Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL 2010: The Hollywood Walk of Fame

Emerging from L.A.'s Redline station at Hollywood/Highland, I was reminded of Joseph Campbell's introductory comment to his classic study of the monomyth Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949:4): "In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream. The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change."

Granted, Campbell was speaking of an intraspychic articulation of that archetypal (i.e., mythic) impulse—which, it could be argued, in contemporary psyches finds its flickering expression in cinematic dreams—whereas emerging onto the
Hollywood Walk of Fame is an almost painful reminder of how Hollywood's Dream Factory has commodified not only our dreams but their mythic antecedents as well: externalizing and commercializing these mythic desires into a crass, if not hypnotic, cult of celebrity.

That's an observation more than a criticism as I—no less than any other tourist—couldn't resist glossing the stars embedded in the pavement though—slightly more privileged than most for the opportunity to meet talent—I felt no need to squat by the stars of my favorite cinema icons to have my photo taken, as if to simulate having my arm around their shoulder in feigned camaraderie. That, however, seemed the presiding recreation of the throngs on Hollywood Boulevard, along with passing coin to have their photograph taken with the costumed impersonations of Mary Poppins, Tinkerbell, Batman, Catwoman, the Predator, Spongebob Squarepants, the Mario Brothers, Wolverine, Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson, and the oldest, most haggard Marilyn Monroe I've ever seen in my life. We all want to rub up against the stars and walk away with a bit of their shine. We all crave our moment of luminescence.

As Leron Gubler has written in his essay on the Walk of Fame for the TCM Classic Film Festival souvenir catalog, no one is really certain where the original idea for the Walk of Fame came from; possibly from the historic Hollywood Hotel where stars painted on the ceiling of the dining room contained the names of celebrities. Demoted from the celestial to underfoot, these stars nonetheless radiate glamour, even as one considers all the practical complications of who gets selected to have their names on the Walk of Fame (Charlie Chaplin's estate sued for not being included in the inaugural set) and when (during the TCM festival Mel Brooks finally received his long overdue tribute), let alone who determines where the star is situated (wouldn't you rather be in front of Grauman's or the Roosevelt Hotel than Fredericks of Hollywood?). And like a starstruck teenager, who doesn't fantasize upon the empty stars waiting for a name?

Perhaps the closest I will ever come to such stature was the experience afforded by the
TCM Classic Film Festival of walking the red carpet into the opening night premiere of the restored version of George Cukor's A Star Is Born (1954). TCM graciously comped me two tickets to the opening night premiere (otherwise off limits to press) so that I was able to phone my host Miljenko Skoknik to invite him to accompany me. He arrived looking like a movie star: ravishingly handsome in cobalt blue pants, a camel hair jacket, grey sweater and stylish shades. I was put to shame. As we walked into Grauman's Chinese Theater, it amused me that autograph hounds were pressing against the barricades. One woman I spoke to later in the festival stated emphatically that there was something "not right" about "nobodies" walking the red carpet; but, I appreciated the experience of this hierarchy of nobodies: nobodies walking the carpet and nobodies clamoring for their autographs. Irregardless, at least I can say it once in my lifetime: I walked the red carpet into a Grauman's Chinese Theatre premiere!

Inside was another matter altogether as that prestige crowd was peppered with the likes of Cher, Eve Marie Saint, Hugh Hefner, Alec Baldwin, Tab Hunter, Ernest Borgnine, Anjelica Huston, Peter Bogdonovich, among many others, including all those boys and girls from TV movies. For a moment I shared that sense of belonging. And I'm sure I overheard Cher whispering to her companion, "Who is that man in the cobalt blue pants and who is he with?"

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Peter Nellhaus said...

Obviously Cher knows a star when she sees one. (The guy with the guy in the blue pants.)

Michael Guillen said...


PortlyDyke said...

"the oldest, most haggard Marilyn Monroe I've ever seen in my life."

Such an image!

All I remember of the Walk of Fame is that I was struck by how tiny John Wayne's boot-prints were.

Carol S