Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Everyone wants to be Hollywood

I went to the movies recently at the dumpy multiplex near my house, in good old Van Nuys, California, known to some (possibly inaccurately) as the porn capital of the world. The screens are pretty big and it's perfectly clean, but it's not hip, and it's on the other side of the tracks -- literally, as Amtrak runs through the area just south of the theater.

On this visit, I noticed for the first time above the ticket windows the following mural:

Is it appropriate to call this a mural? It's just a relatively crude rendering of the Hollywood sign. No caricatures of Jack Nicholson and Will Smith, just the Hollywood sign.

But trust me, this area is as far from Hollywood as it gets. As the crow flies, it may be only ten miles. But personality-wise, it's probably closer to Hollywood, Florida than Hollywood, California.

The lack of a really legitimate claim doesn't stop businesses in the greater Los Angeles area from trying to cash in on their general proximity to "Tinseltown." (I hate that word, but at this point I'm already looking for a synonym to "Hollywood.") When I used to live down on the West Side, there was a dry cleaner near me called Cinema Cleaners. I found that hilarious. It was just some hole-in-the-wall dry cleaners in Culver City, not a place where famous people take their clothes to be pressed, not a place where wardrobe departments cleanse their inventory prior to the next shoot. Someone at this mom and pop organization just thought naming their business Cinema Cleaners might bring in an extra 32 bucks a week. And maybe it does.

But maybe I'm being too hard on this Regency Theater next to a Home Depot and across from a McDonald's. Because at least a movie theater has a legitimate reason to play up Hollywood. I mean, that's where the movies are made. They may not be trying to say "Here we are, in Hollywood!" They may just be trying to say "Here are some movies that Hollywood made!"

In fact, you'd be quite likely to see a Hollywood mural (for lack of a better term) in places that were decidedly not Hollywood, like the 18-screen multiplex in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or the 22-screen behemoth in Brunswick, Georgia. (Note: Any similarity to actual movie theaters, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.) In those places, a Hollywood mural would represent the kind of gee-whiz, starstruck, anything-is-possible optimism that has put young wannabes on buses to Los Angeles for time immemorial.

But in Van Nuys? Most of these people have actually been to the real Hollywood. And they know this ain't it. This ain't even a close facsimile.

I don't know, just something I was thinking about.

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