Tourist Hell — Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles


Here’s the first post in a series about locations around the world that attract goofball tourists and where the locals avoid at all costs.

Los Angeles is a damn fine city of the world despite having to drive everywhere, absence of public transportation, dearth of decent or free parking, stifling traffic, lack of water and the annoyance of everybody thinking they are famous. Let’s just say if you meet a local who says they are an actor/actress, slowly back away.

This brings me to Hollywood Blvd., home of the Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood & Highland Mall and Jimmy Kimmel Live studios. Nobody in their right mind should spend more than a hour there. I was stupid enough to spend five hours there last year so I can see a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live. The amount of boredom generated from that will haunt the rest of my days.

Back in the 40s and 50s, it’s where all of the glamorous Hollywood premieres would take place. It’s the classic golden age stereotype of Hollywood. Then the 60s came and wiped that clean with homelessness, sketchiness and all-around seedy atmosphere. Then in 70s-80s, it was a dangerous to be there at night. Picture Axel Rose getting off the bus in the “Welcome to the Jungle” video.

Then came the Times Squaring of the area with the big mall and the new home of the Academy Awards, the Kodak Theater (now Dolby). Then came the big clothing chains like Gap, H&M and Zara and chain restaurants like Baja Fresh, Starbucks and Hooters. Now, the biggest risk you face on Hollywood Blvd. is getting harassed by the various costume characters.

yodaThose superhero costumes character in Los Angeles is what started the global trend of tourist areas and costume characters. Times Square is riddled with them. I’ve seen a Star Wars stormtrooper parade for tips at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. At Plaza Mayor in Madrid, I’ve seen the creepiest looking Yoda in the square. As you see in the photo, it’s a cross between Yoda and the Elephant Man. Then there’s Paris and Barcelona, you get the picture.

The Los Angeles myth of stardom is best represented by these costumed characters. They came to L.A. to be an actor or work in the movie business. Failure greets them at every opportunity. After a few years, it’s either give up to have a normal 9-5 job at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or walk up and down Hollywood Blvd in a Spongebob Squarepants outfit and harass tourists for a dollar to take their picture.

While it seems like harmless fun, it’s a step above homelessness. The sheer amount of characters is impressive, but sad. L.A. photographer Nicolas Silberfaden shot a series on these folks, where he had them cry. The same Superman I saw in 2006 is still there in 2014. It’s also a normal occurrence where the superheroes throw punches at each other or are arrested for groping tourists.

Which brings me to an whole afternoon in April I spent there. I’m a huge Jimmy Kimmel fan going back to the Man Show days. I saw a taping of JKL in 2006 and wanted to do it again because the show is more popular then ever. I got a ticket well in advance, then found out the week before that Katy Perry, Billy Bob Thorton are Chromeo would be the guests. Now, a ticket doesn’t guarantee you a seat at the show, so best to get there early.

The instructions stated that they start letting people in at 4:45pm. Okay, I’ll get there after lunch at 1pm at the nearby In-and-Out to see if there’s a line forming. Katy Perry fans are bonkers and they tend to camp out wherever she goes. I could care less about her but I want to go for Kimmel’s comedy. 1pm — nothing, no line, not even ropes to form a line.

suzanne summersI start walking up and down Hollywood Blvd. to stare at the ground. There’s Roy Rogers, Regis Philbin, Merv Griffin, Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers. Then there’s the hand imprints in front of the theater where the superheores normally congregate. R2-D2, C-3PO, Arnold Schwarzenegger, you name it. The thrill factor ranks somewhere between seeing an amusing billboard and finding a $1 coin on the ground.

It’s 1:45. Still no line. I went to Hooters a couple of doors down and paid $6 for a PBR. More impressive than the price of crappy beer was that I nursed it for 30 minutes. You go through that routine of checking social media and reading websites that you last read an hour ago.

Now it’s 2:30. I went back outside. Still no line. There was no way I going to the mall or walking up and down again to see if I can find Captain Kangaroo’s star. I walked a half mile down the street to the Pig ‘N’ Whistle, establish in 1927 and considered a historic landmark where Hollywood stars would drink back in the day. Now the menu is generic as well as their tap list. I order a Guinness and chat with the surfer chick bartender who doesn’t know anything about movies or music.

At 3:30, there’s 3 people starting a semi-line in front of the JKL studios. Okay! Let’s have some standing in-line fun, which means checking my phone again for 100th time in the afternoon. The previous time I was there, a guy with a boombox went up and down the line and free-styled. He wasn’t there this time.

So the end result of this, there’s no reason to be at Hollywood Blvd. for more than 45 minutes. Get in, take a few pictures and get the heck out.

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