- Hollywood Forever: 90 minutes (via DASH bus, Mon. – Fri. only)
How much Walking? Figure about a mile and a half (excluding optional side trips) – most of which is over relatively flat terrain. The three Side Trips vary from a few blocks to a roundtrip cemetery run where the distance is handled by a DASH bus.
Tour Cost: Nothing. Of course, you’ll pay for entrance to museums; if you go to the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park (a cemetery) it’ll cost you 50¢ (25¢ for seniors 65+) each way; admission to the cemetery is free.
It’s a Fact:
Hollywood was a relative late-comer to the motion picture industry. Back in the late 1890′s, when the first movies started being produced and shown to audiences in Europe and the East Coast, Hollywood was a sleepy farm community. By 1908 there were about 20 motion picture companies in the U.S.; none were in Hollywood. By 1916 there were over 21,000 movie theatres in the U.S.; none were in Hollywood. But within 10 years, Hollywood was producing 90% of all films made, earning its title, “The Movie Capital of the World.”
Where to Eat: Click here for ideas and suggestions.
You Can Combine This Tour With: Most any downtown tour – but don’t do it. If you have lots of time why not wrap up the Hollywood experience with a show or movie at one of the theaters here in the heart of it all? By doing that, and maybe including a Side Trip or two, you’ve done plenty for a day.
WalknRideLA‘s “Here’s Hollywood” tour focuses on the attractions along Tinseltown’s Main Street: Hollywood Boulevard. Beginning in the west at Highland Boulevard and ending on the east at Vine Street the tour takes in a mix of star-studded history, hype, architecture, grit and renaissance. And because the tour begins at one Metrorail station and ends at another, it’s a cinch to get in and get out.
–> Exit the Hollywood/Highland station.
You’ll exit the station onto Hollywood Boulevard, almost directly across from the El Capitan Theatre. Immediately to the right is the Hollywood & Highland Center.
For the most part the tour moves between the north or south side of the boulevard but feel free to cross (at a crosswalk) whenever and wherever to see whatever you want.
–> Turn right and walk up Hollywood Boulevard.
You’re standing on the first attraction – one that will stay with you the entire tour.
Hollywood Walk of Fame. E. M. Stuart and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, 1960
The terrazzo and brass stars are awarded in five categories: motion pictures, television, radio, recording; live theater/performance was added in 1984. A brass symbol shows the star’s category. Multi-talented performers may have multi-star counts: almost 30 have three stars; two have four stars (Bob Hope and Tony Martin) but only one person has a star in each of the five categories. Huge Hint: he’s maybe best known as a singing cowboy. (See the * note at the bottom of this attraction.)
You don’t have to be human to earn a star, either. There are two birds, a bear, a rabbit, two dogs, a duck, a frog, a reptile, a mouse and an ogre on the boulevard. (See the ** note at the bottom of this attraction.)
Original plans allowed for about 2,500 but space was getting tight so the Walk was expanded west one block from Sycamore Street to La Brea Avenue. That, and a doubling up of stars in some places, has made more room. Today’s number is over 2,400 and counting. For Hollywood Walk of Fame news, events, star locations and upcoming honorees, click here.
*Gene Autry. **Big Bird, Woody Woodpecker, Winnie-the-Pooh, Bugs Bunny, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, Donald Duck, Kermit, Godzilla, Mickey Mouse and Shrek.
Hollywood & Highland Center. 6801 Hollywood Boulevard. Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, 2001
- Shops & Restaurants
- Hollywood Sign & Photo Ops
- Kodak Theatre
- Movie Theatres (including Grauman’s Chinese)
- Hollywood History & Hype
- Heart-of-Hollywood Location
- Lots of Tourists
At latest count there are about 30 restaurants and eateries within the Hollywood & Highland Center, ranging from pretzels to prime rib. Retail is just as varied here where Hollywood kitsch (nobody does kitsch better) and high-end fragrance boutiques live happily together.
Whether they’ll live happily ever-after remains to be seen. The center opened just two months after 9/11 – a tough time for any place as dependent on tourists as this one. Some of the stores and restaurants aimed for an ultra-upscale demographic that didn’t come. Mainstream tourists did come but they looked and they left. Since then there’s been some fine-tuning and today the center seems more comfortable in its skin with a broader range of outlets. Still, it’s a work in progress.
Oh, the center has its critics: too much your typical mall, too commercial, too tourist-y, too much a “Disneyfication” of Hollywood. The mall analogy may have some foundation but as to hype, tourists and theme parks? Hey, it’s HOLLYWOOD!
Pay attention – there’s a theme here – one that you can follow like a human token on a Candyland board game. The trail runs from the boulevard, up the steps, through the plaza and finds itself – like many an aspiring starlet (or star): at a studio casting couch. The trail is coral/red and black terrazzo – the same colors as the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s called “The Road to Hollywood” (Erika Rothenberg, 2002) and it includes 49 real – but anonymous – stories about real people who made it real big in Hollywood.
If you want a great shot of the Hollywood Sign (of course you do), take the steps or escalators up to one of the cross-over bridges within the Babylonian gate. While you’re up there looking at the sign you might ponder Peggy Entwhistle. Never hear of her? That was precisely the problem. No doubt she had many issues but nevertheless, despondent over her going-nowhere Hollywood career, one day in 1932 Miss Entwhistle decided to walk up Beechwood Canyon. She scaled the Hollywood Sign and leaped to her death.The center sits on the former site of the Hollywood Hotel, demolished in 1956. Myra Hershey (yep – one of the Hershey Chocolate clan) built the hotel in 1905 – the first hotel of any size on the boulevard.
–> From the studio couch, walk into the covered portion of the center (opposite from the elephants) where the escalators are.
Straight ahead is the Kodak Theatre, the first venue built especially to host the annual Academy Awards. The theatre’s first awards ceremony was held here in 2002. Before then they bounced around town (you’ll see three other Oscar® venues on this tour) before alternating between downtown’s Dororthy Chandler Pavilion and the Shrine Auditorium. The 3,400-seat theatre has also hosted concerts (Celine Dion, Dixie Chicks, Barry Manilow, Alicia Keys, etc.) and special events (American Idol finals, AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, Christmas pageants, etc.).
That’s all about to end. There’s fierce competition around town for big-ticket/big-theatre events; downtown’s spanking-new Nokia Theatre only added to the scramble for contracts. Accordingly, the Kodak just inked a 10-year deal with Cirque du Soleil to host their new “Iris” presentation opening mid-2011 – a 72-cast member, $60 million production saluting the history of filmaking. The opening follows a $40 million revamp of the theatre’s stage and ceiling. The annual Academy Awards will continue here, making it a two-show venue.
Thirty-minute theater tours are available. The box office is below the entrance, downstairs on Level One. Click here for information.
–> From the Kodak Theatre entrance doors at the rotunda, walk to the steps that lead down to Hollywood Boulevard on Level One.
You’re walking, though in the opposite direction, the route invited movie stars and movie-makers walk on “Oscar® Night” as they ascend from the red-carpeted Hollywood Boulevard (closed for days up to and including the night) the theatre.
The bump-outs resemble theatre boxes, the steps sparkle and the columns list all Academy “Best Picture” winners from 1927 to present. There’s space enough on those columns for a few decades more of winners, but after that…?
–> Continue out onto Hollywood Boulevard, turn right and walk next door.
OK, with outlets in over 40 countries and with more than 50 in the United States alone, you can bet Hollywood would have a Hard Rock Cafe. And so it does, and here it is. This one’s pretty new, opening in the summer of 2010. It’s got it all: touch screens, interactive exhibits, shops, an eatery and the requisite one-of-a-kind memorabilia: Jim Morrison’s leather pants, Fergie’s torn dress from a Black Eyed Peas tour, and a velvet hat worn by Jimi Hendrix.
–> Continue down the boulevard to Grauman’s forecourt.
3. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. Meyer and Holler, 1927.
No, it’s not true that silent movie star Norma Talmadge stepped out the theatre’s front door and into history when her feet landed in just-poured wet cement. Grauman, ever the showman, knew a thing or two about publicity and when one day he accidently stepped on a patch of still-wet cement in the theatre’s forecourt he decided to have some fun with it.
Mary Pickford’s feet were first, followed by her husband’s, Douglas Fairbanks. Norma’s came later. And no, it’s not true that the voice of Brooklyn-born Norma couldn’t make the switch from silents to talkies, inspiring the now-classic 1952 musical, “Singing in the Rain.” She actually made two talkies (though it’s true she took voice lessons) and she sounded just fine in them. But the pictures themselves were flops so at age 36 she decided to call it quits.
Who was last in the cement? Click here for a timeline of “footprint ceremonies.”
Who is where in the forecout? Click here for a forecourt map.
It’s a Fact:
The forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre isn’t just for footprints, handprints and autographs. Over the years, horseshoes, legs, glasses, a nose, guns and pipes have been pressed into the cement. Following their hit 1953 movie, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were also tempted to part with tradition, too. Marilyn thought of leaving something else “behind” while Jane considered a more “up front” approach. Check the forecourt; see if they went through with it.
Turning their backs on the elegant but “old school” designs from the Beaux-Arts School of Paris, 1920s architects – especially theatre architects – often moved away from Greece, Rome and Italian Renaissance to visit more exotic places and times for their inspiration. Where better to go than China? Keep in mind that by now L.A. had its Egyptian Theatre just down the boulevard, a Spanish Colonial Revival-style venue almost across the street (the El Capitan, coming up soon on your tour) and Mayan Theatre downtown.
Designed to resemble a pagoda, the theatre was built just as Art Deco was taking hold around town. Though by no means an Art Deco design, Grauman’s reflected the times – heady, new times – the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties!
–> Continuing down the boulevard…
4. Madame Tussaud’s. 6933 Hollywood Boulevard. Michael Rotondi/RotoArk Architects, 2006
Truth be told, you’ll likely see way more stars within Madame Tussaud’s than in a lifetime of snooping around Hollywood. Each of the dozen or so Madame Tussaud’s worldwide reflect something of the neighborhood in which they sit so it’s no surprise that this location is shorter on kings and queens and longer on local talent. Here on the boulevard there’s a cast of Hollywood icons: Denzel Washington, James Dean, Steven Spielberg, and Hugh Jackman; Lady Gaga and Jane Lynch are recent inductees.
Know that each hair is fixed to the wax head individually, a process that takes over a month. Altogether, each wax figure takes an average of 800 hours to complete. For more information (times and admission costs) about Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, click here.
–> Cross Orange Street and continue to the shopping center on the right.
The building on the corner (#7001) to the right, formerly Hillcrest Motors, showcased Cadillacs. Along with their rivals, Packards, Cadillacs were the motorcars favored by Hollywood elite well into the 1970s
Just beyond the Hillcreat building is a shopping center. The Galaxy Theatre 6-screen metroplex and a dozen or so shops and restaurants opened here in 1992. The thinking was that the spanking new center would help spark a rebirth of the declining neighborhood. The spark fueled no redevlopment fires and instead, the under-patronized center only added to the blight of empty stores in the area. Since then, things are looking up a bit, though the anchor tenant is a 24 Hour Fitness.
Sadly, the center replaced the former 72-suite Garden Court Apartments (Frank Meline, 1919), home at various times to the likes of Lillian Gish, John Barrymore, both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Louis B. Mayer and Mac Sennett. It was demolished in 1984 – a year after gaining Historic-Cultural Monument designation – to make way for an office tower that was never built. The shopping center came later.
–-> Continue down Hollywood Boulevard, crossing Sycamore Avenue.
–> Continue to La Brea Avenue. Turn left and cross the boulevard to the opposite (south) corner of Hollywood Boulevard.
5. Hollywood Walk of Fame Gateway Gazebo. Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Catherine Hardwicke and Karl West, 1993
In 1994 the Hollywood Walk of Fame was expanded to La Brea Avenue, the westernmost point of the boulevard’s commercial sector. To mark that point, the gazebo was erected. Some star power was likely used to draw more pedestrians to the fringe; if you want to see the audio recording stars for The Beatles and Elvis Presley – remember, there are five star categories – you’ll have to come here.
The Eiffel Tower-like gazebo is supported by four caryatids (look it up!) depicting four women draped in close-fitting gowns: Delores del Rio, Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong representing not just female contributions to Hollywood, but the mutli-ethnic make up of contributors.
The jury is still out on this gazebo’s beauty. Love it or hate it, you notice it.
–> From the gazebo, head back along this south side of the boulevard, crossing Sycamore Street once again.
The eight-story building at the corner deserves your attention – and a few words on its former owner. The Toberman Professional Building (Richard D. King, 1922) carries the name of the man some called “The Father of Hollywood.” During his 101 years, Charles E. Toberman’s savvy in real estate brought over two-dozen buildings to Hollywood, including some of its most famous: the Hollywood Bowl, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Masonic Lodge, the El Capitan Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre. All but the first is seen on this tour. If you opt for the “Hollywood Forever” cemetery Side Trip at the tour’s end, you can visit the grave where Mr. Toberman is buried.
OK, about the building. Notice there’s a break in its façade above the fifth floor. That’s because it was erected as a five-story office building; three more floors were added in 1929.
–> A few doors down is the hotel that hosted the first Academy Award presentation.
6. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. 7000 Hollywood Boulevard. Fisher Lake and Traver, 1926.
Though named for the president (Theodore) the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was built for the movies – their makers and their stars. “Bojangles” gave little Shirley Temple a tap dance lesson on the hotel’s main staircase, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent quality time upstairs in the penthouse, Errol Flynn made bootleg gin downstairs behind the barber shop, and an unknown singer, Mary Martin, belted out the tunes in the hotel’s adjacent Cinegrill nightclub.
The hotel was two years old when it hosted the first Academy Awards in 1929. About 270 guests attended the private banquet dinner in the hotel’s Blossom ballroom. It wasn’t a show that first year – mostly just dinner followed by a quick presentation. There were no acceptance speeches (the presentation lasted all of 15 minutes and was the only Academy Award not carried on radio or TV); there were no surprises (winners had been announced months earlier); and there were no awards for Sound Editing or Sound Mixing as there were no sound pictures in contention, though Warner Brothers received an honorary award for its recent work in talking pictures, most notably 1927’s “The Jazz Singer“.
The Spanish revival-style building witnessed Hollywood Boulevard’s boom years of the 1920s and 30s. It also witnessed the neighborhood’s dismal decline in the 1970s and 80s. By then, with its occupancy rate hovering in the single digits and its Art Deco lobby strewn with lawn chairs and card tables, the hotel shut its doors. Well, it’s back, ghosts and all. Today, the pool (not accessible to non-guests) Marilyn made famous has recently been the hang out for stars like Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Bruce Willis. The former Cinegrill is still there, too, though now renamed “Teddy’s.”
It’s a Fact:
Winston Churchill slept here. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable snuggled here. Marilyn Monroe posed here. Everyone who was anyone hung out in the Hollywood Roosevelt’s lobby, restaurant or nightclub. Stars were known to plant their feet and hands in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and then cross the street to plant themselves at the hotel’s Cinegrill bar for a night of celebration.
–> Cross Orange Drive and continue down the boulevard to the Masonic Temple.
A Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant used to be located at #6902 Hollywood Boulevard. Over a half-dozen of that restaurants’ chain were sprinkled around the L.A. region at one time. Later in this tour you’ll visit one that’s been resurrected.
The Mason’s original Hollywood lodge was across the street, about where today’s Kodak Theatre stands. This one, built by Charles Toberman, a Mason, was designed by the same architect who co-designed L.A.’s City Hall and the Griffith Observatory (no relation to D. W.). The neoclassical structure was one of the first distinctive edifices on the boulevard. Try to picture this somber temple sharing boulevard frontage with wooden houses, farm stables and citrus groves.
Those houses and groves quickly gave way, thanks in large part to Toberman (the “Father of Hollywood,”) who was instrumental in funding three dozen buildings here: the Roosevelt Hotel, the Hollywood Bowl, the Egyptian, El Capitan and Pantages theatres, and the Max Factor Building, to name a few. But even as the boulevard grew up around it, the formal structure remained oddly out of place. The lodge moved out in 1980 and since then the building has been home to restaurants, a theatre and a nightclub before being bought and restored by Disney, who also purchased and restored the El Capitan Theatre next door.
Today much of the building’s ground floor serves as a “theme venue” for Disney films playing next door. It was a toy box when “Tory Story” opened, a “dog house” when “102 Dalmations” premiered. Since 2008 the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show has originated from here; live audience tapings are made Tuesday through Friday.
Rumor had it a pedestrian tunnel crossed under Hollywood Boulevard connecting the lodge to Grauman’s Theatre across the street, thus allowing the secret movement of alcohol during Prohibition years. Long denied, the rumors proved true when work crews saw the sealed tunnel during the temple’s renovation. It’s a moot point today as it was all torn out for construction of Metrorail’s subway that runs beneath the boulevard.
It’s a Fact:
In 1948 the Masonic temple hosted a memorial for David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (D. W. Griffith), a mason who’d died soon after suffering a cerbral hemorrhage in his room a few blocks away at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Griffith, one of filmaking’s pioneers, worked briefly at Biograph, where he directed the first film shot in Hollywood in 1910, “In Old California.” His 1915 full-length feature, “Birth of a Nation,” despite its box office success, was roundly criticized as blatantly racist, bringing him to direct the somewhat redemptive “Intolerance” a year later. The redemption wasn’t complete; in 1999 the Directors Guild of America’s “D. W. Griffith Award” was renamed the “Lifetime Achievement Award” citing the director’s intolerably racist film of almost 75 years earlier.
–> Walk next door to the El Capitan Theatre.
8. El Capitan Theatre. 6838 Hollywood Boulevard. Morgan, Walls & Clements, G. A. Lansburgh (interior), 1926
This 1000-seat theatre has great genes. The architectural firm Morgan, Walls and Clements designed the building, as they had the Mayan and Belasco Theatre buildngs before it and the Wiltern Theatre shortly after. The celebrated G. Albert Lansburgh (of Palace, Orpheum, Shrine and Wiltern fame) did the theatre within.
Opening in 1926 as a legitimate theatre, those genes served it well enough until the Great Depression hit. The furniture store Barker Brothers, which had filled much of the building’s retail space, pulled out around 1940. Around that time a young actor-director was looking for a venue in which to premiere his new movie but none would risk turning their theatres over to an unproven filmmaker. But El Capitan, eager for income, said “Yes.”
His film’s world premiere took place here in 1941. “Citizen Kane” and it’s actor-director, Orson Welles, eventually went into the history books as one of the most acclaimed movies of all time. But financially, its reception was luke-warm; following the premiere run, the theatre closed its doors.
A face-lift brought the 16-year-old theatre a Streamline Moderne look, covering, but (thankfully) not demolishing much of the façade and interior. Paramount took it over, then sold it to Pacific Theatres and they, in turn, sold it to the folks at Disney. The original look – and name – were restored. Disney occupies the former Barker Brothers furniture space with its Disney Soda Fountain and the Disney Studio Store. Click here for current and upcoming shows and events.
–> Walk to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
9. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. 6780 Hollywood Boulevard. Morgan Walls and Clements (remodel), 1935.
Look across the avenue for the dinosaur devouring the street clock. The T-rex is sitting atop a building designed by the same architects who brought you the El Capitan: Morgan Walls and Clements. It’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. First oddity of note: when most buildings were growing larger on the boulevard, this one got smaller. Originally a four-story apartment building, the top three floors were removed for the 1935 remodel. Second oddity: the clock face is reversed. All this and we haven’t even touched on what’s inside.
Some exhibits rotate but all earn their space. Thrill to the likeness of John Wayne “painted” entirely by lint! Or how about a giant hairball! A two-headed human skeleton! An admission charge applies!
“At age 58, Ripley died while taping the 13th episode of his television series, an episode that dealt with death and death rituals. He passed out during the show, was taken to the hospital and, soon after, was pronounced dead of a heart attack.” An odd – but fitting – quote from hollywood.ripleys.com.
Diagonally across the street rises one of the tallest towers on Hollywood Boulevard.
“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane. It’s Superman! Although downtown’s City Hall starred as the T.V. series’ exterior shot of the Daily Planet newspaper building, it was from the 11th floor of this buidling that our Man of Steel jumped to save the day. On completion, the building touted itself as the city’s tallest – which it wasn’t. “Only City Hall [still under construction] will be taller!” Well, the 183-foot tall bank building certainly looked tall – it still does – but its height (including that spire) put it at the top of the “tallest” list only in Hollywood.
Still, for over 80 years this spired building – its tallest point looming over the intersection – has remained a Hollywood icon.
You could call the former bank building (it’s now retail and offices) an “odditorium” of architectural sorts. Somehow, it manages to blend Art Deco organization (strong vertical piers, recessed windows, a tower) with Beaux Arts (ornate lower and upper floor flourishes, Greek pediment over the door) and all this while displaying some Gothic and Spanish Colonial design cues, to boot.
It’s a Fact:
Within Hollywood’s Max Factor Building (now the Hollwood Museum), Lucille Ball’s hair went from brunette to red and Marilyn Monroe’s from brunette to blonde. Claudette Colbert, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Jean Harlow (now that’s blonde) and Bette Davis were regulars, too. But men stepped inside, as well. Here, Max fitted toupees atop George Burns, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra.
To the right, just down Highland Avenue from Ripley’s, is the Hollywood Museum. Located within the historic Max Factor Building (S. Charles Lee, 1935 renovation), you’ll find reconstructed movie sets (Hannibal Lector’s prison cell), ape costumes (from “Planet of the Apes“), W. C. Field’s top hat, Pee Wee Herman’s red bicycle, Brendan Fraser’s “George of the Jungle” loincloth and more substantial clothes worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, John Crawford, Lana Turner, Richard Burton, and Lucille Ball. Also on hand are costumes worn by “Glee” cast members, “Twilight: New Moon” Taylor Lautner, and “High School Musical 2” Zac Efron.
To the left, a long block up Highland Boulevard, you may be able to spot the First Methodist Church of Hollywood (Thomas Barber, 1929) – look for the red AIDs ribbon outside. In 1952, hundreds of terrified citizens huddled within its concrete walls during an alien attack. The church was used for filming parts of Orson Welle’s “War of the Worlds” movie.
Also to the left, at Hollywood & Highland’s northwest corner, is the “This is where it all began” plaque. The Hollywood Walk of Fame planted its first terrazzo star in 1958 and by 1960, all of the initial stars were in place. Fifty years they honored the event with a time capsule, buried beneath the sidewalk. Stick around if you’d like; the capsule’s re-opening is slated for the walk’s 100th anniversary in 2060.
Side Trip: Hollywood High School
Hollywood High School was where the stars studied, or like Lana, played hooky from. Carol Burnett, Linda Evans, James Garner, John Ritter and Fay Wray all attended school here, just a 5-minute walk down Highland Avenue to Sunset Boulevard. This Side Trip should take about 25 minutes of your time.
Click here to begin the Hollywood High School Side Trip.
At #6754, just past the Odditorium, is the former Hollywood Theatre (1911, remodeled S. Charles Lee, 1936), now dba the Guiness World of Records Museum. The museum within sort of amounts to a 3-D version of the book, but there are some interesting displays and videos (at the “Adrenaline Theater”) to be seen. Imagine diving from a 28-foot height into a pool just 12 inches deep? It’s owned by the same folks who own Ripley’s and believe it or not, there’s an admission charge here, too. And just for the record, the building opened in 1911 as a nickelodeon before its conversion to a movie theatre – the oldest on the boulevard.
Across the boulevard is yet another “museum.” (And you thought Hollywood had no culture.)
11. Hollywood Wax Museum. 6769 Hollywood Boulevard. Unkown architect, 1926
As the jingle goes, “The Hollywood Wax Museum – the movie stars and your chance to see-um!” OK, so maybe it’s been upstaged by Madame Tussaud’s up the street. And maybe some of the wax figures inside miss the mark. No matter. When the family-owned museum opened in 1965 the line waiting to get in was a half-mile long. Though not nearly as old as Tussaud’s (she crafted her first wax figure back in 1777) the museum is the only one here devoted just to movie and TV celebrities; you won’t find kings, pharaohs or sports figures here. It’s touristy, corny and at least for now, fits the neighborhood. There’s an admission charge, of course.
Squeezed next door, to the museum’s left, is the Snow White Café – “Where Your Problems Dwarf…” An original (1946) inside mural remains above the entrance, painted by Disney animators. It’s a kitschy dive bar and a fun place to drop in on to watch the passing crowd outside. Not all of Hollywood’s oddities are in the museum across the street.
–> Continue down Hollywood Boulevard.
Across the street, Famima! occupies a building (Meyer and Holler, 1923) where the silent movie stars of the day came to dance, dine and drink. Opening upstairs as Hollywood’s first nightclub, the Café Montmartre was the regular target of police raids, this being the Prohibition Era. The raids only added to its appeal. Regulars included Rudolph Valentino, Adolphe Menjou, Tom Mix and Loella Parsons; Winston Churchill once dined here. Bing Crosby crooned at the club and Joan Crawford (who was reportedly “discovered” here) liked to dance the Charleston at the Montmartre – atop a table. But Hollywood was still in transition from orange groves to glitz and nearby residents, most of whom were in bed by 10 pm, complained of the late-night carousing.
Ahead, on the right at #6724, is the Scientology Building (Arthur R. Kelly, 1922). Opening as the Christie Hotel, the Georgian Colonial Revival style hotel wasn’t the first on the boulevard but it was the tallest – and certainly the fanciest, with each of its 100 rooms boasting a private bath. In 1914, Michigan auto parts manufacturer Haldane H. Christie sold his shop to Henry Ford and moved out to Los Angeles. Christie saw real promise in Hollywood real estate and in 1920, commissioned construction of his namesake hotel. It was an immediate hit among the newly-arriving film industry workers.
As its sign announces, the Scientology Foundation occupies the former hotel. (The historic marker sign inaccurately identifies the original hotel owner to a different Christie clan.)
–> Cross McCadden Place and continue down the boulevard.
No one under the age of 18 will be admitted within the Erotic Museum (yes, another museum)at 6741 Hollywood Boulevard! The museum’s website advises its exhibition includes “… a wide variety of objects such as audio recordings, print materials, fine art, folk art, products, works on film and other objects that lend a unique insight into the state of sex in the world.” Subjects run the gamut from straight to gay, hard core to soft porn.
Just down the street is the Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurtant. Judy Garland celebrated her 15th birthday here. Shirley Temple was a regular. So was Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. Whether the first Oscar after-party was hosted here is up for debate – the Roosevelt Hotel (where the first award ceremony took place) also claims an Oscar after-party here. No matter, the “Pig” was a hot spot on the boulevard. It began life in 1919 as a sedate clothing store (H.J. Knauer, 1919) but in 1927, the architecture firm of Morgan Walls and Clements transformed it into a restaurant, one of a chain extending up and down the West Coast. It closed in the 1950’s but re-opened in 2001. The jury’s still out on the food but it’s sure worth a peek inside and attention to the exterior detail.
Just next door and down the alley is the Egyptian Theatre. Back in the 1920s theatres didn’t have concession stands; if you wanted to munch during the movie you had to bring in your own candy or popcorn. Wow – times and profit sources have sure changed. Profits were a big reason the Pig ‘n Whistle – originally founded as a candy store – chose this location next door to a theatre. A side door onto the alley, next to the “Pig” tile shown at right, made it easier for customers.
The curtains had parted four years earlier at Sid Grauman’s downtown Million Dollar Theatre, confirming Broadway as Los Angeles’ entertainment center. Sid’s 1922 opening of the Egyptian Theatre (with the silent, “Robin Hood,” starring Douglas Fairbanks) signaled the arrival of Hollywood Boulevard as an alternate option for film-goers.
Grauman’s bigger-than-life, over-the-top design theatre schemes matched the bigger-than-life, over-the-top productions of the day. But although the discovery of the riches of King Tutankhamen’s tomb created an Egypt-mania throughout the country, this theatre didn’t follow that mania as many have said – it anticipated it. The movie palace’s name and design were already in the works long before the sealed walls of King Tut’s tomb were cracked open.
The 2,000-seat theatre was long-known for long-running blockbusters. “The Ten Commandments” (1923 silent) premiered here with the Egyptian columns outside and in, offering a perfect complement to the film. “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “King of Kings,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “My Fair Lady” and “Funny Girl” all had long runs here at the Egyptian.
But just like the Egyptian was there for Hollywood’s boom, it remained for its bust. By the 1970s it had lost its luster. It had long-since lost its interior, the transition to wide-screen projections calling for a total demolition of the stage, pillar sphinxes and proscenium arch. The theatre closed in 1992.
In 1998 the current owners, the American Cinematheque purschased it for $1.00, under the condition they not demolish it. They subdivided the already-compromised interior space into two theatres: a 650-seat main venue and the smaller, Steven Speilberg Theatre. A nice touch: the 1998 re-opening premiered with the 1923 “The Ten Commandments.” Hollywood classics, foreign films, film series with Q&A and the continuously running “Forever Hollywood” are shown here.
You can take tours of the Egyptian Theatre interior. Click here for details.
It’s a Fact:
On the roof, above the massive columns atop the Egyptian’s main entrance, a uniformed sentry – likely a film extra – crossed back and forth along the papapet, as if guarding the theatre. Dressed as an ancient Egyptian (but curiously, with a rifle) he’d announce the start of each performance to those patrons lingering in the courtyard below.
–> Return to the boulevard and cross Las Palmas Avenue.
Across the street at #6715 is the Outpost Building (B. B. Horner, 1927), a former apartment building where Hollywood stars stayed. Then, as now, most actors were middle-income wage earners; only a few made it big enough to afford Beverly Hills mortgage payments.
–> Cross Las Palmas Avenue.
Down Las Palmas to the right, at #1646, is Miceli’s Pizzeria. Here since 1949, the restaurant chain (one in Universal City, a now-closed outlet in Beverly Hills) has pulled in a fair share of well-knowns: The Beatles, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Julia Roberts and Jim Carrey. It also claims the Pig ‘n Whistle’s original wooden booths, moved here when that restaurant closed.
To the left, across the street at #6675, is the Vogue Theatre (S. Charles Lee, 1934). It’s not much to look at now but it was designed by one of the foremost theatre architects (Tower, Fox Wilshire, Los Angeles, Bruin, Cinema Arts, Alex, remodeled Hollywood). Built on a site where an elementary school and a textile manufacturer successively burned to the ground, the theatre was believed to be haunted. Leased by the International Society for Paranormal Reseach, they declared it ghost-free in 2001. A supperclub just opened here.
On this side of the boulevard, at #6656, is the Ritz Theatre (Harry Wright, 1939). Over the years that marquee has carried at least four names, including, in order, News-View, New View (they simply dropped the “s” when they stopped showing newsreels here), the Masque (in the basement), the Pussycat (when it ran “Deep Throat” for ten years) and finally the Ritz. Today it’s a church.
Another Hollywood icon remains across the street.
13. Musso & Frank Grill. 6667 Hollywood Boulevard. (established, 1919)
The year was 1919. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith had just inked a deal to form United Artists. They could’ve have come here to celebrate their union because Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet (a rare last name/first name mix) had just partnered to open this restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. Certainly, they were all regulars, as was Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea and Bette Davis.
Diners were never too far from the sharp ears and eyes of gossip columnists Hedda Hopper or Loella Parsons. Musso’s was also a writers’ haunt. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner all visited at one time or another. And still they come…
On this side of the boulevard, at the corner at Cherokee Avenue, is the Shane & Regar Building (Norton and Wallis, 1929), one of Hollywood’s excellent Art Deco structures. Typically, the street level has suffered over the years but the upper three floors showcase Art Deco’s geometric ornamentation. One of the architects, Tilden Norton, also designed downtown’s William Fox Building and worked with S. Charles Lee that office building’s adjacent, over-the-top Los Angeles Theatre.
–> Cross Cherokee Avenue.
Signage on the opposite corner (image, right) works well with Frederick’s. Eye-catching signage is nothing new to the boulevard and as business picks up in town you’ll be seeing more of it.
14. Kress Department Store. 6606 Hollywood Boulevard. Edward F. Sibbert, 1934
Here’s another Art Deco classic. Built as a moderately-priced department strore, the building later came to house Frederick’s of Hollywood. Frederick Mellinger moved his mail-order lingerie business to Hollywood in 1947 and within a year had introduced the first push-up bra: the “Rising Star.” Four years later he opened his store here, the company’s first retail outlet.
Padded girdles, gravity-defying high heels, fishnet stockings, sheer panties and inflatable bras followed. By the 1980s the store’s reputation had moved from racy to raunchy and other, more mainstream competitors moved in, such as Victoria’s Secret. Frederick’s filed for bankruptcy in 2000 but re-emerged three years later. Today’s lingerie line is described as “sexy, fresh and sophisticated.”
In 2005 Frederick’s moved their Hollywood store a block east to #6751 Hollywood Boulevard. Though the location gives them more space, they didn’t keep the Lingerie Museum. Who knows what they did with Madonna’s pointy-breasted corset?
The five-and-dime J.J. Newberry Company once occupied the next-door building (architect unknown, 1927), also done in the Art Deco style. Art Deco loved (and loves – they’re building in this style again) chevrons and zigzags; Newberry’s is loaded with them. Today it’s the Hollywood Toys & Costumes store. The spider was not an Art Deco flourish.
You’ve probably never heard of Colonel Harry Baine but he had the building across the street erected (at the corner of Whitley Avenue) in 1926 and installed himself in the top floor. He later boasted he was the first soul on the boulevard to live in a penthouse, beating out Howard Hughes’ pad down the boulevard by two decades. The Spanish Revival structure, the Baine Building (formerly Merchants National Trust & Savings, Henry Gogerty and Carl Weyl, 1926) carries his name.
That penthouse would also afford the ex-Texan a prime spot to watch a parade and for years he pushed for a “Santa Claus Lane Parade” – mostly as way to push retail sales in the area. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce ran with his idea and by 1928, Colonel Baine had a penthouse view of the first Santa Claus Lane Parade. The parade ran east to west, with real reindeer pulling Santa in a wheeled sled down the boulevard. The reindeer, once their job was completed, were corraled in a pen set up at La Brea Avenue, so the kids could see them. There were just six – Rudolph hadn’t been added yet.
This being Hollywood, it wasn’t long before the little parade morphed into a glitzy, star-studded extravaganza. But as the neighborhood declined, so did the parade.
It’s a Fact:
Riding horseback in the 1946 “Santa Claus Lane Parade,” the popular singer/actor Gene Autry was inspired to write the lyrics for a jaunty Christmas tune. Oakley Halderman put the words to music and in 1947 “Here Comes Santa Claus” hit the Top Ten chart. Two years later Autry recorded another holiday hit, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Though renamed the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 1978, the event continued to slide in participation and seemed ready to march down the boulevard and on to oblivion. It wasn’t even televised in 2008. Changes were made and since 2009, it’s back!
Looking left, up Whitley Avenue, you can see some of the grand apartment buildings where Hollywood wannabes resided – and still reside. It’s estimated that during Hollywood’s peak growth year of 1926, at least one apartment building or apartment hotel opened each week. Buildings such as the Fontenoy, the Fleur de Lis and the Havenhurst are typical of the era.
If the Spanish Revival building at #6560 reminds you of the Spanish Revival Baine Building you just saw, no wonder. They’re both by the same architects, Gogerty and Weyl. This is the Owen’s Studio Building, completed in 1926. Its street-level shops were reminiscent of a trendy shop in Madrid the owners (whose house was on this site) had admired.
Look across Hollywood Boulevard to your left. An iron arch marks the courtyard leading up to the Janes House (Oliver P. Dennis and Lyman Farwell, 1903), the boulevard’s last remaining house. Back at the turn of the last century (when the boulevard was called Prospect Avenue), Hollywood was a peaceful, rural enclave of citrus groves, farms, barns, churches and private homes. This home’s Victorian Queen Anne design reflects the style of the day but its broad front lawn was long ago squeezed out as Hollywood’s transformation engulfed it. But the house, almost miraculously, remains.
The Janes family (a mother and her three daughters) converted the house to a private elementary school in 1911. For fifteen years the daughters taught the kids of Hollywood’s elite, including Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. De Mille, Douglas Fairbanks and Jesse Lasky. Since then, Janes House has been used as a visitor’s information center, a restaurant. Today it’s hot restaurant/nightclub called, what else: “Janes House.”
Next door to the Janes House is The Hudson Apartments (formerly Hillview Apartments – Tifal Brothers, 1917), one of the oldest apartment buildings devoted to film industry workers. Locals, many of whom were simple, church-going farmers and shop keepers, didn’t take to (or rent to) the “loud, late-night partying show people” who were invading their bucolic neighborhood. In stepped Jesse Lasky (Paramount) and Samuel Goldwyn (MGM) and up went the Hillview. Over the years, a long list of aspiring actors found rooms here: Clara Bow, Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy), Mae Busch (who appeared in 13 Laurel and Hardy comedies) and Viola Dana, a silient movie actress whose Hollywood Walk of Fame star is planted out front of the Janes House.
By the 1960s it was clear the once-handsome, 54-unit building wasn’t aging well. Subway construction brought a nearby sinkhole, structurally weakening the building; the ’94 quake closed it. The Hillview (now the Hudson Hillview) has been restored and is operation once again. Floorplans – The Laurel, The Valentino, The Chaplin, etc. are named for former residents or proprietors.
As Quoted…”No Actors, No Dogs” – as posted on boarding houses and apartments in the early years of Hollywood.
Across the street to the left, at the corner of Hudson Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, is a mural depicting Dolores del Rio (Alfredo de Batuc, 1990). In 1925, twenty-year-old Dolores del Rio made her Hollywood debut, quickly becoming a major talent in the final years of silent movies. She transitted to talkies in the early 1930s and though bi-lingual, her Spanish accent tended to relegate her to exotic roles where her face and figure – not her voice, were emphasized.
Delores del Rio remained active in films, stage and televsion throughout her life, starring with legends as varied as Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley and top-billed Mexican stars. Her life (she passed away in 1982) is memorialized here in this mural, at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Gazebo you saw earlier on the tour, and on a star on Vine Street near the end of the tour.
Up ahead is the Fox Theatre (#6508), originally called the Iris Theatre. There’s some architectural history here but it’s just that: history. The Romanesque Revival design completed by Frank Meline in 1918 (image at right) was brought into the Art Deco era with a 1934 redo by noted theatre architect S. Charles Lee. That redo was redone in 1955 (when it became a Fox property) and redone again in 1968; that’s essentially what you see today. It closed in 1994, by then a Mann property, citing earthquake damage. It’s a nightclub today.
It’s believed that Iris opened the theatre with D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” already three years old. It’s also believed that Carol Burnett worked here at the Fox, as well as at the Warner (Pacific) across the street. More on Carol’s career coming up.
You can’t miss the “You Are the Star” mural on the next corner. Painted by Thomas Suriya in 1983, it places you on the stage and the stars in the audience. See how many you can pick out. Notice that E.T. is in the lobby, surely phoning home. Only a portion of the giant mural is shown here.
Don’t miss a look at the Art Deco building (circa 1931, unknown architect) that frames the mural.
–-> Cross Wilcox Street.
In 1886 Kansas native Harvey Henderson Wilcox, a real estate tycoon, purchased 160 acres of countryside. Soon after, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, honeymooning in the area with his wife, bestowed the title “Hollywood” on the neighborhood – though nobody is sure why. Whatever, both Wilcox and Whitley earned themselves street names.
Down Wilcox to your right is the Art Deco Hollywood Citizen-News Building, an Art Deco beauty dating from 1930 and designed by Francis D. Rutherford. Just beyond it is another Art Deco gem, the Hollywood Post Office (Claud Beelman and Allison & Allison, 1938). Both buildings reflect the influences of the time, a sort of “cleaning up” of the more ornate embellishments of the earlier, classic Art Deco look. Times were leaner and lines were cleaner. Moreover, the government often stepped in to spur construction and create jobs. Because so much Depression-era construction was done under the auspices of the Works Project Administration, this sub-style of Art Deco is often labeled “WPA Moderne.”
Look across the boulevard to your left, below the twin radio towers.
15. Pacific Theatre (former Warner Pacific) . 6423 Hollywood Boulevard. G. Albert Lansburgh (interior), 1928
Like so many of Hollywood’s old theatres, it’s not much to look at from the street. Inside the story is no better: the 2700-seat theatre – one of the first in town with sound, was reduced to 1500 seats in 1953 to accommodate the giant Cinerama format (“This is Cinerama” ran for 2 1/2 years here) and in 1978 the upstairs balcony was split in two to create a triplex. Pacific Theatres created that triplex and it remained opened until 1994. Since 2008 it’s been a church, the Ecclesia Hollywood, so if your visit is on a Sunday morning, you’ll be able to see the theatre’s lobby (largely undisturbed) and interior (disturbed).
There’s history here. First, those two towers broadcast the signal for KFWB, an AM station then owned by Warner Brothers (“Keep Filming Warner Brothers”). No longer in use for radio, the towers are still placemarkers on the boulevard. Second, the theatre was known for long-running epic productions, in part to recoup the costs of its giant screen conversion. For the eight years following the long run of “This is Cinerama,” just four more wide-screen movies where showcased here: “Cinerama Holiday,” “Seven Wonders of the World,” “South Seas Adventure,” and “How the West was Won.” Long runs continued with “2001: A Space Odyssey“; it ran for 20 months starting in 1968.
Finally, there’s a wonderful story involving a newly-hired usherette. In 1951 the theatre was running the Alfred Hitchock-directed nail-biter, “Strangers on a Train” (with FarleyGranger and Robert Walker). Ten minutes before the film’s end, a couple arrived to be seated. Knowing their late arrival would ruin the movie’s surprise ending for them, the usherette urged them to wait for the next showing. They insisted, she resisted and the theatre’s manager – who’d witnessed the event – fired the usherette on the spot, literally ripping the epaulettes from her uniform.
She lost her job but won the day. Twenty-four years later when the ex-usherette, Carol Burnett, was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame she was asked where she’d like them to locate her star. She requested it be planted out front of theatre where she’d been stripped of her epaulettes. And here it remains, at 6439 Hollywood Boulevard!
–> Cross Cahuenga Boulevard.
“Cahuenga” is the Spanish version of “Kawengna” which means “place of the mountain” in the indigenous Tongva language. Looking left, up the boulevard, you can fully understand the name choice.
Straight ahead on the corner is the Owl Drug Company Building (Morgan, Walls & Clements, 1934), a great example of the Streamline Moderne look. Vertical meets the horizontal here on this corner, where the new style’s curvilinear sweep can really be noticed. Note the pylon above, serving no function other than to announce the building – to passing motorists, not pedestrians. To fully appreciate the amazing change underway here, look back at the corner structure you just passed at #6400, the Creque Building (B. B. Horner, 1932). Though both buildings can be called Art Deco for their clean lines and geometric ornamentation, one represents where Art Deco came from, the other where it’s going.
Opposite the drug store (on the corner at #6381 Hollywood Boulevard) is a building that has all the hallmarks of the Beaux-Arts organization – the style that Art Deco so completely rejected. Just 12 years separate the Security Pacific Bank (John and Donald Parkinson, 1922) from the drug store yet the two bulidings could not look more different, could they?
Through the doors of this bank strolled the Three Stooges, Wyatt Earp and Charlie Chaplin – all of whom banked here. Cecil B. DeMille banked here, too. So did Howard Hughes who owned a theatre just up the boulevard and lived two blocks away. Currently owned by the Scientologists, there has been talk of converting the former bank to a moderately-priced hotel. Stay tuned.
–> Continue down Hollywood Boulevard to #6360.
Had you walked by a few years ago you woudn’t have seen of the the decorative terracotta work visible today. The Cooper Building (Walker and Eisen, 1928) fell victim to a later renovation as shopkeepers and civic boosters tried to hold onto diminishing shoppers by “modernizing” them. Fortunately, their diminishing sales prevented them contracting all-out overhauls; most budgets limited changes to cosmetic facelifts. Here, undoing an earlier facelift revealed good bone structure!
–> Cross Ivar Street. Turn left and cross to the other (north) side of Hollywood Boulevard.
On the corner rises the handsome Beaux-Arts structure, the Guaranty Building & Loan Association (John C. Austin, 1924). Mr. Austin had his hand in the design of several prominent Hollywood buildings including the columned Masonic Lodge viewed earlier on this tour. The Hollywood gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, had offices here. This structure is one of several of what are often called”height-limit” buildings. Others are visible from from where you stand (look further down Hollywood Boulevard for more). A city ordinance enacted in 1911 limited building heights to 150 feet – a restriction not lifted until 1957. In most cases, that ordinance translated to a maximum of 12 or 13 floors. Count ’em up and check for yourself.
Was the height limit because of earthquake fears? Read below:
It’s a Fact…
A 1905 ordinance limited the height of Los Angeles buildings to 130 feet (upped to 150 feet in 1911). Why the limit? – because of earthquake fears or fire safety concerns? Nope. The City Council agreed that a low-rise profile would promote a sunnier, more beautiful city – unlike the cramped and crowded cities back east where looming skyscrapers cast long, cold shadows over their dreary streets. A voter-approved exception was granted to downtown’s City Hall, completed in 1928. The height limit endured until 1957.
–> Walk half a block up Ivar Avenue to the Knickerbocker Apartments.
16. Knickerbocker Apartments. 1714 N. Ivar Street. J. Cooper and E. M. Frasier, 1925
Like a lot of buildings in Hollywood, this site of #1714 Ivar changed quickly. Almost overnight, what was an orchard became an 11-story hotel. Like the Hillview Apartments you saw earlier, the Knickerbocker was built to help solve the booming neighborhood’s housing shortage. And although it’s a nice enough Beaux-Arts building dressed in a Renaissance Revival style, it’s who lived, stayed or died here that earns the Knickerbocker its fame.
- William Frawley (the curmudgeonly landlord Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” pictured lower left) lived here for decades. In 1966, shortly after moving to another Hollywood apartment hotel, he went out to see a movie on Hollywood Boulevard, suffered a heart attack at the Guaranty Building & Loan Association corner and was carried to the Knickerbocker where he died.
- Hollywood director D.W. Griffith (“Birth of a Nation,” “Intolerance“) suffered a stroke and died beneath the lobby’s cyrstal chandelier. That chandelier is still there (image above), incidentally, viewable from the street.
- Harry Houdini died on Halloween night, 1925. He didn’t die here but his widowed wife held a Knickerbocker Hotel rooftop seance exactly one year after his death, hoping to summon his spirit. A decade of continued rooftop seances failed to return Mr. Houdini to the Knickerbocker.
- A despondent Irene Lentz, a Hollywood costume designer (“Meet Me In St. Louis,” “Easter Parade,” “You Can’t Take it With You“) leaped to her death from a Knickerbocker window in 1962.
Spirits aside, the hotel claims a long list of noted residents. Alphabetically: Cecil B. DeMille, Larry Fine (one of the Three Stooges) Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and Mae West. Marilyn Monroe and “Joltin’ Joe” Dimaggio honeymooned here (Marilyn’s ghost is down the boulevard at the Roosevelt), Rudolph Valentino is said to have tangoed here and singer Ricky Nelson (pictured left, a Hollywood High graduate) met his backup group here.
Two blocks up Ivar Avenue on the left (#1851) are two Spanish Colonial Revival structures, the Alto Nido Apartments. In the 1950 classic “Sunset Boulevard,” writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) lived here.
–> Return to Hollywood Boulevard, turn left and continue one block to Vine Street.
It’s a Fact:
One Cornelius Cole, a U.S. Representative and later, a U.S. Senator from California, owned a vineyard in Hollywood. Through that vineyard ran a street – today’s Vine Street. Cornelius’ last name, a son’s first name “Seward,” another son’s first name “Willoughby, his daughter’s first name “Eleanor,” his son-in-law’s last name “Waring,” his grandson’s first name “Baron,” his mother’s maiden name “Townshend” and the town of his birthplace “Lodi,” all earned streetnames in Hollywood.
It’s seen better times – but it’s seen far worse times, too. By the 1980s, the one-time emblem of Hollywood had become its embarrassment. But, little by little, the eastern bookend of the boulevard (the western one being at Hollywood & Highland) began to shape up. Arrival of the subway in 1999 – despite causing construction sinkholes and traffic nightmares – helped spark the intersection’s revival. So did the opening of the nearby Pantages Theatre, coming up soon on your tour.
OK, corner by corner:
Diagonally across Vine Street to the right is one of those “height limit” buildings, the 12-story Taft Building (Walker & Eisen, 1924) – the first building of any real size at H’wood & Vine. The image at left gives you an idea just how dramatic Hollywood’s early transition was.
Named for a real estate developer (not the president), Hollywood’s “first skyscraper” helped mark the eastern stretch of the bustling boulevard. Tenants of the Beaux-Arts office building, here dressed in Renaissance Revival, included the offices of Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, the Hollywood Reporter and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – those who give us the Oscars each year. It remains a well-placed office building today.
To your right, across Hollywood Boulevard, is The Broadway Building (Frederick Dorn, 1927; western addition by Donald Parkinson, 1937). Following the Taft by three years, it also follows the architectural organization of the times: Beaux-Arts, and again, in Renaissance Revival dress. Built for the B. H. Dyas Specialty Emporium, that store lasted only a few years before failing as the Great Depression deepened.
In 1931 The Broadway moved in. They erected a giant, south-facing rooftop neon sign – “The Broadway – Hollywood” – remaining here until 1982. The building was a star in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie, “Modern Times.” Howard Hughes purchased the building’s penthouse, and it’s believed he customarily arrived by private car and ascended the building by elevator – car and all – to his home. Today the building is a 96-unit luxury loft conversion – minus the car elevator amenity.
A plaque installed on the building’s corner column salutes the famous intersection, at one time called “Prospect and Weyse.” Prospect Avenue became Hollywood Boulevard and Weyse Avenue became Vine Street. After years of neglect, the rooftop neon sign was resurrected and relit in 2005.
Note the 1937 Streamline Moderne extension to the right, designed by Donald Parkinson, son of the architect John Parkinson.
Following The Broadway by two years, the Equitable Building (Aleck Curlett) – the building standing straight ahead across Vine Street – opened in 1929. This “modern” building (that’s what they actually called them then – the term “Art Deco” wasn’t coined until the 1960s) was a clear departure from the previous Beaux-Arts style. Flat roofs gave way to peaks (or in many cases – spires, à la the Chrysler or Empire State Buildings); horizonatal belt lines to vertical piers; Greek, Roman or Renaissance ornamentation to Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, Moorish, or as you see here, Gothic design cues.
You’re standing on the corner where the newest building on the intersection used to stand. Theatre mogul Carl Laemmle had anticipated a movie house on the corner site but the Great Depression got in the way and his plans were scaled way back to a one-story structure. Almost totally destroyed by a suspicious fire in 2008, the former Laemmle Building (Richard Neutra, 1932) was bulldozed to oblivion a few months later.
Working in favor of the building’s salvation was its original style: International. The ultra-clean designs of the International style found their way into the glass, steel and stone edifices of cities around Europe, the West and then the World (hence, the label). Its history is of some note, too, including housing the nightclub where Lindsay Lohan celebrated her 21st birthday.
Working against preservation was the remodeling of the structure, from a major 1939 remake, to long-term neglect. And of course there was the fire, which had burned down half the structure. Still, preservationists remain suspicious of the origins of that fire, citing repeated instances where fire seemed a convenient road to demolition.
Were you walking this route about the year 1900 your view up an upaved Vine Street would look something like what you see in the image above; a few houses, lots of fields, no traffic, no people.
Across the street to the left is very hip, very red Redbury Hotel. A 57-unit boutique hotel, the Redbury caters to those who shun the vanilla, look-alike chains. The designer (and music video, commercial and art director), Matthew Rolston, calls the decor “authentically fake” – an honest and totally fitting salute to Hollywood and its film entertainment industry. No doubt you didn’t miss the hotel’s boulevard-facing curtained mural – another tip of the hat to Tinseltown.
The Redbury looks like it lived most of its life as an office or apartment building before a conversion to the industrial-chic hotel you see today. Truth be told, the Redbury building is new, replacing a parking lot.
As Quoted…”…the new Redbury in Hollywood goes over the top and stays there, in no way resembling an outpost of a big hotel franchise. Guests can expect, for example, a 20-foot red velvet curtain over the grand staircase, paisley throw pillows and old-fashioned record players in every room with vinyl albums to play on them.” – Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
Straight ahead is a fast-fading mural entitled “Hollywood Jazz” (Richard Wyatt, 1990). Almost a dozen Jazz greats are included here. Among them are Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and the man who helped pay for the building rising above the mural: Nat King Cole.
18. Capitol Records Building. 1750 N. Vine Street. Welton Becket, 1956.
In 1943 Nathanial Adams Cole, age 24, signed on with Capitol Records, age one. Over the next decade, the jazz pianist/baritone crooner earned the new label millions, helping Capitol build the circular tower – first in the world – you see here. Contrary to popular myth, “the house that Nat built” was not designed to look like a stack of records. The sun shades encircling each floor were practical (and successful) means of minimizing glare and reducing air conditioning costs.
This “height-limit” building – remember, the height restriction wasn’t lifted until 1957 – incorporates a pylon with a light on top that blinks out “H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D” in Morse code. Throwing the switch in 1956 to activate it was Lyla Morse, granddaughter of Samuel Morse, inventor of the code. In the 1974 movie “Earthquake,” the building tumbled to the ground, suffering almost as much as the flick’s reviews.
–> Continue to the Capitol Records Building entrance.
The small lobby is a accessible to the public (no pictures please) where gold and platinum recordings hang from a wall. Floating on concrete slabs with 10-inch-thick concrete walls, the building’s three, underground recording studios – among the best in the world – were instant hits, attracting the Beach Boys, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and – of course – Nat King Cole. It was fitting that Capitol Records – the West Coast’s first recording label – chose the name “capitol” simply because they felt Hollywood was the entertainment capital of the world.
Look for John Lennon’s star out front. The December 8 anniversary of his 1980 murder is commemorated each year, here at this spot. George Harrion’s and Ringo Star’s stars out front, too, but no Paul McCartney. (The Beatles, who recorded for EMI, acquired Capitol in 1955, have a star you saw earlier the tour.) Also out front are recordings artists (alphabetically): Garth Brooks, Natalie Cole, Duran Duran, Dave Koz, Anne Murray, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Helen Reddy, Beverly Sills, the Steve Miller Band and Tina Turner.
Across Vine Street to the left is the Avalon Hollywood (Gogerty and Weyl, 1927). It opened as the Hollywood Playhouse but over the decades the Spanish Colonial Revival venue has changed names and functions. For instance in 1963, when Jerry Lewis filmed his weekly ABC television show here, it was renamed the Jerry Lewis Theatre. When that series was cut, ABC renamed it the Hollywood Palace after the all-star variety TV show of the same name. Everybody who was anybody in Hollywood stepped up to “play the Palace.” Hosts included Louis Armstrong, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Joan Crawfordm Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. The Rolling Stones made their U.S. television debut here; so did the Jackson Five. When that show’s run ended in 1970 the Hollywood Palace became just The Palace; since 2002 it’s been the Avalon Hollywood – another hot spot for dance/DJ events, music and comedy shows and live theater.
You could almost call this area “Gogerty & Weyl Square.” Henry L. Gogerty designed the Streamline Moderne 1931 Jean Swartz Building on the corner (#1770 N. Vine) just up from the Capitol Records Building. In partnership with Carl Weyl, he also did the splendid Art Deco Yucca Vine Tower (1929) diagnonally across the street at #6305 Yucca Street (image, right). Together, they also did the Avalon Hollywood that you just passed across the street. And Weyl designed Bernard Luggage Building, next to the Taft Building, a half-block south of the boulevard.
–> Retrace your steps back down Vine Street to Hollywood Boulevard. Turn left and continue to the Frolic Room.
The Frolic Room (#6245) is a no-nonsense, if legendary, dive bar. No-nonsense because people come here to drink liquor. Legendary because it and its Art Deco neon sign out front have been here since the early 1930s and the inside’s been portrayed in “L.A. Confidential” (Kevin Spacey left his $50 tip on the counter). The exterior was used in the murder mystery”The Black Dahlia” because Elizabeth Short (the dahlia) was a regular here.
19. Pantages Theatre. 6233 Hollywood Boulevard. B. Marcus Priteca, 1930
The June 4th premiere of “The Florodora Girl” starring Marion Davis became a hit and even included an early Technicolor segment. Sound was still fairly new to movies and color was something many Angelenos had never seen before. The emcee was Al Jolson and the night’s entertainment included a Disney cartoon, a newsreel, live stage entertainment – followed by the movie.
The audience included a long list of stars and celebrities but missing among them was Alexander Pantages. It seems Alexander was serving a 50-year prison term for a rape conviction. There was, and remains, speculation that Joseph Kennedy, who’d just purchased rival RKO, paid one Eunice Pringle to file the rape accusation against Pantages. Possibly it was a payback for Pantages’ recent refusal to sell out to Kennedy’s company. Pantages was later acquitted of the rape charge but was financially ruined by lawyer fees and the worsening Great Depression. He eventually sold out to RKO. Pantages died in 1936 but the rumors, though anecdotal, remain.
Whatever – the theatre itself was sold to the Fox chain in 1932 and Howard Hughes, by then the owner of RKO, bought it in 1949. Hughes, who had second floor offices in the building (an that penthouse above the nearby Broadway Building) kept if for ten years. During those ten years the Academy Awards were held here – the first to be televised in 1953. In 1977 the theatre ended its 47 years as a movie palace and after the purchase by the Nederlander Organization (and a hefty $10 million renovation) in 2000, is now a brilliant, major, 2703-seat musical venue.
–> Continue to Argyle Street, turn left and walk up the street to the back of the theatre lobby.
From the street or rear parking area you should be able to get a look at the mural, “Ghosts of Pantages Dedication, 1930” (James Hamblin, assisted by Jim Piper and Mathew Wittmer, 2000). Doris Roberts is at the back door taking tickets; the blanked-out box office once featured Carol Burnett in its window. Elsewhere within the mural are Shirley Temple, Marion Davies (the “Florodora Girl”), Fatty Arbuckle and the ghost of theatre’s one-time owner, Howard Hughes.
–> Return to the corner of Argyle Street and Hollywood Boulevard.
Directly across the street, above the Hollywood & Vine subway station, is the W Hotel. Designed by HKS Architects, the upscale hotel opened in 2010 and it’s worth a peek inside.
–> Cross Hollywood Boulevard and enter the W Hotel lobby.
“W” is for Wonderful – the 350-room hotel’s standard accommodation category. “W” is for Wow – the hotel’s 1,340-sq. ft. suites (or, upgrade to the even larger “Extreme Wow” category). “W” is also for “Well it finally happened – Hollywood Boulevard got an ultra deluxe hotel.” The adjacent W Residences run from about 1000 square feet for the Whimsy studio through the Wise, Wave, Whisper, Witty, Warm, Wild and finally (you wish you could afford it) the Wish – the 3 bedroom penthouse.
Go on in and check out the lobby. There’s a great-looking, mirrored grand staircase (there can never be too many mirrors in Hollywood), some interesting looking restaurants and bars, and at night – a light-draped motorcourt out back.
Anchoring the eastern end of the busiest section of the boulevard, the W Hotel and Residences sit directly above the entrance to MTA’s Red Line subway. The Walk of Fame is right out front; Hollywood & Vine, the Pantages Theatre, the Capitol Records Building and a long list of stores, clubs and restaurants are all visible from its entrance.
–> Return to the entrance to the Hollywood & Vine subway station.
But wait, there’s actually more to see…below ground. The Hollywood/Vine station is an attraction in its own right. Here you’ll see low-riders and boulevard cruisers (the four-wheeled variety), an old movie camera, a movie screen, “Hooray for Hollywood” musical notes on railings and thousands of old movie reels lining the station’s ceiling.
Your arrival within the station marks the end of this WalknRideLA “Here’s Hollywood” tour.
“Sunset & Vine” Side Trip
See more Hollywood Walk of Fame stars, site of the former Brown Derby restaurant, the filming location of Hollywood’s first major movie, the Cinerama Dome and the world’s largest record store. Allow 45 minutes for this Side Trip.
Click here to join the Sunset & Vine Side Trip.
“Hollywood Forever Memorial Park” Side Trip
No ordinary cemetery, this one. By now you’ve seen the stars’ stars in the sidewalk, their footprints in cement and maybe their wax figures in the boulevard’s museums. A good number of them chose to remain here in Hollywood. Allow about 2 hours (including bus travel time) for this Side Trip.
Click here to take the Hollywood Forever Side Trip.
Thanks for walking with WalknRideLA!