Two Metro stations bracket the section of Hollywood Blvd. that most visitors think of as ‘Hollywood’. Most locals think of this area as a place for tourists and where Jimmy Kimmel’s show is taped.
For me these two stations are examples of the commitment to art made when the Red and Gold Metro lines were being built twenty years ago. Sadly, the Metro no longer makes these kind of art investments. The newest stations out in the ‘burbs are quite boring.
Anyway, here are a few photos of what’s going on underneath Hollywood Blvd. To see what’s happening up on the street go to the previous post on this blog.
Before moving on to the other artworks in the Metro stations in Hollywood…
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It was something I hadn’t seen since the Sixties in North Beach–two girls in skimpy outfits dancing in a display window to lure customers inside. But there it was at the Hard Rock cafe on Hollywood Blvd. Back in the Sixties, however, the costumes were even smaller and the dancers more energetic. These young ladies looked slightly embarrassed. (You can see them below.)
Like most Angelenos I rarely ever go to to Hollywood; it’s nothing but a tourist trap. But since I’d promised to write about the art in the Red Line Metro stations I decided to go up onto Hollywood Blvd. to see the show after I photographed the art underground. So here is what I saw on a sunny Saturday afternoon in April. I will write about the Red Line Metro art in a future post.
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The current exhibition at La Luz de Jesus gallery, Boombox Creators, is a trip back in time to the 1980s and the birth of hip-hop.
What struck me most was how cerebral and geometric the boomboxes are as objects–all gray or black angles and silvery gray circular shapes. In contrast are the sounds–wild, pulsing, vibrant–they produced back when music was freed from enclosed rooms and came dancing out onto the street, the beaches and city parks.
In a video produced in conjunction with the show Arabian Prince of N.W. A. fame describes the sounds as ‘shared music’. In the same video artist Patty Astor notes that the boombox suddenly meant everyone could have their own recording studio. Actor Andre Royo also shares his thoughts about boomboxes. Take a look at the video here.
On the walls of the gallery are photos of Ice Cube and Basquiat, among others, you can buy for Christmas gifts–or for yourself. There are also prints of the original technical drawings for boomboxes for sale as well as mix-tapes created by Miles Lightwood, the driving force behind Boombox Creators.
Most Angelenos avoid Hollywood Blvd. It used to be a run down slum with a lot of tile stars embedded in the sidewalks. Most of the real film industry moved out to the San Fernando Valley decades ago. There are still a couple of studios (Paramount and Raleigh) and post-production houses around in industrial-looking buildings. But the absence of the actual world of movie-making in this area hasn’t affected the enthusiasm of the Hollywood Merchants Association. In the last few years Hollywood Blvd. has spiffied itself up and turned into a tourist trap with two underground Metro Gold Line Stations bracketing it.
Even the old office buildings that had been empty for decades are now being converted into apartment and condos.
Below ground the station at Hollywood and Vine definitely celebrates the film industry. Above ground capitalism thrives with tour buses and costumed characters. The characters, BTW, are all entrepreneurial–individuals who simply decided to earn their living wearing costumes and being photographed with tourists. The goal, of course, of all this activity is to encourage tourists to spend money at the shops that line the boulevard.
Anyway…here are some photos of Hollywood aboveground and below at the Red Line station at Hollywood and Vine.
I decided to visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery before the big annual Day of the Dead celebration –and, yes, the dead and their lives are celebrated (not necessarily mourned) on November 1st, All Saints Day. Many old movie actors from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s are interred there and on the Hollywood Forever website you can see a map of where some are buried. Among the more recent stars who have found a final resting place at this cemetery is Johnny Ramone. And the statue of him is very cool.
Just across the drive is a long reflecting pool that ends at the Fairbanks Memorial. According to the cemetery site map, both Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are buried there.
And just a few steps away from the Johnny Ramone memorial is an impressive tomb with the name Swayze on it. I thought it was for Patrick Swayze but when I checked it out, I learned that his ashes had been scattered on his ranch in New Mexico.
But overall, people from the entertainment industry are a small number among all those buried at this cemetery, As I wandered around I was struck by the large number of Armenian names on the grave markers and on some fairly impressive graves. Other graves were marked with simple wood crosses and still others planted with rose bushes.
Then I realized that Little Armenia, at least the ‘old’ Little Armenia was just blocks away. (A bit of trivia: the new ‘Little Armenia’ is the city of Glendale. There are more Armenians in Glendale than in the country of Armenia.)
Further wandering brought me to a tall grave marker for one of America’s ‘Rocketmen’, the scientists who developed the rockets that went into space back in the 1950s. His name was Carl Bigsby.
Not far from Bigsby’s rocket is the memorial to 33 men who died at the L.A. Times in 1933 in some kind of labor riot/fire. It it close to the Times’ publisher’s grave which is one of the tallest obelisks in the cemetery.
Anyway, back to the Dia de los Muertos on November 1st at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It begins at Noon and runs until midnight. Tickets are $20 at hollywoodforever.ticketfly.com Children under 6 and adults over 65 are free until 4 p.m.
Featuring on the Main Stage:
La Santa Cecilia
Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea
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Who is this cowboy in black? A man in a mariachi band? Just a local North Hollywood cowboy in his fringed leather jacket? I snapped this photo at the North Hollywood metro station plaza and my first impression was that he was a mariachi musician on his way to a gig. But looking closer, I’m not sure. Most mariachi outfits are a lot flashier–to match the blaring music. Whatever his calling, he certainly stood out from the others hanging around the plaza.
Inside the North Hollywood Red Line Metro station there is, however, a tile portrait of a genuine rhinestone cowboy: Nudie Cohn.
In fact, Nudie the Tailor (who was born in Kiev in the Ukraine) was the first to put rhinestones on cowboy clothes back in the 1930s. And he kept on doing it until the 1980s, when he passed away. In those 50 years he created clothing for cowboy stars like Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. He may be most famous for the $10,000 gold lame suit he created for Elvis back in the days when Elvis was still young and beautiful. Nudie also counted the ever-flashy Elton John among his clients. And then there were all his big Caddies with longhorn horns mounted on the hood. Nudie definitely had a flair for self-promotion and is among those immortalized on the Red Line station walls as part of the San Fernando Valley history.