As I stroll down Hollywood Boulevard on a bright October day toward Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, I hear a man’s voice call out.
“Hey Cap! Hey, Captain America!”
When I look up, I see a father excitedly pointing out a figure fifteen feet down the road to his young son. The figure, waving to the hundreds and hundreds of ambitious tourists, hoping to get lucky and glimpse a celebrity, is certainly dressed as Captain America – to a point. He wears the blue suit, with a mask that bears an “A” on his forehead and a shield to boot. But he’s not Chris Evans, the six-foot-tall, muscular actor who portrays Steve Rodgers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s a five-foot-something, out of shape man in his 40s sporting a beer belly and a poorly made Halloween costume.
I smirk a little bit to myself, shake my head, and continue down the street. I’ve already had four Scientologists try to hand me pamphlets. I don’t need to be hassled by anyone else.
When I turn on to Hollywood Boulevard, I don’t jump out of my socks with excitement. I don’t look upon the center of the entertainment industry with a sense of awe, wonder, and reverence. I see Times Square without the skyscrapers, without the neon billboards and advertisements, and with a plethora of Ubers and Lyfts instead of yellow taxicabs. I see a street full of people trying to sell you something – a tour, a mixtape, a personality test. I see a street full of people merely looking to take advantage of you.
Sure, there are parts of Hollywood Boulevard that display that sense of wonder and awe Hollywood itself wants you to believe in. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre itself functions as such a pivotal part of cinema history and played host to the first Academy Awards. The cement handprints, footprints, and signatures of yesterday’s stars in front of the theater breathe life back to the earliest days of the movie industry. Shirley Temple made her mark in front of the Chinese Theatre in 1935 when she was just seven years old. Surely, she didn’t know she would become part of the American entertainment mythos when she placed her hands and feet in the wet cement -but all the same, there are her footprints, there are her handprints, and here am I.
The actual entertainment-focused features of Hollywood Boulevard aren’t my problem with the street. It’s great to see the stars of some actors, directors, and musicians whose work I admire, though it can be a little underwhelming to realize people walk directly over them.
It’s the tourist traps, the poorly-made costumes, and Scientologists handing out pamphlets, waiting to prey on an unsuspecting passerby with their “personality test”. It’s the Museum of Illusions, which portrays itself as “the premier place to enjoy 3D optical illusion in Los Angeles”. In reality, it’s a building full of forced-perspective art pieces that, while interesting, are only good for about thirty minutes of photo taking for a fun keepsake. If you live, work, or go to school in Hollywood – or Los Angeles in general – you don’t need Hollywood Boulevard, and the street doesn’t really need you, either.
If you’re here for the only time in your life, though, it’s twenty dollars well spent.