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, February 5, 2015


I was meeting somebody outside the Hollywood and Western subway station - a fairly unHollywood thing to do.  That's the exterior above, and the interior below.  There have been times when that location has had a bad vibe about it – I’ve been known to refer to it as “disaffected shouty youth corner” since there often seem to be groups of disaffected shouty youth hanging out there. 

On this day things were quiet on the corner itself and although the area isn’t especially pedestrian-friendly there were a lot of people on foot crossing Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, and being the kind of person I am, while I waited I was people-watching, observing the various gaits, postures and walking styles.

And I saw a very tall, thin, elegant, black-haired woman walking across the street.  She was striking rather than pretty or glamorous, and obviously eye-catching since my eye was definitely caught.  She was wearing very high heels and when she got closer I saw that the tops of her feet were heavily tattooed.  I accept that there are evils lurking in the male gaze, but I am only flesh and blood, and I did find myself gazing.

She obviously noticed me looking, and she looked back, and it was a strange look, very encouraging in a way but somehow I wasn’t encouraged.  It just wasn’t the kind of look  that women use to look back at men, even at men they like.  And I thought, rightly or wrongly, oh no, she’s a professional, my male gaze has been attracted by the promise of commercial sex.  Perhaps not every man on Hollywood Boulevard would have averted his eyes, but I did. 

By now she was fairly close to where I was standing and I looked up again and suddenly saw, and I suppose I could have been wrong again, but I really don’t think I was, that this was actually a dude

My change of assessment from striking woman, to female prostitute to male prostitute had been amazingly swift.  And I couldn’t say that this kind of thing ONLY happens in Hollywood, but it did seem to be the kind of thing that people EXPECT to happen in Hollywood. 

Fans of walking and Hollywood movies may also be aware that in Spike Jonze’s Her Joaquin Phoenix (that’s his back, above) finds the Hollywood and Western subway stop very convenient for the beach, which in reality is some twenty odd miles away, and not currently served by the subway.  Ah, the magic of the movies.

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