by Jacqueline Gualtieri
The sun peeks through the tree, the sky a beautiful blaze of oranges, reds, purples and yellows in the early morning. I haven’t seen palm trees in years. They were bigger than I remembered. They add a splash of green through the landscape as a crystal clear blue begins to take over the sky.
I walk down Sunset and Vine, with classic movie quotes ringing in my ears. That’s where the old Nickelodeon Studios was, still with its purple and green and orange signs. Half my childhood was filmed on this lot. And that’s the El Capitan where Disney has its premieres. And there’s the Chinese Theatre, with so much history in its small walls.
I resist the tourist urge to take photos of the stars and instead just walk past them, carefully reading the names, finding those I grew up with and those my parents grew up with and those my grandparents grew up with. There’s something magical about stepping foot in the same place that Audrey Hepburn and Marlon Brando once stepped. I feel the same way as I see the names they once signed in front of the Chinese Theatre. So much history, so much beauty, in a strange and haunting way.
The sun glares through the trees, another day of sun as the temperature climbs into the high 100s. The sunrise is better in the east—but nothing beats the sunset in the west, despite that anyone will say it’s because of the pollution.
I walk past a man on the street in front of the Nickelodeon Studios. I realize how big and empty the lot is. The gates keep him off the premises, so he leans against the wrought iron with a gray blanket over his legs. There are many people like him on Sunset, but not on Hollywood and Vine. Too many people didn’t want people like him in their Walk of Fame selfies. A Spider-Man wearing a brown-tinged suit walks up and around the Chinese Theatre, hoping to get tourists to stop with him for a dollar. He says he’s an actor. Most people in LA say they’re actors.
I am careful not to step on Sinatra’s star, like there’s some sort of superstition that if you step on a celebrity’s star, they’ll haunt you. But silly though it may be, I want to offer my respect. I want to offer my respect to all those who did make it in this strangely scary town.
The sun ignites the trees, literally and metaphorically. Someone tells me that Griffith Park will soon be on fire and I lament never having worked up the courage to go hiking there. I tell this to an Uber driver who laughs.
“Do you know what’s at Griffith Park? It’s where all the rich, white people live. They wouldn’t let that burn.”
The sun burns the city in a blaze. 105 today. I keep hearing that it’s just a heat wave and it’ll all blow over. I hear something similar at work. The movement to oust sexual predators is underway, shaking the industry this town was founded on to its core. But it’s just right now, I keep hearing. It’ll all blow over. A friend tells me she was harassed at her internship. It’ll all blow over.
I can’t help but notice dirty-suited Spider-Man matches Hollywood more than any star does. For symbols of excellence that cost $40,000 a pop, you’d think they’d be better taken care of. They are covered in dirt and grime, much like many of the heroes we once honored here. Trump’s star has been smashed, but it’s been rebuilt again. And he’s not the only one honored here that is covered in filth. We honor these people, for playing characters we loved and we confuse the love we have for the character for the love of these strangers. Maybe it’ll all blow over, but Hollywood is forever. These stars will remain long after them. One day our children’s children will see these stars and they will ask, “Who’s that?”
And the answer will either be, “He was in that movie.” Or it will be, “He was the one that raped that girl.”
On the very foundations of this street are memories of people we pushed to the side to let the hero’s star shine brighter. He was beautiful, a box-office success, a music mogul, a reality star tycoon. He drew crowds so they immortalized his legacy. But we’ll rewrite his legacy. The sun in LA burned out.
JACQUELINE GUALTIERI is a marketer in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in influencer marketing. She received her degree in Journalism from Emerson College and studied in Boston and Los Angeles. She’s been a writer, a journalist, a publicist, a dog walker, and a preschool teacher.