Mann's Chinese Theatre
Hollywood is famous for many things, but reverence for the written word is not one of them. Its entertainments are, by definition literal, without being literary: most brutally, in a recent case, by removing the Wonder from Alice in Wonderland by making it “underland.” Because it’s underground you see, and Hollywood wouldn’t want you to be confused or, heaven forfend, be left wondering.
It’s strange then, that two of the most visited sites in Hollywood aren’t just word based, they’re literally just words – the Hollywood sign, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As someone who works with words for a living, I don’t want to discourage this, but I couldn’t help but be curious about the appeal. The sign is not particularly distinguished – an unadorned font, plain white, running across the crest of some unspectacular mountains, it looks like what it originally was: a real-estate billboard.
As to the Walk, what precisely is the difference between seeing the words “Harrison Ford” on gum-encrusted brass plaque on the sidewalk upon which the multimillionaire actor may never have trod, and seeing it on the credits of one of his movies which he actually had something to do with or, say, dropped arbitrarily in a curmudgeonly blog post?
My experience of the Walk didn’t illuminate matters for me. There were a lot of names – not all of which I recognized, and none of which got my blood pumping. Some that I observed weren’t even real people: like Big Bird, The Simpsons, or John Tesh.
Yet, the sidewalks were crowded with people taking photos of people’s names, squealing with excitement when they happened upon a particularly famous one. I wondered if there was a market in simply charging people five bucks for their people their favorite celebrity’s name printed on a Post-It note – it would be somewhat more tangible, after all.
As I cynically pondered this, the experience, suddenly, though perhaps inevitably, became what the cool kids might call meta-textual, when I stumbled across this star:
Anne Shirley is, as my Canadian readers will know, the heroine of the Lucy Maude Mongomery “Anne of Green Gables” novels. The first book was made into a film in 1934 and a rising young actress, born Dawn Paris.* was cast in the part. Apparently unafraid of being typecast, she adopted Montgomery’s creation’s name as her own, and spent the rest of her career as Anne Shirley. And here I was, taking a photo of the not-name of a starlet who'd been in a movie that had taken its story from a book – whose main character would have been preferred have been called Cordelia.
We’re through the rabbit hole people. Into
* Before adopting Anne Shirley as a stage name, Dawn Paris performed under thoroughly awesome stage name of “Dawn O’Day."