They come every year, some 3 million-strong, expecting bright lights, movie stars, glamour, and . . . well, you know, HOLLYWOOD. They usually leave disappointed. although tourism studies show that Hollywood -- along with Disneyland -- is on the southern California "must see" list for visitors from around the world, the studies have also shown that for many tourists the birthplace of the movie industry is one of the greatest letdowns.
The problem, locals say, is that despite the communith's legendry status, there is nothing here that is quintessentially Hollywood. Hollywood, in fact, isn't even a real city -- it's just one of the many areas that make up the city of Los Angeles.
There are, of course, things to see around town. Stars can still be glimpsed on "the Boulevard" or is such famous hangouts as the Hollywood Brown Derby. But you've got to be a trained observer: Un- less a star is on hand for a special ceremony, like the dedication of a star in the Hollywood " Walk of Fame," famous faces are almost impossible to pick out from the crowds that mill about the busy streets.
Of course, there are walking tours of hollywood that highlight some of the area's most noteworthy features. And if you're a local-history buff, you might be able to spot places like the Fontenoy Apartment building, where many a star once lived, or the Roosevelt hotel, where the first Academy Awards ceremony was held.
But for reasons that mystify even longtime residents, Hollywood has tended to turn its back on its own history over the years -- the birthplace of a worldwide movie industry which has no roots of its own.
Over the past few years, however, Hollywood has begun to invest in its past, with an eye to developing landmarks as tourist attractions.
This incipient interest can be traced to the battle two years ago to save the Hollywood sign, now being guided by Hollywood Heritage, a historic-preservation group -- the first such group to be established in Hollywood.
The initial project set up by Hollywood heritage was the saving of Hanes House, a Victorian-style structure that was once a private school attended by the children of such Hollywood luminaries as Cecil B. de Mille and Douglas Fairbanks.
The house, built in 1933, stands out along Hollywood Boulevard, where it is surrounded by the stores and movie theaters that have replaced the rest of what was once a residential neighborhood. Under prodding from Hollywood Heritage, the building was recently named a cultural landmark and will eventually become a tourist information center.
A second campaign, being waged under the auspices of the local chamber of commerce, is aimed at saving a 1913 movie studio and renovating it as a museum of the early motion picture industry.
The ramshackle studio, originally on old barn, is the site of the shooting of "The Squaw Man," the first feature-length movie ever made.
At the time the film was being made, half the barn was still used as a horse stable. Legend has it that whenever the horses were watered, Mr, de Mille -- who directed the movie -- was forced to put on galoshes or put his feet in the wastebasket, because the water ran through his office.
Today, the studio stands on stilts in the shadow of the Circular tower which is home to Capitol Records. And although interest in saving the building is growing, it is perhaps indicative of Hollywood's long history of neglecting its own treasures that only $10,000 of the necessary $450,000 has been raised to relocate the old structure.
Only five months are left to save the building from demolition, according to Jack Foreman, vice- president and general manager of Warner-hollywood Studios and leader to the four-month-old campaign.
"It's strange that the industry hasn't embraced this project as one of the most important pieces of architecture in the founding of the movie industry," notes Mr. Foreman, who predicts that just as with the Hollywood sign, it may take a "last minute" drive to save the studio.
Says Marian Gibbons director of Hollywood heritage, "IT's amazing. here we are in land of hype and we don't even hype what we've got."