Note: First published on Blogger on May 1, 2007
Unfolding the Map
Sal is still hanging around the stars in Hollywood. He even catches a glimpse of one or two. But, Hollywood's siren song doesn't bring him much fame, fortune, or even food money. Click on the map for the latest in our LA journey.
"Hollywood Boulevard was a great, screaming frenzy of cars; there were minor accidents at least once a minute; everybody was rushing off toward the farthest palm -- and beyond that was the desert and nothingness. Hollywood Sams stood in front of swank restaurants, arguing exactly the same way Broadway Sams argue at Jacob's Beach, New York, only here they wore light-weight suits and their talk was cornier. Tall, cadaverous preachers shuddered by. Fat screaming women ran across the boulevard to get in line for the quiz shows. I saw Jerry Colonna buying a car at Buick Motors; he was inside the vast plate-glass window, fingering his mustachio."
On the Road, Chapter 13
Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California
Two or three things stand out to me in Sal's quote. First, anyone who has been to Los Angeles knows that nowhere in the general vicinity of LA can you find desert and nothingness beyond the farthest palm. Beyond the farthest palm is more city or suburb, more concrete roadways and whatever housing fits in the area. If indeed this is what Sal sees, then 1940s era LA must have been more compact, and perhaps even some of the various communities in the LA area were separated by open space at the time. That certainly isn't the case today. When you speak of the LA area now, you speak of one unbroken stretch of city where communities bleed into one another and people pass by on the freeways barely noticing them.
Second, I notice that Sal makes a comparison between LA and New York City as he talks about the "Hollywood Sams" arguing. Who exactly they are and what exactly they argue about I'm not sure -- I'm guessing that they are local know-it-alls and their arguments have something to do with the quality of entertainment, the latest stars, and the opportunities available in the movie business. However, his allusions are more than just this. Hollywood Boulevard is a screaming frenzy of cars, much like I imagine Broadway was and still is. Even in the fantasyland of the west coast, there are certain similarities between cities that just don't go away. This includes all the characters that Sal sees. The preachers, the fat ladies running to the quiz shows, the Hollywood Sams, and even Jerry Colonna with a huge mustachio. Who is Jerry Colonna? It is interesting that Jack included him in this scene. He was a zany Italian-American, mustached comedian who appeared many times with Bob Hope and was known for playing nit-witted characters, according to Wikipedia. The interesting thing about his inclusion in this scene is the ironic juxtaposition -- Jerry Colonna is doing something mundane and non-zany, buying a car at Buick, while the zaniness and craziness and all the strange characters are the rest of America roaming around outside the car dealership.
This leads to an interesting question to ponder. Is America that crazy, that weird, that strange that they can make professional actors whose job is to play strange characters seem remarkably tame? Are actors really looking at us and saying "Now THAT's strange -- I'll use it for my next performance!" Are places like Hollywood just manifestations of the real strangeness and idiocy that we barely hold in? Did Jack really see through all this?
Am I just play-acting the English major, aping what I see true literary critics doing, but not realizing that I too am part of the general strangeness and idiocy that is America?
By the way, Hollywood Boulevard is the home of the "Walk of Fame" that you hear about every so often when some actor gets his or her star set into the concrete.
If you want to know more about Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame or Jerry Colonna
Hollywood Boulevard - The Virtual Tour
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
Hollywood Walk of Fame
IMDB: Jerry Colonna
Seeing-stars.com: Hollywood Boulevard
Wikipedia: Hollywood Walk of Fame
Wikipedia: Jerry Colonna
Next up: Downtown Los Angeles