Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


GarryWinogrand, Hollywood Boulevard, 1969, Estate of Garry Winogrand

 Sometimes I wonder what visitors from the future, or possibly from another planet, who arrived in a ruined Hollywood would make of the stars, names, and metallic symbols set in concrete in the sidewalks along the Hollywood Walk of Fame?  It think it’s fair to imagine that these visitors wouldn’t recognize the names in the stars: some of them are unknown to all but the most dedicated film buff even now.  But assuming they did recognize them as the names of the people, would they think these slabs were memorials to our heroes and heroines?

     Or might they think the opposite, that these were the people we held in special contempt, so much so that we walked on their very names, spat on them, spilled food on them, let our dogs (and occasionally our citizens) urinate all over them?  Is it even possible that they’d think these sidewalk slabs were actually gravestones; that James Brown, Myrna Loy, Matt Groening et al were actually buried under the sidewalk?  Actually that idea wouldn’t last very long at all.  Some of these “gravestones” are already in a state of considerable ruin.  You can see there’s no grave, no body under there.

I walk along Hollywood and Vine fairly often, and usually I don’t even see the Walk of Fame stars anymore, but just lately I’ve been noticing what bad shape some of the slabs are in.  I was there a couple of days ago and decided to take note.  Many had gouges, stains and scratches, of course, and there was the odd one with a missing letter or two. 

Tallulah Bankhead was looking a bit rough around the edges, but certainly she was holding up better than Ava Gardner who had a large crack across her middle, and it looked as though there had been some ham-fisted attempts at restoring her.

 Michael Langdon seemed to be just falling apart:

And Elliott Dexter was looking even worse, though I admit I had no idea who Elliott Dexter was till I got home and looked him up: silent movie actor, star of The Squaw Man and Flaming Youth,  made his last movie in 1925.

But worst of all, so much the worst, right at the southern end of the Walk, where Vine Street meets Sunset Boulevard, there was this melancholy item:

You can just about read the first half of his name “Franklin,” and the rest has been removed and replaced by a dollop of tarmac.  A little further research reveals that this is the star of Franklin Pangborn, a successful comedy character actor in his day, who appeared with WC Fields in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break which I know I’ve seen, though not recently, and also, satisfyingly, he appeared in the movie Hollywood and Vine, directed by Alexis Thurn-Taxis (it’s about a dog who becomes a star).  I’d say Franklin Pangborn deserved better.  I’d say just about anybody deserves better.

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