Monday, April 17, 2006

Ghosts in the machine

I haven't done much exploring in the week since I arrived, but even my short walk over to Creative City is steeped in enough history to make me feel a part of the never-ending Hollywood story. Although the current mishmash of architectural styles in and around downtown Los Angeles can be overwhelming and seems to give little deference to the past, vestiges of the golden age remain here and there. Not to be melodramatic about it, but a few ghosts yet linger in a city that seems to pride itself on having no memory and being the place to come to reinvent one's self.

So it was that, walking up La Brea Avenue last week on a 7-Eleven run, I found myself staring up at a giant statue of Kermit the Frog atop some Tudor-style bungalows. I knew the place rang a bell and sure enough, I was unknowingly living behind the offices of The Jim Henson Company. As yet, however, I have not seen Fozzy Bear, Gonzo, or Sweetums wandering around the neighborhood.

But the familiarity was due more, I think, to its first incarnation as The Chaplin Studios, one of the original Hollywood lots. Opened in 1918, by The Little Tramp himself, some of Chaplin's most admired films were shot on the location. It's both humbling and exciting to think I'll be writing yards away from the place where The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator all made. Would that even a touch of Chaplin's genius is still hanging around the lot for me to tap into.

South and west onto Santa Monica Boulevard is the Formosa Cafe, hangout for Hollywood types since 1939. Maybe it doesn't draw the caliber of stars past, but still fun to pass the joint where Officer Bud White calls out Johnny Stompanato in L.A. Confidential. And, bringing everything full circle, the Formosa sits across Formosa Avenue from the former Warner Hollywood Studio.

Now called simply the lot, it was here that Charlie Chaplin would eventually move from his studios on La Brea after joining with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith in 1919 to form United Artists. At this point I only dare to dream that anything I ever do here will endure one hundred years from now. But it is exciting to think, as I pass these places each day, that I might have a chance to contribute to this continuing endeavor of creation.

7 Comments:

  • How's LA treating you?

    By Blogger The Film Diva, at 7:22 PM  

  • Film Diva,

    I'm not sure I've seen enough to know how it's treating me yet. Just focusing on getting my Nicholl submission in shape, then I'll be looking to try and land a reader job somewhere to pay the bills while I get started on my next spec. I have a few potential contacts in the industry that I plan on calling soon as well. But even only a week in, I can say with authority that it is definitely not the East Coast, weather-wise or in any other way. Thanks for asking though :)

    By Blogger Chris, at 7:29 PM  

  • Hey Chris, you made it there before me! 'S alright, though, I'll be out there soon enough.

    Good luck on the Nicholl, chomp at that apple!

    By Blogger writergurl, at 10:22 PM  

  • hey wg,

    come on in, the weather's fine (sunny and 70 this morning). good luck with the move.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11:49 AM  

  • Nicely done. I'm a big fan of Chaplin, and I get a little wide-eyed whenever I see that old studio of his. There are other cool studio buildings hidden all over L.A. For instance, Mabel Normand's old studio is stuck in a residential area just off Sunset in Silver Lake. I love stumbling across all of the old Hollywood history. And if you go to the Formosa, stick to the drinks - the food is strictly bar fly quality.

    By Blogger Warren, at 5:30 PM  

  • Somehow, you had me Kermit.

    By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at 5:24 PM  

  • I had my first LA birthday party at the Formosa, and friends of mine still do parties there. I'll let you know next time I'm there, for sure.

    Thanks for the history lesson, though! I didn't know much of that stuff. :-)

    By Blogger Fun Joel, at 9:33 AM  

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