Ever on the lookout for L.A. stories that might inspire me to blog more, my Atlanta-based writer pal, Hilda, alerted me to this New York Times piece about the new five-star hotel going up at Hollywood and Vine. The article details the plans of Gatehouse Capital CEO Marty Collins, the hotel’s builder, to draw movie press junkets back to filmdom’s former crossroads.
A noble revitalization gesture, but something tells me that — like other Hollywood comebacks — it’ll fizzle faster than you can say “Norma Desmond.”
You see, L.A.’s not so dirty little secret is that for years we’ve been luring tourists to a mythic Boulevard of Dreams that no longer exists. The stars and movie moguls don’t really dine, club or shop there anymore. In fact, I’m not even sure a significant number of them live anywhere near Beachwood Canyon, the legendary neighborhood that basks in the glow of the Hollywood Sign.
In reality, the Hollywood district is a relic from a bygone era. Today more a historical monument to glamor past than a world film capital, it trades mainly on iconic images forged over a half century ago.
As every Angeleno knows, modern “Hollywood” is now a far-flung empire that works, lives and plays in Malibu, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Studio City and many points beyond. (Way beyond: For the last decade an increasingly hostile business climate has been driving the industry not only from L.A., but California altogether.)
But that’s not what we tell the tourists — at least not until after they pay the guide and hop on the bus.
Deep down, however, the city knows it’s only so long before the bigger-than-life images of yesteryear flicker, fade to black and cease to entice our star-struck visitors. Hence, I suspect, the community’s ongoing efforts to “bring Hollywood back.” Our Tinseltown guests need fresh myths, fresh movieland bustle, fresh celebrity sightings, and they need them now. (Or at least the tour and convention industry does.)
The new hotel may succeed in attracting a good share of film junkets to its luxury environs, and I wish it luck in doing so. But I remain skeptical that Hollywood the Industry will ever make a triumphal return to Hollywood the District. The Industry’s life and fortunes have grown too good elsewhere — and certainly much too big to be contained by its former fantasyland.
Blogger’s Note: For my prior post on Hollywood’s pre-film roots, click here.