Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Down Memory Boulevard

On assigment from a friendly magazine editor, I went for the first time in what has to be decades into Hollywood Proper, or Improper, I guess you could say, the ambiance being like 42nd Street was before the reformation, whores and pimps I think they were, but maybe they were just this era's hopefuls. Little remains the same on the way east. The Sunset Towers, where the major players once resided is gone, and the Park Sunset, where I lived in secret while I was hoping to be discovered/loved/treated fairly also seems to be gone, though there are two tackey apartment hotels on its order, minus the coffee shop with the bear claws. As I got nearer to Highland, my whole youthful Hollywood history passed before my eyes, though much of it was inside them, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams having been much reconstructed. Still to the right was the Hotel Roosevelt, where Elvis stayed with his cousin Gene, serviced by Marianne so Nan could be in the other room screwing the King, who wasn't yet the King, I don't think, but was already pigging out on peanut butter and banana sandwiches washed down with Pepsi-Cola. Nan and Marianne were from Utah, little Mormon girls who had their own morality, wanting someplace to go besides the Hollywood Ranch Market, Open All Night, a clock with hands spinning continuously outside it, probably gone now. I didn't turn down the street to see. Grauman's Chinese is still there, though I doubt they'll make much money this week, as they're showing the Hillary Swank movie, and the tourists who hovered over the footprints in cement outside didn't look like they were up for a message.
Strangest of all is the L. Ron Hubbard building, rising only a couple of stories high on the north side of the Boulevard, square and horribly imposing, a shade of self-realizing mud, the name of the dedicatee, founder of Scientology, carved in huge blocked letters on the face of it. The rest of the street, except for the Wax Museum, looks like a cross between Blade Runner and a shopping center in Singapore, garish but with little character, like many of the people who came here when it was still really Hollywood.
I was on my way to Musso & Frank, Hollywood's oldest restaurant, (1919,) where gathered the greats of long ago, like Bogart who liked their martinis(there's an award from Gilbey's on one of the restaurant's dark walls, as that was what they poured) and Charlie Chaplin a generation or two before, who always sat at the front table, a not very cozy booth, so he could see everybody who came in, according to the waiter's lore. I found that particularly interesting, because Chaplin supposedly said "If you want to know me, see my movies." So the fact that he might have sat there with Paulette Goddard checking out who was coming in seemed odd, a kind of reaching out he wouldn't admit to. There are no tablecloths, so she could not have gone beneath the table to go down on him as she did with Erich Maria Remarque at El Morocco. But then, that was another era, and a different kind of genius.
I came in at the back, through the parking lot, and approached a fine looking gentleman in bow tie and formal jacket, so assumed he was the maitre d'. Never assume. He was dressed for the People's Choice Awards this evening, but being a good fellow, gave me his arm anyway, his wife following us until he could present me to the actual Maitre d'.
The menu leaves much to be desired-- it was clearly a holdover from a time when nobody was nervous about cholesterol-- filled with steaks and chops and salads that come larded with mayonnaise. But Mr. & Mrs. Gentleman offered me a taste of the famous Flannel Cakes(nobody seemed to know why they are called that-- thin pancakes slopping over the edges of the plate like bedsheets) and they were delicious. I had to send back my crab salad because you couldn't find the fish for the Hellmann's, but enjoyed my martini, drinking it for Bogey, and unable to Porterhouse it that early in the afternoon, though the men at the next table seemed to be enjoying theirs, settled for onion soup by the allegedly French chef. I don't think so.
Back in the parking lot I could see over the rooftop to the Fontenoy on Franklin, the apartment building where I went to my first Hollywood party, for Sal Mineo. He was many years later to be found stabbed in the garage of his apartment building by my friend Joie, whom the police never really questioned. I don't mean Joie was a suspect, I mean the cops weren't really that interested in what had happened to him, what she might have known or seen that could have pointed to his killer. Poor Sal. Even at the party in his honor, I don't remember that many people paying attention to him.(CORRECTION!!!! I just received a call from my friend Tom Korman to say that my facts are WRONG. Tom was Sal's agent and was called by the manager of the apartment on Holloway to identify the body, the killer having been hired by a Texas businessman because Sal had molested his son. Sal had just returned from a rehearsal of P.S. Your Cat is Dead, by Joe Kirkwood, at the Westwood Playhouse. And That's Hollywood.)
Then I drove back to the west of this part of the earth, only to discover my corner gas station, by which I had literally gauged the state of the union(Up 50cents a gallon, etc.) was fenced, and being torn down. Yesterday I mused over whether to stop in an pay the $2.59 a gallon, or wait for the price to go down. The price everywhere else now starts at $2.63. The moral of the story: always stop in to the place you like because it's YOUR neighborhood, and who knows when it's going to change, and you won't have options. The same probably applies to men who pay court, no matter what your grandma said about their being like buses, that another one will come along.