Revival for a 100-year starlet
HOLLYWOOD is 100 years old on Sunday, and the city that lives and breathes hype isn't even breaking stride for the festivities. An entire year of star-studded celebrations is planned: It began with last week's Super Bowl halftime show and includes TV specials, sports events, and parties. So what else is new?Skip to next paragraph
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What's new might just be that through the shower of confetti, Hollywood really does have a reason to toot its horn.
``Three years ago we couldn't get a big-name celebrity to come in here and accept a bronze star on the Walk of Fame,'' says Johnny Grant, honorary ``mayor'' of Hollywood. ``Now, I'm being blasted again about why every so-and-so hasn't been approved yet.''
Hollywood, the glamour queen that emerged from the '60s looking more like an abandoned starlet, has been back at the makeup table. And for the first time in years, perhaps since its heyday in the '30s and '40s, the changeover has as much substance as style.
``I thought to myself, where has the town gone?'' says Marian Gibbons, who grew up near Hollywood (which is a part of Los Angeles), left there from 1950 to 1978, and returned to what she calls ``demolition by neglect. It was a disaster area, so run down with transients and abandoned buildings you feared for your life to walk down the street.''
A supporter of national historic movements nationwide, Ms. Gibbons went in search of the local preservation committee - and found there wasn't one. In 1980, she formed Hollywood Heritage, a group of volunteers that worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce in getting key historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. In addition, one whole strip of town, Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea, was designated a National Historic District.
The result has not only been a domino effect in bringing millions in private restoration dollars back into town, but also new development money and an entire change in attitude about how the town sees itself.
``The stars are moving back; the prostitutes and druggies are moving out; the real estate developers are eager to grab up land,'' says Mr. Grant. ``We're not out of the woods yet, but now I can put on a good, clean - and safe - parade with the whole nation watching. And people can see there's no reason to fear Hollywood anymore.''
``I've been searching around the country for years for the ideal house,'' says Ken Kercheval, star of TV's ``Dallas'' series. He and wife, Eva, recently purchased the Dolores Del Rio Mansion in Hollywood Hills and restored the Mexican-style hacienda to its 1927 grandeur. ``The old houses of Hollywood are still among the best anywhere in Los Angeles,'' Mr. Kercheval says.
A host of economic development projects is in the wings - chief among them a nearly $1 billion community rehab over 30 years. Many famous landmarks have been saved, including the Hollywood Congregational Church, the Hollywood Athletic Club, and the Roosevelt Hotel. Key groups such as the Screen Actors Guild have been convinced to keep headquarters in town.
Behind the new influx of development is a change in attitude, a civic pride in the community of today and a near-parental pursuit to preserve the pride of yesterday. There are now four museums to enshrine the halcyon days of Hollywood.
``There has been a definite turnaround,'' says Bruce Torrence, author of ``Hollywood: The First 100 Years.'' ``When the community stood up and said, `We're going to take care of our house and preserve our history,' investors took notice.''