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Beats and Rhymes: Hollywood

Hollywood is a loaded word with many meanings. There's Hollywood the district of Los Angeles, Hollywood the movie industry, some use Hollywood to describe all of Southern California, some use the word to describe someone who's become too "Hollywood." I'm not the first to say this.

Over the last 15 years more than $1 billion dollars in redevelopment has occurred on Hollywood Boulevard. The dirt road once called Prospect Avenue began as a landscape of strawberry fields, lemon groves and pepper trees. The name changed to Hollywood Boulevard a little more than a century ago. I have been giving walking tours on this famed street since 2005.

Underneath the obvious streetscape of decadent neon and tourist traps, there are several architectural gems on the Boulevard near Graumans Chinese and the Dolby Theater. Disney's El Capitan across the street is one of the best preserved 1920s movie palace in America; it was designed by the famed firm Morgan, Walls & Clements in 1926, architects of the Wiltern, Mayan and countless other epic L.A. structures. The luminous gold leaf ceiling and authentic Wurlitzer organ make the theater a museum quality restoration. The ancient Greek playwrights & Shakespeare are hand-carved on the top facade. Jimmy Kimmel is filmed next door in the former Masonry built in 1921.

The poured concrete skyscraper on the northeast corner of Hollywood & Highland is a mix of gothic and art deco; Copernicus and Columbus are etched below gargoyles. The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard near Las Palmas was built in 1922, five years before the Chinese. A mural of Frank Sinatra is seen next to Micellis across the street. This poem and recording explores Hollywood's comic incongruities.

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Hollywood


Hooray for Hollywood!
That's ENTERTAINMENT!
There's Hollywood the industry
and Hollywood the neighborhood.
One word conjures up endless implications
And the furthest reaches of your imagination..
Ranging from sleazy city blocks to Fortune 500 corporations,
titillating images and the lost generation..
One hit wonders, B-Movie actors
personal assistants & executive mistresses..
Stunt men, Kung-fu fighters..Fly-by-nighters & vampires..
Liar! Liar! You won't find your church choir in Hollywood..
On a late night you might see a Mr. T look-alike at Popeye's Chicken,
Rock & roll gypsies kick it at the Whisky.
Hollywood's underbelly is populated by Two-bit hustlers,
pimps and runaway gutter punks..
Most of the residents of the real Hollywood
are invisible immigrants, living in Thai Town and Little Armenia
amidst sweet and sour carne asada, fried rice and falafels..
Tattoo Parlors, Strip Clubs & Wig Shops..
From well written plots to seductive sexpots,
Apartment blocks to mansion hilltops,
If you connect the dots it all spells Hollywood..

Young actors hang in the bars off Cahuenga,
shot callers & executives live up in the hills by Mulholland,
Blue collar teamsters run behind the scenes,
Harley Davidson's, Flannels & Jeans..
Come to Where everybody's a producer&
the only thing that matters is who's hot & who's not,
status shots portfolio, perpetrating ego..
Quest for that pot of gold @ the end of the Rainbow,
Work those angles & You just might get yours..
Be sure to bring the tools of the trade:
Headshots, Screenplay & a resume..
Not everybody does it for the craft..
You can maintain your integrity or lose your identity
When you get to the crossroads,
Hang onto Your soul, Amidst the groupies, cocaine & Rock & Roll..
James Dean & Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix & Mae West,
Frank Sinatra & Dorothy Dandridge..
Raging Bulls & Easy Riders, Rudolph Valentino to Leonardo Dicaprio..
On the Walk of Fame there are too many names,
between those who succeeded & suffered in vain..
Hollywood created Vegas & The people match the furniture..
Narcissistic stars floss cars,
amidst the glamour & glitz of the Sunset Strip..
Hollywood extends far beyond its Physical district..
Worldwide from Harry Potter to the Godfather..
Hollywood is an umbrella unto itself,
The sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard..
Rossmore becomes Vine,
on some days you can see the Hollywood sign..
And if you drive thru Hollywood,
You'll see bright lights above transvestites,
Celebrities eating outside,
grifters looking glassy-eyed..
Heaven & hell collide, it's one helluva ride,
"Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore,"
Revisiting Hollywood lore with a whole new twist,
Cecil B. Demille wouldn't know what hit him.
Hollywood's World of entertainment
is the American dream's ultimate painting..
it's both brilliant & tragic like Michael Jackson..
Hollywood is a myth built by madness & magic..
If you connect all the dots it all spells Hollywood.


Top: El Capitan Theater interior. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

About the Author

Third-generation Angeleno Mike "The Poet" Sonksen is a poet, journalist, historian, tour guide, and teacher.
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