Hollywood's Walk of Shame

Say you live smack-dab in the middle of the country. Somewhere in Kansas. Like Mitchell County. Cawker City to be exact. And one day you get a call from a friend saying they want to swing into town, hang out with you and see the sights for the week. This is someone you've been close to for a zillion years so, like, it's kinda incumbent upon you to show them the best time possible. The challenge?... The 2020 census listed the population of Cawker City at 457. Their one and only claim to fame?... being home to the world's largest ball of twine. I know, I know, the questions this freakishly uninspiring pursuit raises are enough to fill up a blog. Just not this one. So, back to the phone call; do you politely tell them that instead of a solid week how 'bout they whittle it down a bit to, like... Monday? Just Monday morning, actually. Say 10:15 to 10:30?

Thankfully, for me, living in beautiful southern California, the odds of finding local attractions for visiting guests fare much better than in Cawker City. And if they're into smog, wildfires, mudslides and earthquakes?... better still. So when my brother, Rick, having never visited SoCal before, decided to make the scene, I really wanted to cram in as much as we could in a seven-day span. There was the Santa Monica Pier along with the other great beaches: Redondo, Hermosa, Manhattan and Venice. And nearby Long Beach with its harbor cruises and a myriad of cool bars and eateries, not to mention the historic ocean liner, the Queen Mary. Other options included driving down to Sunset Boulevard, grabbing a Map of the Stars and checking out their cribs or maybe taking in the Hollywood sign and the rustic winding canyons with the houses on stilts. An entire day alone could be spent just touring the Universal Studios Theme Park. And of course, let us not forget that overwhelming crowd pleaser: cruising the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

How on earth this archaic asphalt wasteland continually garners so much traction is as improbable as it is tragic, and yet, it seems anyone and everyone who comes to visit is jonesing to catch a glimpse of the five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars bearing celebrity names embedded in the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard and it's crossing street, Vine. So when my bro excitedly broached the subject I did all in my power to quash that notion in its tracks citing that unlike, say, Rodeo Drive, the crown jewel of Beverly Hills, this was more like where couth came to die. The place that put the bull in boulevard. Seedy's ugly stepsister. I mentioned the onlookers constantly blocking the walkway as they gushed over their favorite celebs. I brought up the fast-talking street vendors and hustlers brazenly pushing flyers on you while the slippery characters donned in superhero oufits pulled you in for a pic expecting some serious dinero in return. All this to no avail; Rick was gung-ho.

So, yeah, the next day we started at Grauman's Chinese Theatre--now called TLC Chinese Theatre for naming rights reasons (big surprise)--where the entrance with the hopelessly outdated footprints and handprints of bygone stars had virtually everyone under 75 scratching their heads. Down the sidewalk all my forewarnings came to fruition: the rude hucksters with pamphlets dishing out snarky asides to uninterested passersby, the vendors with cheap tourist t-shirts designed to shrink down three sizes after just one wash. The superhero pretenders hovering like the vultures they were along with the "selfie crowd" desperately vying to get their mugs and their stars' monikers in the same shot, constantly jamming up the walkway like drunks exiting a bar after last call. Sprinkle in the usuals: the bullhorn-toting religious zealots, the "supposedly homeless" panhandlers, scantily clad wannabe ingenues and patients off their meds and the circus was complete. Or, to quote the Bangles: "... just another manic Monday."

So here's the thing: The concept of an induction ceremony where everyone comes out and a huge Hollywood star is presented his/her place on the Walk of Fame amidst an adoring public, yeah, I get it. But walking down the street and spotting a famous person's name on the ground in front of you? I'm supposed to, what... marvel at the correct spelling? Be enthralled with the impeccable symmetry of the star it's encased in? And what about the randomness factor? Go to the 6500 block and there's Jamie Lee Curtis, Dr. Seuss, the Rugrats, Perry Como, Phil Hartman and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Totally makes sense, right? If only Mr. Rogers could've made the scene. Well, guess what... he did. Of course, he did.

The good news: I think my brother enjoyed the whole crazy, frenetic scene. And, truth be told, the people-watching aspect had its moments. But in the scheme of things, this dumbass Hollywood sidewalk gazing phenomenon has no business being in the sightseeing game. I'd go even further to name it a "point of disinterest", a "tourist unattraction" if you will. And it's not just because its premise--that a written name somehow reflects the potency of an actual living, breathing star standing right there in front of you--is most assuredly flawed (which it certainly is). It's also because it's downright boring. So much so that the humongous ball of twine is starting to look really, really good right now.