Wednesday 9 November 2011

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Hollywood Walk of Fame

It's one of those world famous places that you feel like you have to see once in your life. TV always makes it look so glamorous, but realistically, the Hollywood Walk of Fame didn't promise to hold much that would entertain my children. Looking at the names of people they don't recognize in stars on the ground didn't seem like a very promising way to spend the afternoon. Actually if I'd known how few names I was going to recognize, I might have pushed for a different destination, but I figured it was going to be wall to wall Harrison Ford's and Carrie Fisher's (I'm not tipping off my favorite movie series am I?). Those are the kind of stars that you step around with respect. When you hit a stretch of John Doe's, who I'm sure did something great to earn a star on Hollywood Boulevard but hold no interest to me or my kids, and then add in some large crowds and a really hot day, you're going to spend the day wondering if this was a very good plan.

In this case, getting there was indeed half the fun. Hollywood Boulevard is an interesting place. If you follow it off to the west, you'll end up in a beautiful part of Hollywood, with palm lined streets and multi-million dollar mansions. If you go east however, you end up in one of those scenes that they use in movies to represent "the hood". The route we took to get to the Walk of Fame, brought us in from the east, bringing us past drug dealers, prostitutes, and one guy who seemed to be protesting the presence of the lamp post he was leaning against.

There's plenty of parking available for a small fee around the Kodak Theater area (although that didn't stop me from missing it numerous times) and if you park in the mall lot you come out right in the middle of the action. This is the focal point of the walk of fame, as you are mere steps away from the Kodak Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater, Disney's El Capitan Theater, and about a hundred people dressed up in random costumes, begging you to come get your picture taken with them. There was a Batman, a Spiderman, a Transformer, and a couple of Marilyn Monroe's, one of whom was actually a man. There's a conversation that'll perk up an otherwise boring afternoon of sightseeing. I think it's safe to say that if Hollywood is the center of the world for movies, then Hollywood Boulevard is the center of the world for crazy.

We spent a while walking the boulevard looking for names that we recognized. I'd say I could put a face to every fourth one, but my kids only knew about one in ten (Thank goodness some of the Disney characters have stars or we'd have been screwed). I suppose we could have sprung for a map of which stars were where, but we weren't really interested in wandering too far (especially not towards the lamp posts in the east) and I figured that the big stars would be around the theaters anyways. I don't know how the spots are assigned, but the lack of names that I recognized was somewhat disappointing. Perhaps all the spots in the middle of the Boulevard were given to stars of long ago and we needed to stray further to find modern movie stars, but a long walk to find somebody's name on the sidewalk was going to be a tough sell for my kids, so we opted to stay close to the center section of the walk.

We turned to Mann's Chinese Theater with the hand and footprints of the stars in the cement. I found this a little more intriguing, partly because I soon discovered that I have bigger hands and feet than most celebrities (which I won't comment on here as my daughter reads this), but mainly because I recognized most of the names. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Jackman, and Robert Downey Jr. are big enough names that I thought my kids might be interested. Alas, the portion of the sidewalk with these impressions in them has almost no shade, is very crowded, and seems to be the main location for tour wholesalers. We got about ten minutes of looking around in before we decided that there had to be somewhere around here that would better hold our kids attention.

Then we saw it. Right across the street from where we were standing was Disney's El Capitan Theater, and right beside that was the Disney Soda Fountain store. It's a cute little ice cream parlor with a look and feel from the sixties, but prices that are distinctly from this decade. Of course the pricing was irrelevant at this point, as my kids really needed a place to sit down out of the sun, and cool off, and since we're not the kind of family to pass up a chance to enjoy some ice cream, we ordered up a round of sundaes and dug in. I don't know if it was the respite from the heat or if it was a mental justification for spending a months worth of the kids allowance on four sundaes, but this was some of the best ice cream I've ever had. You could almost see the moods changing as my kids demeanor improved with each bite, while mine darkened as it became apparent that there would be no "Daddy line" forming for ice cream today, and the sundae that I was supposed to be sharing with my wife seemed to have been renegotiated to an 80/20 split, definitely not in my favor. Still, even after resetting everybody's mood, we decided that there was no point wasting all the good will the ice cream had earned us, so we packed up and headed back to the hotel.

I know I said that the Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of those places that you feel like you have to see once, but if you can manage to make the trip when your kids aren't with you, you'll probably enjoy it a whole lot more. If you have to take your kids, try to explain to them who the people in the stars are in advance. If that doesn't work, try to explain to them that you'll take them for ice cream at the Disney Soda store. Or if that doesn't work, try to explain to them why there's a guy dressed like Marilyn Monroe out on the street corner protesting against lamp posts. Let me know how that one goes for you.