Tuesday, July 8, 2014

American Wonders (part 2): Hollywood - where dreams are made

Almost missing our car in Venice Beach, since I wanted to buy some souvenirs and the Chinese woman at the counter was more preoccupied with talking on the phone than collecting my money, and we set off for that star-studded Hollywood. What more can I say about Hollywood? Well, I'm going to talk about only about those things that I didn't know before coming here. 

The crowd at the Chinese Theater

First of all, that it's not that star-studded anymore. Although major film-making companies still keep their offices here, not too much filming is going on. It has been outsourced in cheaper places around the world. Have you ever heard abut big budget movies being filmed in Romania? There you go. 

According to our guide, Hollywood becoming a motion picture capital happened by accident. At the beginning of the 20th Century Thomas Edison had all the patents for film cameras. If any director didn't pay a royalty fee to him, Edison would sue them. And not only that, but he would send a bunch of big fellows on set to smash all the cameras. Facing such adversity, some filmmakers left the East Coast and went West to find some place where Thomas Edison couldn't enforce his patent rules. They eventually settled in the Arizona desert, but by a string of fortunate coincidences one of them reached Los Angeles and a small community called Hollywood. He decided to start his company here and not go back into the desert, since here he had the ocean too, so he could shoot more scenes. Everyone soon followed and... everything else is history.

Too bad this guy wasn't cast in Titanic

A lot of people come here to audition for parts and the city is still packet with young actors and actresses who want to enter the industry, make memorable roles, receive Oscars and (why not?) become rich. The thing is that they cannot afford to have regular jobs. No employer would give you time off every time you have an audition. So in order to support themselves they dress up like celebrities and take pictures with tourists for money. Maybe you will not find Sly Stallone of Marilyn Monroe, but you can be damn sure you can find their look alikes. 

This is where things become animated. As you walk through the crowd you feel hands pulling you aside by "Beyonce" or "Spiderman" (poor guy, there were 40 degrees Celsius and he was wearing that costume): 
"Hey, man, I haven't seen you for such a long time. How are you? Let's take a picture, for old times sake." 
What old times? I've just met you! So, in all this commotion I see one black guy who looks like a familiar rapper. It took only a moment to make eye contact and the guy is next to me and I am holding his CD:

Marilyn Monroe's wax statue as she is leaving
her message in front of the Chinese Theater

 "What's goin' on, man? Enjoying Hollywood? Listen, this is my CD, it's my album and I want you to have it." It was just a regular CD written at home, on your personal computer, put in a paper sleeve.

I say "Cool!" and try to leave fast. But "Wait, wait, wait, my brotha'! Let me give you an autograph. And, you know, I have bills to pay for making this music, so if you can help me out with 10 or 20 dollars, but it's better if you make it 20, I would appreciate it."

I use all my bargaining skills, even offer his CD back, and eventually pay only 6.
One other thing that I found out is that there are regular stars on the Walk of Fame, which are easier to get. There are around 2000 of them and they have maps with all the names, since you can spend a whole day to find your favorite actor. And then there are concrete prints of celebrities' hands, feet and a signature. The space is much more limited and being included here really acknowledges you as a classic.

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