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Let Hollywood Remain Hollywood

Bruce Herschensohn

I have lived in Los Angeles since the early 1940s. For the past 18 of those years I have lived in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles - I think.

The reason I have to add the words "I think" is because the borders of Hollywood have always been argued. Since I live a couple of doors west of LaBrea Avenue rather than east of LaBrea Avenue, it might mean I don't live in Hollywood. It depends on who you talk to.

There is currently a movement for the secession of Hollywood from Los Angeles, the decision to be made by the voters this coming November. I generally believe that the best government is the one that is closest to the people. That philosophy made me, instinctively, sympathetic to the secession of Hollywood, creating a government much closer to the people of Hollywood than the government of sprawling Los Angeles. Before making up my mind, I requested maps of Hollywood from five different authoritative sources. Not one of them had the same borders, if any, as any of the other four.

I would probably still be for Hollywood's secession if Hollywood was a real city with a defined population. But it isn't. It never has been.

The word "Hollywood" does not define a city but, rather, it's the name of a rainbowed fantasy of laughter and tears and romance and dreams and happy endings. Hollywood is directors and writers and musicians and singers and dancers and actors from Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe to Tom Hanks and Britney Spears - and they rarely lived or live in the geographical entity most people call Hollywood and rarely worked or work in what is considered to be Hollywood.

The artists of Hollywood more often lived and live in Bel Air and Malibu and Westwood and Beverly Hills and Encino and Pacific Palisades and a lot of other places within the city and county of Los Angeles. Even most of the Hollywood movie studios aren't in Hollywood and never have been. The old Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, now Sony Pictures, is in Culver City. The old Twentieth Century Fox is in Century City with a little of it in Beverly Hills. Paramount Pictures and the old Studios of RKO Radio Pictures are probably in Hollywood, but there is some argument about that. Universal Studios are in Studio City. The old Warner Brothers Studio, now called the Burbank Studio, is in Burbank which is where Disney's Studio has always been located. Major television sound stages of ABC are in Glendale, CBS's stages are in Los Angeles proper, NBC is in Burbank, while Fox-TV is in Santa Monica. Even that famous Hollywood sign that towers from a mountaintop over Los Angeles is not in Hollywood.

So who and what would a government of Hollywood govern? And who would vote for that government?

Leave well enough alone. Hollywood gets along extremely well with its Honorary Mayor, Johnny Grant, who captains Hollywood for what it is - a magnificent, distinctive and appealing idea that is becoming as glamorous as its name implies. Within the past few years, the business section of Hollywood Boulevard (which all agree is in Hollywood) has been undergoing a monumental metamorphosis without bureaucratic governing. Johnny Grant and his small "army" is making Hollywood Boulevard into a beautiful spectacle. Grauman's Chinese Theater with its forecourt of handprints and footprints has been renovated to live up to its reputation. The Wall of Fame with its inlaid stars on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard has taken on a significance that identifies the people who created the legend of the Hollywood name. A new and magnificent mall called "Hollywood and Highland" has been constructed in the style of the spectacular set of D.W. Griffith's silent film, "Intolerance."

A movement towards secession and bureaucracy did not come during those decades in which Hollywood Boulevard was rundown without plans for improvement. The movement started only after the boulevard started looking like people imagined Hollywood should look.

Keep the searchlights, keep the sign, keep our Mayor an honorary position whose main qualification for office is keeping and enhancing the legend. That's what we already have. Hollywood is a place with people who have talent, imagination and passion. Can you put strict borders on such characteristics? Of course not. Should dream-makers have a governmental bureaucracy to administer? Not a chance. Those who consider themselves Hollywoodians wouldn't understand one and Hollywood doesn't need one.

That is, unless we want Hollywood to be like any other city. I don't. And my opinion should mean something since I live there - for all I know.

Bruce Herschensohn teaches public policy at Pepperdine University and is a member of the Center for Individual Freedom's Board of Directors.

[Posted June 27, 2002]

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