Travel – Los Angeles: Hollywood 5
Ignore the ‘Best Dad’ plastic Oscars from the souvenir stores and head further east on the Gothy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard to find the dwindling few specialist stores that haven’t yet been transformed into tattoo parlours. Here you can browse for the most obscure cinema books, rare magazine back issues, classic movie posters and priceless novelties – where else could you have bought a plastic figure of Vincent Price in The Raven? I suspect this is already on the verge of becoming history.
Nothing, is sacred. The Hollywood Star Lanes bowling alley, where the Dude and his crew hung out in The Big Lebowski, stood at 5227 Santa Monica Boulevard until 2002 when it was torn down to make way for a school.
Before the movies arrived, Hollywood Boulevard was known as Prospect Avenue, a street of elegant houses, only one of which – the Jane House – survives, set back at number 6541 Hollywood Boulevard. For many years this housed the Hollywood Visitor Center, but subsequently became a restaurant – Jane’s House – though this now seems to have closed.
The Las Palmas Hotel, 1738 Las Palmas Avenue, north of this less than glamorous stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, is where smitten businessman Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) climbs the fire escape to the strains of La Traviata at the end of Pretty Woman. The hotel itself gets mixed reviews (it is a budget hotel after all), but be aware that that, after dark, this is not a part of town from which you'll be posting pics of your romantic nighttime stroll.
On Sunday mornings, you might be surprised to discover that Ivar and Selma Avenues host an extensive Farmers’ Market, between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Apart from excellent organic produce, live music and food stalls, there’s always the chance you might be offered tickets to a preview screening – if you swear you’re nothing to do with the movie industry.
Attending a preview (your chance to alter film history by suggesting a happy ending or a gratuitous nude scene) can feel a little like sitting an exam, with a surprisingly detailed questionnaire following the feature. Everyone in the audience is obliged to swear they have no connection with the film business so, once inside, you may be surprised at the number of people offering critiques of each other’s scripts or boasting of the little ‘inserts of Leo’ they did for ‘Marty’.
South down Las Palmas brings you to Miceli’s, 1646 Las Palmas Avenue. From the bursts of flame in the open kitchen, forest of dangling Chianti bottles and full-throated operatic waiters, the whole theatrical experience has seen Miceli’s thrive long enough to lay claim to be Hollywood’s oldest Italian restaurant.
Though Ben lives in the Valley and is supposedly a little short of cash, this doesn’t seem to stop him from frequenting Hollywood hangouts. A couple of doors south of Miceli’s, you might recognise the lower-case 'e' of now-closed Element, 1642 Las Palmas Avenue, as the exterior of the club where Ben and Alison meet up in the first place.