Note: First published on Blogger on April 20, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Into the midst of the teeming city Sal finds himself with his new girlfriend Terry. Today, Hollywood. Sal tries to get a job at Schwab's drugstore (which he locates at Sunset and Vine but which is actually a block away at Selma and Vine). What can be interpolated and extrapolated from Sal's words? Read on and find out, Littourati! Click the map for the latest update.
"We went to Hollywood to try to work in the drugstore at Sunset and Vine. Now there was a corner! Great families off jalopies from the hinterlands stood around the sidewalk gaping for sight of some movie star, and the movie star never showed up. When a limousine passed they rushed eagerly to the curb and ducked to look: some character in dark glasses sat inside with a bejeweled blonde. 'Don Ameche! Don Ameche!' 'No, George Murphy! George Murphy!' They milled around, looking at one another. Handsome queer boys who had come to Hollywood to be cowboys walked around, wetting their eyebrows with hincty fingertip. The most beautiful little gone gals in the world cut by in slacks; they came to be starlets; they ended up in drive-ins."
On the Road: Chapter 13
Sunset and Vine, Hollywood, California
Hollywood! Movie capital of the world (if you don't count Bollywood in India, which actually has made more films than Hollywood for years). Is it any wonder that Sal and Terri try to find a job here?
Hollywood enters our collective fantasies. Who hasn't wanted to be a star, or be close to the stars -- at least on a first name basis with one so that we can be invited to the parties. Nowadays we long for a glimpse of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Leo, Bennifer, even though we publicly announce our lack of interest, or disapproval of their work, their ways and their life. If Paris Hilton were to walk into a coffee shop or restaurant that I happened to be in, I would probably be secretly thrilled for a moment, even as later I would be dismissing the effect to people I know. As Sal shows, the same desires were present in the 1940s, substituting the names of the day. Don Ameche! Was he a big star before that movie he made in the 80s about the old people and the alien cocoons? (Yes, he was!)
But, like Sal suggests, for every star Hollywood has many wanna-be stars working crappy jobs and trying to make it. It's not all a happy ending out there where American Idol finalists with some talent get movie and recording contracts. The entertainment industry is a cold mistress. Two of my high school companions went to L.A. in search of careers, one in stage and one in music. They tried it for years, struggling to find work even while getting a chance to hobnob with the big names once in a while. One is back in my hometown, and has become a local celebrity of sorts as a singer-songwriter, but certainly does not have the fame that he probably originally traveled to L.A. to find.
The other works at a financial advising company, moved away from L.A. in search of more affordable housing, and seems to have left the theater behind. I find this a bit sad, as he was such a good performer and he loved the theater. He probably could have made it in a different place where he didn't face so much competition. But L.A. is the gold standard, and if you can't make it there...
If you want to know more about Sunset and Vine, Schwab's drugstore, Don Ameche, George Murphy or Hollywood in general
Sunset Boulevard (Classic movie line: I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.)
The Sunset Strip
Hollywood and Vicinity (in yesterdayla.com)
IMDB: Don Ameche
IMDB: George Murphy
Lana Turner, allegedly discovered at Schwab's
New York Time: Closing of Schwab's
Wikipedia: Don Ameche
Wikipedia: George Murphy
Wikipedia: Sunset Boulevard
Next up: Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California