In less than 45 minutes from leaving the hotel, Sam is dropping us off on Orange Drive about a half-block off of Hollywood Boulevard. We’re here!
I smack my left shoulder – hard – on the car door as I climb out. Ouch.
With my shoulder stinging (and still with a knot on my head from our jet’s video monitor), Becky and I walk hand in hand up to Hollywood Boulevard.
We’re actually here! …And it is immediate sensory overload.
Visually it’s a treat. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is across the street, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is next to it. The Chinese Theatre is amazing – just as it appears in pictures, but somehow bigger than life in person. The courtyard of the Chinese is barricaded off for the premiere, as I suspected it would be, and lots of people appear hard at work setting up the display on and around the red carpet. Beneath our feet, the Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches along the sidewalk, with many familiar names of movie, TV, and radio stars enshrined in pink marble stars embedded in the black sidewalk. It’s a feast for the eyes.
But as visually incredible as this block is, it also noisy, crowded, and, well, weird.
We’re accosted almost immediately by a lady wanting us to take a Hollywood tour. There are mobs of people pushing in both directions, a situation that is exacerbated by the closure of the sidewalk on the north side of the street for the movie premiere. (Oddly, I find myself feeling partly responsible for that, since we’re attending that event!)
Over the next few hours, we (and the seeming million or so other tourists on this block) are bombarded with the sights and sounds of hawkers loudly peddling tours, stores, and souvenirs; a bevy of panhandlers who of course know that this is where the tourists are; a dozen or more folks in costume (ranging from Gene Simmons of KISS to Donald Duck to Catwoman) trying to get tourists to get their picture taken with them (for a price, of course); and guys trying to get you to take a CD of their music “straight from Detroit.”
There are also more than a few folks who just seem to be mentally unbalanced, walking around muttering to themselves. And trust me, we saw a lot of overlap between all of these categories!
[A friend later quoted to us from a Joseph Wambaugh novel, “Where do you think you are, Wahoo, Kentucky? This is Hollywood, USA!”]
Now, none of these things are unique to California, and we certainly have our fair share of weirdness in Texas. But here it is concentrated, distilled, and multiplied, and then shoved into a limited space. And for us relatively humdrum Texans, who are already having to adjust to a whirlwind trip out-of-state on pretty short notice, it’s overwhelming.
And we are here for three-and-a-half hours until the premiere begins!