Sunday, April 3, 2011

An afternoon in Hollyweird

My true intentions were to watch the Dodgers play the Giants as the baseball season revved into full swing, but sometime Saturday morning the intent shifted into a goose chase to find  Johnny Depp's mark on the star studded streets of downtown Hollywood. It wasn't my mission, but I felt more than obliged to help. First I happened upon Charlie Sheen's star and decided to simulate a 7 gram rock "bump".

This may seem like odd behavior, but let me assure you that this is one of the least obscene gestures you'll witness in Hollyweird.  For instance, Michael Jackson's still kicking doppleganger hovers over his Walk of Fame star while tourists shove a few creased dollars into his one gloved hand in exchange for a photo opportunity with the King of Pop incarnate.  There are more than a few people outfitted as "your friendly neighborhood Spiderman" and are also willing to pose for profit, and I was physically accosted by Diego (the cartoon character) after refusing to exchange money for photos. 

As religious proselytes chanting "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus..." filled my hands with pamphlets and booklets of all shapes and sizes, I felt the need to get involved.  The countering screams of "Cheeze-its, Cheeze-its, Cheeze-its!..." spread from my mouth to the mouths of other dissenters until there was a clash between followers of Christ, and snack cracker enthusiasts rang throughout the street.  Just as we're about to turn the corner, I am tapped on the shoulder by a fuzzy red hand. I turn, only to see a man-sized Elmo looking me square in the face.  In a gruff voice diabolically differing from the childhood puppet voice that rings with familiarity to Sesame Street  fans past and present, I hear him chant "Cheeze-its, Cheeze-its, Cheeze-its" in my ear as he offers me a red furry thumbs up.  So, Either Elmo hates Jesus, or loves baked cheese flavored wafers.  It's too early to tell which at this point.

There are souvenir shops full of fake Oscar awards, with somewhat generalized placards.  They read "Best Dad Award" or "Favorite Child Award" and such.  I contemplated buying a "Parent of the Year" Oscar for the mother I saw snapping a shot of her over-sexualized tween daughter posing spread eagle over the star of one Hugh Hefner.  She is in the teal shirt, but scattered quickly when we poked fun about presenting her with said award.

Being from Kansas, where the prospect of stardom is about 2,000 miles (and countless tribulations) away from being a possibility, the side effects of notoriety on the Hollywood society is a fascinating case study. Placing the pieces together, those Spidermans, Elmos, and Michael Jacksons are soliciting donations by exploiting what the Hollywood culture holds dear.  While contemplating these implications, I stumbled upon the most somber Spidey I have ever seen.  He sat defeated in a corner along the walkway, aggravated that onlookers would take his picture without offering donations...just as I had done. It reminded me of a child that will end at nothing to garner attention, even if it's negative. Or is he, and those in his similar costumed albeit desolate position, just playing into the star studded spectacle that visitors expect? Maybe he is an entrepreneur of sorts. 

We found Johnny Depp's star, and actually found a knockoff squash-buckling Jack Sparrow asking for photo op donations, but decided to skip the opportunity.  We had completed our mission, and the sun was beginning to fade on the strip. I settled on purchasing a metal Wizard of Oz lunch box as a gift for Toto (Victoria), since leaving town without her means bringing back a meaningful trinket. It reminded me that "there is no place like home". I must admit, however, that Hollywood, California is goddamn entertaining.  

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