Start at Hollywood/Highland Station
End at Hollywood/Vine Metro Station
Distance: 0.8 miles (station to station with no side trips)
This segment of our Red Line Walks is a rich walk down memory lane. This was a challenging one to write as I had to make some hard decisions on what to include and what to cut. This stretch of the Boulevard is densely packed with Hollywood history and there is no way to cover all of it in just one post. As Beverly and I argued over what to keep and what to toss, I finally decided that since this segment is actually our very own neighborhood, I’d write about those special places that catch the eye of a veteran Hollywood tour guide no matter how many times I pass by.
When you emerge from the Hollywood/Highland Metro station you’re greeted with the atmosphere of a carnival. Dancers, musicians, costumed characters and retail kiosks abound. The street is lined in both directions with Walk of Fame stars from La Brea to Gower and you can look up your favorite stars using this Walk of Fame directory.
While your final destination (Hollywood/Vine station) is to the left/east if you haven’t been to the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, go! Opened in 1927, the theatre is perhaps best known for its the celebrity hand and foot prints preserved in cement. To make your way to the theater travel right/west from the Metro station winding your way through the dense crowds. Just a few hundred feet on your right is the Dolby Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards. As you make your way through the crowd keep your eye on the costumed characters and hustlers trying to force you into buying their photos and CDs. While getting your picture taken with a Batman or Edward Scissor Hand look-a-like can be a fun Hollywood souvenir, don’t let them intimidate you into getting a picture and be sure to agree on a price up front (the average is a dollar a person).
Once you’ve made it through the throngs to the Chinese Theatre find your favorite celebrity hand/footprints and consider taking a tour inside. Or better yet, catch a movie in this iconic theatre!
When you finish at the Chinese head west a few hundred feet to the light and cross walk at Orange. As you wait to cross, look across the street and to the right for the Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the 1st Academy Awards. If you want to start your walk with a burger, pop into 25 Degrees where the drinks are so strong, they make Johnny Depp weak in the knees.
To continue the walk, head back east/left on Hollywood Blvd. Between Orange and Highland you’ll pass the Jimmy Kimmel Live theater and Disney’s El Capitan Theatre. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, pop into the Ghirardelli‘s Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop or Mel’s Drive-In just around the corner on Highland.
If you go to Mel’s ask for Piper or Bernardo and tell them Brian sent you. They have great breakfasts and also serve one of my favorite top 3 chicken pot-pies in Hollywood. While you’re there consider taking a spin around The Hollywood Museum located right next door.
Back on Hollywood Blvd continuing east look for Marilyn Monroe’s Walk of Fame star. Its easy to spot right in front of the McDonald’s and sadly it seems, covered in more grime and trash than any other star on the Boulevard.
Across the street from Marilyn’s star is a must-see, hidden-in-plain-site treasure for Disney fans. The Snow White Cafe, opened in 1946, was frequented by Disney animators and likely Walt Disney himself. In a show of appreciation to the cafe owner the animators sketched out the “We Hope We Have Pleased You” mural above the front door. The origins of the other Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs images are a bit murky, nevertheless this unsanctioned artwork has mysteriously been allowed to remain for decades despite Disney’s otherwise litigious stance on their copyright.
In the next block after McCadden is one of our favorite haunts, the Pig and Whistle, where Beverly swears the chicken soup smells like Christmas. Its another favorite of mine for chicken pot pie. Ask for Jason Z. and tell him Brian and Beverly sent you.
In the courtyard next door is the Egyptian Theatre. Opened in 1922 by Sid Grauman, it was the home of the first ever movie premiere, premiering Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn and Alan Hale Sr. Now its a revival house run by American Cinematique and our go-to favorite theatre.
As you approach Las Palmas, look left (north) and you’ll spot the seedy hotel home to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Now look right (south) and you’ll spot Miceli’s, Hollywood’s oldest Italian restaurant. When Beverly and I do our Hollywood tapas crawl, we like to head up to the bar for a drink and to split their meatball sandwich and enjoy the live piano music. If you’re lucky Patricia, the local matron of music in the neighborhood, will be playing – but not until she’s done her yoga warm up in the ladies room.
Back on Hollywood Blvd, on the north side of the street is the Vogue Theatre. Its closed now and being renovated, but one thing remains, a Banksy. Well, at least one Banksy. There were 2, but Cabo Catina Hollywood decided an original work of art by an internationally renowned artist commenting on the city around it was less important than their cartoonish depictions of margarita glasses.
Just next door to that travesty is a Hollywood icon that has stood the test of time since 1919. Musso and Frank. What can I say about Musso and Frank that hasn’t already been said? With its storied history of celebrity regulars enjoying the famous grill and classic martinis, its quintessential Hollywood for a reason. Whether its for Domingo’s freshly flipped flannel cakes, or Idolfo’s perfectly grilled steak or Thursday night’s chicken pot pie do not walk by this landmark without stopping in. Sit at the counter with a view of the grill, or if you’re just popping in for a drink, head to the bar for their martini. If you opt for a table, ask for Damon or Leonardo’s section and tell them Brian sent you!
Across from Musso and Frank you’ll see the newly remodeled but still vacant Filmon.TV Hologram Theatre. In the 70’s and 80’s it was the XXX Pussycat Theater where the infamous Deep Throat ran for a record 10 years.
Just past the old Pussycat, on the corner of Cherokee and Hollywood note the blue-green building on the southwest corner. Its home to World of Wonder, the production company for RuPaul’s Drag Race. I frequently spot the ever youthful Angelyne and her hot pink corvette coming to and from the offices in back. Look up the corner of the building and you will see a tiled Space Invader by the the French street artist Invader featured in Exit Through the Gift Shop. In the basement of the building was the Hollywood new wave and punk club, The Masque, an early venue for X, The Germs, and The Screamers. The entrance was tucked down the back alley… some sources say it was on Cherokee, others say it was on the corner, while others recall it being in the basement of the Pussycat. It was a punk club in the ’70’s, memories are likely to be hazy and we may never know for sure.
Looking south down Cherokee is Boardner’s. Like Musso’s this place oozes old Hollywood and has been used as a filming location for Ed Wood, L.A. Confidential and Gangster Squad. When you step through the door you’ll pass behind a blackout curtain that keeps the place mysterious even on the brightest of afternoons. During happy hour their appetizers are 1/2 price and are a favorite spot on our Hollywood tapas crawl. Beverly opts for the nachos, my favorites are the pan seared pot stickers and the mac and cheese.
Continuing east on Hollywood Blvd after Cherokee is Larry Edmunds Bookshop. The original shop opened in 1938 and this nearly century old bookshop is now owned and operated by my good friend Jeff. You can get lost for hours as it is filled floor to ceiling (literally!) with books, posters, shooting scripts, photos and more. The shop also regularly hosts celebrity book signings where I’ve gotten to meet some of my favorite stars including Barbara Eden and Cindy Williams. Pop in for a peak and support one of the city’s last remaining bookstores.
The Kress Department Store building is just down the street east of Larry Edmunds. This gorgeous Art Deco building opened in 1934. It was home to the original Frederick’s of Hollywood and a victim of looting during the 1992 LA Riots. Everything from Madonna’s bustier to Ava Gardner’s bloomers were snatched. The building has been vacant for at least 10 years now, but local homeless use its walls and doorways as a canvas for their artwork. What they leave behind provides a somber look at the interior lives of the folks who call the streets home.
Just past the Kress is one of our favorite places to window shop. I’m not referring to the countless pipe and sex shops – but rather the Hollywood Toys and Costumes shop. The store is famous for its huge wig collection and where everyday is Halloween.
A little further down the block on the north side of Hollywood Blvd you’ll spot the Hudson Apartments. Originally The Hillview apartments, it was opened in 1917 by Samuel Goldwyn (MGM) and Jesse Lasky (Paramount) as the first apartment building in Hollywood willing to rent to actors who were then considered undesirable tenants. Rudolph Valentino is rumored to have had a speakeasy in the basement. It is now updated apartments and home to the Black Rabbit Rose, a lounge and magic theatre. Beverly and I popped in shortly after they opened for a drink and were mesmerized the magic of a closeup magician entertaining the crowds. Then again, its easy to dazzle Beverly, she fell for me.
Just across Hudson Ave from the Hudson Apartments is a stunning mural honoring Dolores del Rio. Ms del Rio was a Mexican actress in the 20’s who was Hollywood’s first major Latina cross-over star.
Throughout this next stretch of Hollywood Blvd you’ll spot countless stores selling erotic clothing and shoes with heels so high they’ll make your nose bleed. The most recent addition is Larry Flynt’s Hustler of Hollywood just across the street from the Hudson. Though not part of the area’s original sex shops it boasts a one-of-kind collection of hand and foot prints of porn stars on the sidewalk.
For all you Marilyn Monroe fans, as you continue walking west look for a shop with a blue awning at 6513 Hollywood Blvd. Now generically called “Hollywood Treats”, this was once Frank & Joseph’s beauty salon and where Marilyn first had her hair dyed to her famous platinum blonde.
Continuing towards Wilcox Ave, LA LA Land fans get your dancing shoes ready… there at the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox is the “You Are the Star” mural.
Nancy Sinatra fans, when looking at the LA LA Land mural, look back over your right shoulder and you’ll spot an homage to Nancy and her famous boots. On the northwest corner of this same intersection is the once glorious but now mostly vacant Pacific Theatre. Carol Burnett was fired from her job as an usher from this theatre when she was a teenager, so when she earned her Walk of Fame star decades later she had her star placed squarely in front. Continuing past the Pacific, you’ll notice an empty lot. Its barren and full of weeds so the lot itself isn’t picturesque, but its emptiness allows for one of the best views of the Hollywood sign from Hollywood Blvd. The next block begins with Cahuenga Ave. Film noir fans take note of the signs commemorating this as Raymond Chandler Square.
Once you make your way to Ivar, look north up Ivar and you’ll spot the famous Knickerbocker Hotel. Once home to celebrities like Elvis Presley, its now a mostly Russian retirement community. The former dinning room is now the Russia Restaurant and a festive place to go with large groups for dining and dancing.
If you happen to do this walk on a Sunday morning, you’re in luck. The Hollywood Farmers Market begins here at Ivar and Hollywood. The Market is huge with four square blocks of regional produce, prepared food and crafts. We go every week to stock up on veggies and to people watch.
Back on Hollywood Blvd as you continue west towards Vine look towards the north side of the street for the Deja Vue Showgirls strip club. This was once the home of Sardi’s. Just past the club you are now at the world famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
Looking north on Vine is the Capital Records Building. For music lovers, its worth the short walk up the block to check out the mural, “Hollywood Jazz: 1945 – 1972”. There is also a concentration of Walk of Fame stars here honoring musicians including The Beatles and Buddy Holly.
Back on Hollywood Blvd, just across from the Hollywood/Vine Metro station is the Pantages Theater, LA’s home to Broadway’s touring shows. Next door is another old-school Hollywood bar, the Frolic Room. I recommend capping off your walk here, at the rate Hollywood is gentrifying, you never know how long these classics will be around.
Once you’ve taken in as much as you can stand of downtown Hollywood, look for the Metro station at the base of the W Hotel and head down to return to your destination.