Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street are Historically known as the Mecca of Show Business. Most famously dubbed “Hollywood and Vine,” this renowned intersection is often a more colorful and comedic scene than a glamorous one. On a typical evening, one might see Marilyn Monroe’s star, while adjacent to it stands a superhero, otherwise known as Spiderman, speaking to a homeless pedestrian about the Lakers, all while a group of teenagers waltz by to pass the day at Hollywood and Highland Mall.
Along the sidewalk, a starving musician with an open guitar case full of dollar tips serenades tourists from all over the world. All this action is illuminated by the lights and giant advertisements that rival images of Times Square as they promote the latest big blockbuster ﬁlm. Tourists appear to be mingling with various L.A. characters of street performers, young Hollywood hopefuls, hippies on bicycles and moviegoers on their way to Mann’s Chinese Theater and a slew of other quirky attractions.
From souvenir and costume shops to Frederick’s of Hollywood’s risqué lingerie to a popping nightlife along with the latest crop of newly arrived aspiring actors, Hollywood and Vine is as varied as the city of Los Angeles itself. A ﬁrst visit to the area can be a surprising and shocking experience. But all is not lost for the glamour. Celebrity fans and industry insiders stand in front of theaters and elite clubs, waiting for their favorite super star to stride on the red carpet to the latest movie premiere. Stars wave at the crowd of tourists and locals, and once again a full tableau of Hollywood reveals itself.
The Golden Era
Hollywood and Vine (H&V) is a conglomerate of old world glamour and new world showbiz struggle and commerce. Originally a group of lemon groves, the intersection was named by Horace and Daeida Wilcox, a couple set on transforming the land into neighborhoods for morally upright Christian families. Daeida Wilcox suggested naming their subdivision of land “Hollywood” after hearing of the name during a trip to Ohio, where she met a traveler from Illinois who had given her own estate the same name. And thus, in 1887, Hollywood was born.
In 1902, the Hollywood Hotel (now the Kodak Theatre) was built by H.J. Whitley, a real estate shareholder who was determined to sell the lots of land surrounding the intersection. This same hotel would become the social center of many of Hollywood’s most famous Golden Era stars, including Rudolph Valentino, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn. Not long afterward, in 1910, the city of Los Angeles annexed the town of Hollywood (mostly because of its superior water supply), and what were once Prospect and Weyse Avenues became the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Although Los Angeles had begun to open its arms to ﬁlmmakers from New York (where the film industry originated), Hollywood was not quite as open to the art form. In a land of pious Christians, city oﬃcials even went as far as banning movie theaters. Los Angeles did not have such restrictions, and thus, after annexation, Hollywood was unwillingly thrown into the movie making machine when the Nestor Motion Picture Company shot the ﬁrst ﬁlm in the now world-famous town. The company then opened Nestor Studios, a home for the ﬁrst Hollywood westerns, starting the Hollywood establishment. Other ﬁlmmakers hungry to take advantage of the pleasant weather and diverse landscapes of Southern California rushed in to take advantage of the open space. Before long, in 1920, the former suburb of Hollywood had become the world-famous home of the American ﬁlm industry.
The ﬁrst skyscraper to grace the intersection of Hollywood and Vine was the Taft building, which is on the southeast corner. The building housed the oﬃces of the ﬁlm industry’s elite throughout its golden age during the late 1930s and 40s, including Charlie Chaplin. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also once called the building home. On the northwest corner was once the Laemmle Building, which housed Universal Studios and was named after its founder, Charles Laemmle (the building was destroyed in a nightclub ﬁre in 2008). The Avalon of Hollywood, now known as a posh nightclub, was once known as the El Capitan Theatre and afterward, as the Hollywood Palace, home to the variety show of the same name on ABC. A few blocks down from the northeast on Hollywood Boulevard stands the Pantages Theatre, which was home to the Academy Awards from 1949 to 1959. Th e Oscars are now held at the Kodak Theatre near Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave.
Hollywood and Vine’s status as a glamour center spread thanks to radio announcers and newspaper columnists throughout the 1930s, who would often begin reports with “Reporting from Hollywood and Vine.” Th e intersection, while not the busiest one in Hollywood (that honor belonged to Wilshire Blvd. and Western Ave.), became known as the epicenter of the entertainment capitol. in the 1950s, television networks also built studios, and Capitol Records added its vinyl stack-shaped building to the landscape in 1956.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
E.M. Stewart was the man responsible for creating the Walk of Fame in 1958, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Stewart was a volunteer president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce when he decided the walk would be a way to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.” With the help of architecture ﬁrm Periera and Luckman, the idea of the stars on the sidewalk originated. Some believe that the named stars painted on the ceiling of the Hollywood Hotel were the inspiration for putting the stars on the sidewalk, and others credit the menus at the popular Hollywood restaurant the Tropics, on which celebrity pictures were inserted in golden stars.
While the ﬁrst star to be permanently planted was director Stanley Kramer’s on March 28, 1960, there were 8 previous stars that were inserted simultaneously as an example of what the new Walk of Fame would look like. However, actress Joanne Woodward became known in folklore for being the ﬁrst recipient of a star, perhaps because she, being ahead of her time, was the ﬁrst to pose at her star for the media.
The Walk’s prestige died down in the 1960s and 70s, when many studios relocated to upscale suburbs. H&V was then taken over by squatters taking over abandoned buildings, and the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry was nowhere to be seen. The urban decay required development initiatives to lure tourists back into the area. Thus, the idea of ceremonies commemorating celebrities’ stars manifested. Th e paparazzi buzz that we see today was popularized in 1968, when Chamber member and radio/TV personality Johnny Grant resuscitated the selection process and implemented a requirement that stars must appear to accept their award (those who nominate the stars or the stars themselves are also now required to pay a fee of around $30,000 for the Walk’s upkeep, which keeps it from being a taxpayer burden). The news of stars’ awards was spread to media outlets around the world, and the Walk of Fame slowly regained its appeal.
The Walk of Fame’s fame was further set in place with the ceremony celebrating Apollo XI’s moon landing. The Apollo 11 mission launched on July 16, 1969; the space shuttled carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. The Chamber commemorated the mission by inserting a moon-shaped star monument, engraved at each of the four corners of Hollywood and Vine. The identical Apollo XI Crew stars list the astronauts’ names — Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins — along with the date of July 20, 1969, which is the day the crew landed on the moon.
The crew earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because the mission was broadcast live on television and radio for the world to experience history. The special moon star at the corner of H&V is a testament to aviation’s inﬂuence in Hollywood. Even the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has a set of blue street signs of the H&V intersection stand to guide its visitors inside the base’s Building 3001. Since the 1960s, the Walk of Fame adds at least 20 new stars a year, and it is a central attraction for Hollywood tourism The Walk of Fame’s fame was further set in place with the ceremony.
Epicenter of Revitalization
Redevelopment to make Hollywood more livable took another giant leap in 1999, when the Hollywood and Highland subway station was opened, and then in 2001, when the Kodak Theater became the new home of the Academy Awards. With its place in the National Register of Historic Places, much of Hollywood is set to be preserved, however, the only ﬁlm studio remaining is Paramount, which is located on Melrose Ave.
Today, Hollywood is an epicenter of revitalization eﬀorts by the city, as evidenced by the various apartments and lofts and its young residents populating the streets. From popular shopping centers, coﬀee shops, and 24-hour delis to its proximity to the rest of the city, Hollywood is thriving as an urban center.
Among the residential crowds and characters stand the visitors and excited newcomers — those who ﬂock to the city to pursue their dreams or to experience the history they grew up with from their favorite television shows and movies. Every entertainment industry professional should make an eﬀort to visit the exact intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The experience may rejuvenate one’s inspiration, reminding artists to follow their dreams. H&V is not just a destination, but a journey of talent through generations. Hollywood and Vine not only intersects showbiz, tourism and aviation, but also it is the place where stars shine on land and dreams will always come true.
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