Start at Hollywood/Vine Metro Station
End at Hollywood/Western Metro Station
Distance: 1.0 mile (station to station with no side trips)
This walk is the perfect example of missing out on hidden gems if you stay stuck in your car. I’ve driven this stretch of Hollywood Blvd countless times and beyond just a few exceptions it appears to be an easily forgettable section of Hollywood. On foot however, the area has a neighborhood feel brought to life by decades old mom-and-pop shops still tucked in first floors as gentrifying high-rises begin to dominate the skyline. On the periphery of Thai Town and Little Armenia, explore this neighborhood while you can, its changing rapidly!
The interior of the Hollywood/Vine station is one of our favorites as it pays homage to Hollywood’s filmmaking history with countless film reels covering the ceiling. As you emerge from the station, the Walk of Fame spreads out before you and right there you’ll find one of the most popular and photographed stars, that of Jennifer Lopez. Fans lined up for hours prior to her ceremony in 2013 and to this day stands out to me as one of the most attended ceremonies that I can recall. The crowd was electric as the grateful star gave an emotional speech as she reflected on her long career.
Directly across from the Metro station you will see the Frolic Room and the Pantages Theatre. We talked about that in the last post which covers the Hollywood/Highland to Hollywood/Vine walk. If you haven’t done that walk, its worth it to head left (west) to stand at the world famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, also known as Bob Hope Square.
Otherwise, to begin your walk to the Hollywood/Western station, head right (east) as you exit the Vine station which is below the W Hotel. Past Argyle Avenue, culinary fans take note of Bobby Flay’s Walk of Fame star on the south side of the Boulevard. This star is particularly notable as it was the first star awarded to a chef. Just beyond Flay’s star is Fonda Theatre. Named for Henry Fonda, the theatre opened in 1926 and was originally called the Carter DeHaven Musicbox. Its changed names and hands many times over the years and today is one of the top music venues in Los Angeles.
In 2015 the Rolling Stones recorded Sticky Fingers Live there. We tried desperately to get tickets, but they were sold out in minutes. To this day we still can’t watch the video without our hearts breaking… but here’s a clip… perhaps you can enjoy it.
Just past the Fonda where Hollywood Blvd meets Gower Street you’ll find yourself at the end of the line for the Walk of Fame. The last stars on either side of the street are big band leader Benny Goodman and Stanley Kramer the producer and director whose films include Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Inherit the Wind and Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
As you stand on Hollywood Blvd looking one block north up Gower you will notice the large brick church at the intersection of Gower and Carlos Avenue. At that intersection in 1963 LAPD officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a car driven by two men who had just committed a string of robberies. The officers were kidnapped, taken to Bakersfield where Hettinger managed to escape and flee, but Campbell was executed in a field. Their story was immortalized in the book and movie, The Onion Field. Three significant things grew out of this tragedy. First, the intersection was named Ian Campbell Square on the 50th anniversary of the the killing in 2012. Second, police training and procedures were updated to prevent such future kidnappings. And third, bagpipes were played at Campbell’s funeral as he was a bagpipe hobbyist. Thus was born the tradition of playing bagpipes at the funerals of law enforcement officers.
Continuing along past Gower on the north side of the Blvd is the Museum of Death. The stated goal of the museum owners is “to make people happy that they are alive”. Exhibits include a Dr. Kevorkian suicide machine, artifacts from the Heaven’s Gate suicides and uncensored photographs from the Sharon Tate, Black Dahlia and Nicole Brown (formerly Simpson) murders.
Prior to it being a museum, it was a recording studio called the Producers Workshop/Blvd Recording where Pink Floyd recorded parts of The Wall and Steely Dan recorded tracks for Asia and Gaucho. Blink 182, The Melvins, Bad Religion and the Concrete Blondes have also all recorded here.
While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the great murals wrapping around the entire outside of the building. Its one of the best mural collections on this walk.
Just past the Museum of Death is the Florentine Gardens. Now a night club, its biggest claim to fame is that it hosted Marilyn Monroe’s wedding reception in 1942 to her first husband James Dougherty. Its now a stop for Starline tours as it is a great photo op for the Hollywood Sign.
Back on the southside of the Blvd just before Bronson is the popular Palms Thai Restaurant. The original location was in the heart of Thai Town but in recent years has moved here. Old-timers may remember Kevin, the Thai Elvis impersonator. Though he is no longer there, the restaurant features live music every night after 7pm. Beverly and I like to sit at the bar for a drink and appetizers. She loves the honey-sweetened chrysanthemum iced tea and we both enjoy splitting the wontons or eggrolls. If you want something sweet we recommend the banana samosas.
Across from Palms is Division 3 Hollywood, a delicious breakfast and lunch spot. We’ve popped in for breakfast a few times and their mouth watering biscuit sandwiches are surprisingly inexpensive at $5 each. And while you’re there, be sure to check out their freshly baked pastries from Cake Monkey. Their homemade cherry poptart is our favorite.
Leaving Division 3 and continuing east, you’ll find yourself at the intersection of Bronson Ave and Hollywood Blvd – an intersection at the very heart of the gentrification debate. It was along here in 1954 that a young actor drew inspiration at the start of his career. It was during the height of the Red Scare and McCarthyism when a young Charles Buchinsky was advised to change his Eastern European name by his agent. Drawing inspiration from the neighborhood, he changed his name to Charles Bronson. On the northwest corner of this intersection you’ll find a portrait paying homage to him on an electrical box.
Just around the corner from the Bronson portrait in the east facing wall of the Mini Market is a mural of Tony Curtis by artist George Sportelli. This is actually the second home for the same painting which once graced the 101 at Sunset Blvd.
Continuing east on Hollywood the walk becomes grittier as you pass My Friend’s Place a homeless shelter made famous by Miley Cyrus and then cross the 101. As you cross the 101 on the southside of the Blvd is the 101 exit 8B for Hollywood Blvd where you’ll find a large mural honoring the Laker’s Kobe Bryant and his nickname The Black Mamba.
Back on the Blvd on the northside tucked in a shopping center behind a 7-11 is Natalie Peruvian Seafood restaurant. You really have to look around the corner for it, otherwise you just may miss it! This is a place we love to stop to share an authentic Peruvian snack of seasoned shrimp and beef and fried plantains.
Continuing east towards Wilton Place you’ll notice the most randomly placed Pier 1 Imports store. I don’t know why, it just seems so out of place to me here. Past that at Wilton Place you are now officially in Little Armenia.
At this intersection you’ll find two of my favorite murals on this walk at the intersection of Wilton and the Blvd. On the northeast corner is the colorful “Cosmic Love” by husband and wife team DABSMYLA. On the southeast corner is a portrait of a young woman by the muralist, El Mac.
Heading east from the murals towards Gramercy Place you’ll find more unique expressions of art at the Junior High community space and gallery which seeks to, “…promote the artistic pursuits of marginalized voices through events and arts education.” From art shows to yoga to music, the space holds diverse events such as the Non-Denominational Winter Holiday Party and Witch’s Brew Stand Up Comedy.
Next to this avant-garde gallery is something a bit more traditional and one of the most delightful finds on the walk: Narek Market. This family owned market features a variety of Armenian and Russian deli foods, freshly baked breads and pastries and other sweets.
They also have this thing called baby bologna with an actual baby on the package. I didn’t ask what it was – we’ll just stick with the chocolate Bandis, thank you very much.
Just steps beyond the market I peeked down an alley and found the Cirque School LA which offers classes for both kids and adults in everything from trapeze, ariels and contortion classes. Here we met Rachel (pictured below) a Cirque instructor who wowed us with her skills. If you can’t find me, its cause I ran off and the joined the circus!
Once you’ve regained your equilibrium from the Cirque School, continue to where Gramercy Place comes from the north and dead ends in the Blvd. Here you may recognize its distinctive tower from LA Confidential where it was used as movie theatre hosting a premiere party that kicks off the plot of the film.
Just across the street and at 1714 Gramercy Place is the home where “The Movie Premiere Pot Bust” scene takes place in the film.
Continuing east, cross N Saint Andrews Place. Between here and Western Avenue you will see an extraordinary amount of new construction going on bringing in new businesses, chain restaurants and residential units. But if you know where to look, you’ll find some hold-overs from a by-gone era.
One of the more fun stops is on the south side of the Blvd, the Westside Store. Its rather nondescript and easy to pass by, but its worth stopping into this little thrift shop. Its packed with one-of-a-kind knick-knacks and cheap but hip clothing for the fashionably edgy East Hollywood crowd. The last few times we’ve popped in they’ve had a sale on leather jackets at $5 each! Beverly left a very happy girl.
When you leave the Westside Store, back track west a few feet to the crosswalk at North Saint Andrew Place. Cross the Blvd here so you end up on the north side of Blvd. Continue walking east towards Garfield Place. There on the northeast corner of the intersection is the historical Gershwin Apartments. More on that in a moment. For now, enter the bottom floor of the building at 1710 Garfield Place. Here you’ll find the Royale Grocery and its delightful owner, Hamlet. This tiny Armenian market has served the surrounding community for 20 years with its deli, bakery, dry goods and other sundries.
By the way, we’ve come to like the Bear and Squirrel candies the best. The Bear candy is similar to a Kit Kat bar and the Squirrel candy has its own rich chocolate goodness going on. But if you really want to treat yourself, you’ve got to try the freshly made Napoleon!
Once you’ve had your fill at the Royale, head back out and towards Hollywood Blvd. Back on the Blvd, you’re in the shadow of the Gershwin apartments. Built in 1926 and formerly the St Francis Hotel, it was home to many vaudeville and silent film stars of that era. Its most infamous resident, however, was James Earl Ray who began plotting his assassination of Martin Luther King when he lived there in 1967.
From here, look back across to the south side of Hollywood Blvd where you will see shiny new apartments. Then tucked down at the bottom of the new construction at 5524 Hollywood Blvd is what remains of the Falcon Studios. It was named a city Historic-Cultural Monument (#382) in 1988 for its impact on the early Hollywood film industry. The studio housed a school run by 1932 Olympian, Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner was a famed swordsman who taught Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and Douglas Fairbanks how to fence in that very studio.
Continuing towards Western Avenue you’ll spot a grand art deco from Hollywood’s Golden Era, the Hollywood-Western Building. Originally owned by Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, it housed many different organizations associated with early Hollywood including Central Casting and Will Hays’ Censorship Office. It was the presence of the moralistic Hays Code office that inspired the architect, Charles Lee, to include the nude friezes covering the outside of the building.
Once at Hollywood and Western you are now at the official start of Thai Town. Though you’ve had hints of the Thai culture on this walk, stay tuned for the next one which will put you in the heart of it all. From here make your way to the southwest corner of the intersection to head back to the Metro. The station is hard to miss with its brightly colored ceramic tiles lining the walls. If you’re there on a Monday or Thursday check out the East Hollywood Farmers Market from 3:30pm to 7:30pm.