YESTERDAY, I did a quick tag-along with my photographer friend who had a shoot in Hollywood. I don’t make it into Hollywood like I used to when I worked and lived closer by.
It’s a hike. It’s exhausting. It’s its own maze — both physical and mental.
Hollywood is never what anyone expects it to be. Even when you are a native and know better.
I was surprised at the swarming crowds — summertime-size on a hazy March afternoon. I was also, still surprised, how even more so like a brassy theme park it looks. if that could even be possible.
I’ll take the dilapidated fading-glory over the corporate curation any day. But it is a head-spinning mix no matter what you come looking for, because you will always be surprised by what you actually stumble into.
There are lovely pockets of noir splendor.
Some reminders of old-school suit-and-tie glamour
And then of course, there’s spectacle pretending to be normal
So, I took some pictures too — but the picture I didn’t take was an image that lingered with me. It was one of a man standing at the northeast corner of Hollywood and Highland with a hand-printed sign that had — shall we say — an explicative scrawled across it. When passers-by would look at him directly, or point a camera his way, he’d flip them the finger — the finger corresponding to the sign’s expletive — you get the idea.
A good-sized crowd, 10-deep, fanned out before him — an otherwise nondescript man in cargo pants and baseball cap. They cheered him on. They looked and laughed and pointed. They trained the lenses of video cameras, smartphones, fancy DSLR rigs at him — he flipped each one of them off, flashing a quick, sardonic smile, eyes screened off with inky shades — of course.
One teenager — a tourist — diligently snapped a half a dozen shots and then thanked him in a polite, each-syllable-enunciated-accented English.
He flipped her off.
One woman, (who reminded me of the Hollywood I grew up visiting) in a leopard-print one-piece bathing suit, stringy dishwater hair and a face whose eyes were obscured by liberal application of liner and mascara — croaked over the traffic noise : “I mean y’know kids see that. That’s just disgusting.”
He flipped her off too — of course.
Later as I traveled back home, I realized, I suppose, that whole shrill exchange is an a way an apt metaphor for Hollywood itself:
Take my picture, I’m ridiculous, I’m cynical, I’m pushing your buttons. I’m in your face.
And you love it.
Take my picture.
Take one more . . .