Los Angeles: Hollywood | 1

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard – the heart of tourist Hollywood

As this is a movie site, how can I not start with Hollywood itself?

The ramshackle scruffiness and tacky souvenir shops often come as a bit of a shock to first-time visitors expecting red-carpet glamour and Beverly Hills-style homes.

But, as with many cities, the seediness is being edged out as Hollywood strives to present itself as super-clean and family-friendly. Which is a mixed blessing. Seediness was part of old Hollywood’s charm. Seriously – would Hollywood Village Life have grabbed as much attention as Hollywood Babylon?

The Hollywood-Highland Complex, Hollywood Boulevard

Nighttime filming on a slicked-down Hollywood Boulevard outside the KodakTheatre

There’s a danger of losing the very thing that makes Hollywood unique, though in the long term such measures seem destined to fail. Showbiz will find a way. Early laws forbidding the sale of alcohol and the exhibition of motion pictures haven’t held up too well.

There’s been a crack down on the number of costumed characters hassling passers-by on Hollywood Boulevard, but where else could you have seen a fanboy’s dream come true – Chewbacca and Freddy Krueger facing off over a territorial dispute? Come on, this is why we’re in Hollywood and not Milton Keynes or Fresno.

The Hollywood-Highland Complex, Hollywood Boulevard

The Hollywood sign on Mount Lee

The famous Hollywood Sign is surprisingly distant and, though thoughtfully framed by the vast Hollywood & Highland arch, can look disappointingly tiny in your photos. Drive up to Mulholland Drive or North Beachwood Drive to get your souvenir shot (the sign itself is strictly off limits, and fiercely well-guarded).

The heart of tourist Hollywood is the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between the fairground razzle of the old Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the gleaming new Hollywood & Highland Center, with its convenient Red Line subway station connection to Downtown.

You don’t need me to tell you about the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Wax Museum or the other ever-changing attractions vying for your attention along the main drag. The lobby of your hotel will be overflowing with glossy flyers.

The Hollywood-Highland Complex, Hollywood Boulevard

The Hollywood & Highland Center celebrates the Best Picture Oscars

The Hollywood & Highland complex, though, merits a mention. Basically a themed shopping mall: alongside the interior staircase, illuminated panels honour the winners of the Best Picture Academy Award. On the terraces outside, mosiacs celebrate the success stories of writers, technicians and actors who moved to Tinseltown and achieved their dreams. And that’s not to mention the elephants.

The Hollywood-Highland Complex, Hollywood Boulevard

Rearing elephants at the Hollywood & Highland Center, Hollywood Boulevard

As theme-park architecture goes, you can’t beat a – literally – elephantine homage to the extravagant Babylonian set for DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance. Its lunatic grandiosity is totally in the spirit of Hollywood.

What city skyline couldn’t be perked up by the addition of a few rearing pachyderms?

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