Rob's Amazing Day on Hollywood Boulevard (Flashback to 1992)
Updated: Mar 25
This is sort of how I remember my adventures on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
Like many young people, I moved to California looking for a new start. I was too stupid to realize it was probably a bad idea. (I was 21, I knew everything!) The desire was too great to deny and I figured if I didn't do it, I never would
I didn't move to Hollywood. No. I moved to Hemet, California. I had a job awaiting me at my uncle's factory making parts for different audio and video components- the tops for big screen TVs (which were giant beasts in '92!), speaker boxes, and the like.
It wasn't a dream job, but it was work. I worked hard to keep up with my non-English speaking co-workers, who were all really great. One day my uncle took me to the side to say that the one guy on the crew who spoke a little English told him I was the first "white guy" he'd ever hired that could keep up with them and didn't piss them off. Whether he was on the level or just buttering up the boss, I'll never know, but I was always proud of that.
I worked the factory during the week, and my weekends were free to wander. Hemet was just a hop, skip and a jump away from Hollywood. (I remember it as being about an hour drive. Maybe an hour and twenty minutes.)
The first time I got to Hollywood Boulevard, it was magic. I felt like I knew the place, if only from the movies. I arrived early in the morning and planned to stay until I was done.
For a kid from the south, Hollywood Boulevard was a different world. I'm sure I looked like a rube and that's okay because I wasn't the only rube that day. I was amazed to see this world really existed.
I parked my car at the Capital Records building with little concern. I was adamant not to pay for parking. My journey began.
The specifics are long lost to me, but I have recollections of going into so many book and collector shops I couldn't believe such places were real. Just like the places Eric Binford frequented in Fade to Black! One after another.
The best of the best, for me, was Hollywood Book & Poster. It was a legendary place and I'd been seeing it mentioned in many books (particularly by Chas. Balun) as the source for the pictures among the text.
This was the only picture I could find of how I remember Hollywood Book & Poster Co. Copyright Getty Images/Jim Steinfieldt
Have you ever gone into a place that you've never been to before, and you instantly feel at home? You have the overwhelming sensation that you belong? That's how I felt inside Hollywood Book & Poster. I walked in and suddenly there are shelves of impossible to find VHS tapes, zines I'd only ever heard about and posters. Dear god, the posters and stills and lobby cards. I spent probably hours going through everything, pulling out stuff for my collection. I don't really know how long I was in there, but I'm sure there were others who were in there a lot longer than I was. (Takashi Miike's scene from Hostel comes to mind: "Be careful, you could spend all your money in there.")
I visited more book and posters stores that day. In fact, I think I visited all of them. I grew up buying books at B. Dalton and Walden Books, and occasionally Northgate Mall in Chattanooga hosted a "collector's weekend" where I bought movie posters and materials, but nothing like this. My mind was blown that there were business in the world that sold these wares with regular hours, every day of the week.
At some point I'm sure I got hungry. I seem to remember an Arby's. I'm sure there were better places to eat, but I never considered checking out any of the exotic eateries (ie- not Arby's) the Boulevard offered that day.
By mid-day, I had visited my car a couple times to drop off the various stuff I bought. I must have walked ten miles that day, but I was 21 so it was no big deal. I found a theater showing a movie I had read about in Fangoria- Highway to Hell.
If you haven't seen this totally bonkers road movie to hell you should. It's the only movie I can think of that features Gilbert Gottfried as Hitler.
I don't remember what the the name of the theater was, but I swear Candice Rialson walks past it in the opening credits of Hollywood Boulevard. (I believe there is a Jaws poster on display when she walks by.) Anyone know what theater that is/was?
In the early '90s, the movie theaters in Hunstville, Alabama had stopped showing the low budget, independent fare, in favor of filling their screens with just the big studio pictures. (Little has changed since.) So the opportunity to see what was basically a released-to-video movie on the big screen was pretty spectacular. I enjoyed a Coke and popcorn. It mixed well with the Arby's.
Later in the day, a stretched limo made its way down the boulevard. The back window was rolled down and Little Richard was waving and calling out at the surrounding crowds.
If memory serves, I explored the adjoining streets, but the specifics are lost to time. I found Thomas Suriya's magnificent You Are the Star mural at 6438 Hollywood Boulevard. I was in awe of it, and stood soaking it in for a long time. This is true movie magic. (I remember thinking that I should get a photo, because no one back home would understand the scope of how grand it was if I tried to describe it, but I never did. This was a good deal before we carried cell phone/camera/computers around in our back pocket. I regret not taking any pictures that day.)
I ended up staying all day. Part of the reason was to catch a triple feature of Blood Eaters, Re-Animator, and The Bride of Re-Animator. It was a hold over show from the previous night's Friday the 13th triple feature sponsored by Hollywood Book & Poster. From the moment I saw the flyer taped to the register in the shop, I knew I was going to stay all day until the show, which started around 8:00pm. (I think I arrived that morning around 9:30am.) This puts my historic visit to Hollywood Boulevard as Saturday March 14, 1992. (I think I had been in California all of two weeks at that point. My entire stay lasted two months.)
Johnny Legend, a guy I was familiar with from some writings in Fangoria and his zombie appearance in The Bride of Re-Animator, hosted the show. I ended up meeting him between films in the bathroom. No handshake, no conversation, just a quick acknowledgement that I was enjoying the hell out of the show. He seemed cool. (He later misspelled my name on an autograph at a Fangoria show. To his credit, he offered to give me a different one but I thought it was funny. He went on to make the accidental second "B" he put in Rob into something, I don't know what, but it's original artwork to be sure.)
I kind of remember that theater as being run down and what I would consider the closest I ever got to an authentic "grindhouse." The seats were ratty and stained. There were smells beyond the popcorn in the air. It seemed a bit scummy, seedy. I loved it.
For decades I have always believed it was the Egyptian theater. I don't know. Again, there are no pictures to confirm or deny this belief. I've seen pictures of the Egyptian and it seems a lot grander than I remember. What I remember was that it was not a huge "movie palace." It faced the boulevard. It had a marquee and old fashioned box office to the left of the entrance. (This is how I see it in my mind.) It seemed to be on the farthest end of Hollywood Boulevard, like I walked ten or fifteen blocks from the Chinese Theater before I got to it. If this jumbled memory makes enough sense for anyone to identify the theater I'm talking about, please let me know. I will go to my grave thinking this was the Egyptian.
This is kind of what I remember, but I thought it was a twin theater, not a triple.
Johnny Legend came out to greet us and fire up some previews. The screen filled with the Disney logo to uproarious cheers. I settled in with candy, popcorn and soda (I wish I could say I eat better now but... old habits and all) for a coming attraction pre-show of Harry Novak corn-pone softcore comedies. (The Pigkeeper's Daughter, Country Cuzzins, Midnight Plowboy.)
Although softcore, these were the most explicit scenes I'd ever seen projected on a movie screen. I wasn't yet hip to Novak's body of work and for a brief moment I thought I'd wandered into the wrong theater. (I seem to remember a couple of these films were playing on the theater's other screen.)
There was a decent crowd for the first movie, Blood Eaters. This is that junky but fun, shot in Pittsburgh toxic zombie movie about the pot farmers sprayed with an experimental herbicide that turns them into scab-faced zomboids. It's dumb but I always enjoyed it. The crowd, however, tore it to pieces. I had been to plenty of movies where people shouted and screamed through a movie, but never a movie where people yelled such mean shit at the screen. Most of it directed at the special needs character in the film (who was not played by a special needs actor). The crowd was more entertaining than the movie! (They were just getting ready for the main event.)
More people arrived for Re-Animator and none of us shut up from the time it started until it ended. We hooted and hollered and had a great time. Although the final flick in the lineup did not start until almost midnight (as I remember) most everyone stuck around for it. (There was no way I was going to miss my opportunity to watch these flicks on the big screen just because I was getting tired and I had at least an hour drive ahead of me.)
When it was over, I remember the long walk back to my car, from what I believe to be the Egyptian theater back to the Capital Records building. It was well past one in the morning, if not two, and I was walking up Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday night. It was wonderful.
All day I watched people move up and down the Hollywood Stars, some careful not to trod upon, but most were of no concern. There were so many people, of all nationalities, of all ages. Now I walked, relatively alone. It was not like any of the movies I grew up watching (I'm talking stuff like Hollywood Vice Squad and Angel, where the Boulevard was an all night freak-o-rama filled with maniacal drug dealers, avenging prostitutes and psychos searching for their next victim.) Not at all. I was surprised. Part of me was a little disappointed. (I mean I expected to leave the theater to trek back across crowded sidewalks.)
Ultimately, it was pretty outstanding. It was one of the best days of my life. Everything, for one magnificent day, made sense. I was in a world where I felt I belonged.
I visited Hollywood Boulevard many times after this before I tucked my tail between my legs and headed back to Huntsville. (I've not been back in alost thirty years.) I loved every minute. (Except that time on April 29th, when I was buying Friday the 13th posters, and the employees of the shop started boarding up the front windows. They told me to be careful, that people were rioting and burning buildings because of the Rodney King verdict. I consider that my "Escape from Hollywood" story. It took me three hours to get out of the city, and the sky darkened with smoke the entire drive.)
This is just one of the many experiences that has shaped my life. This was a day long celebration of my love of cinema.
Not the day I went, but sort of how I remember it.
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