Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Hollywood Mystery Locations Solved - The Hollywood Sign and the Beginning of Mulholland Drive




The 1940 Streamline Moderne facade of the Hollywood Palladium Theater - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Two Hollywood Mystery Locations - The Hollywood Sign and the Gateway to Mulholland Drive

Continuing our January 2012 driving tour of Hollywood, Carrie McCoy and I departed Paul Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea Ave. heading north toward Hollywood 28, as it was known in the old days. The beautiful residential streets in the lower slopes of Hollywood mesmerized us. We emerged from that bubble at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Argyle Ave. As I turned right on to Sunset Blvd., I caught a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign, several miles away.

After stopping the car, I got out and took several long shot images of the Hollywood Sign. Panning to my right, I recognized the Hollywood Palladium, a Streamline Moderne Hollywood theater built in 1940. According to the marquee, “Bassrush Presents” hosted a sold-out electronic music event there The top of the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)the previous night. From the Big Band era to  Nero, the return of Funktion and the 12th Planet's “The End is Near Tour”, the Palladium has seen and heard it all.

Continuing north on Argyle Ave, I stopped to view the iconic Capitol Records Building. When it opened in 1956, both the public had mixed opinions about the building. It had been a while since a new Los Angeles building had made a whimsical statement through its architecture. Although its statement was not as literal as the old Brown Derby, the building’s cylindrical structure did evoke a stack of 45-RPM records. This thirteen story turntable featured a roof pinnacle that looked like a soaring stylus.

To some, it was a reference to vinyl as state-of-the-art in the recording industry. Others hailed the building’s energy-saving features. There were The original 1929 Hollywood Tower Apartments, listed in the National Register of Historical Places - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)exterior metal sunshades, which surrounded each of the floors. In contrast to the trend toward sealed glass towers, the building’s windows were operable. The combination of shade and afternoon sea breezes allowed workers to enjoy fresh air, without the need for constant air-conditioning.

Still heading north, but now on Gower Street, we approached the Hollywood Freeway. Poking above both the skyline and the freeway was the original 1929 Hollywood Tower Apartments. Its tower sign is visible to thousands of motorists driving north each day on the Hollywood Freeway. Is it any wonder that Walt Disney Company, under Michael Eisner expropriated the name Hollywood Tower for an attraction at their California Adventure theme park in The Hollywood Sign, viewed from Gower Street in Hollywood, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Anaheim?

As freeway drivers curve gracefully around the faux French Normandy concrete monolith, few realize that highway engineers created that jog in the Hollywood Freeway in order to avoid the landmark. In its early days, and into the 1980s, many writers and actors called the Hollywood Tower Apartments home. From the tower itself, they could lord over all of Hollywood, so long as they paid the rent.

Continuing up Gower Street, we followed the path towards Hollywood’s Holy Grail – the Hollywood Sign. As with all things Hollywood, the simple, direct path may not lead to your destination. In the upper reaches of Gower Street, the terrain screens the Hollywood sign from view. In the lower canyon, there are several good, if distant views of the sign.

The Pilgrimage Bridge over the Hollywood Freeway, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)If you seek a close-up view, consult with Google. By the way, the residents of North Beachwood Drive would prefer that you stay away. Parking is almost nonexistent and the road is narrow. Although we did step out on to lower Gower Street to photograph the fabled sign, we soon turned back and headed for equally fabled Mulholland Drive.

Hollywood is full of secrets. One of best kept is how to access Mulholland Drive at its source, just north of the Hollywood Bowl. Traveling from Hollywood, the directional signage is of little help. Google Maps gets the route correct HERE and gives an alternate route using the Pilgrimage Bridge HERE. I have no interest in conspiracy theories, unless they are my own, so here are my facts to support the Mulholland Drive Conspiracy.

• The first “Mulholland Drive” sign on Cahuenga Blvd. North directs you appropriately toward the Mulholland Drive Bridge.
• At the Pilgrimage Bridge intersection, the "Mulholland Drive" directional signage is partially obscured by a traffic signal on the left side, as seen in this Google Street View.
• If you turn left across the Pilgrimage Bridge, a "Right Turn Only" sign will direct you unknowingly towards your goal.
• Less than one mile north on Cahuenga Blvd. West, there is a traffic signal, with access to Mulholland Drive, at the point where it actually takes the Mulholland name.

Let us go back and assume that you did not access the Pilgrimage Bridge, instead motoring north on Cahuenga Blvd. East.

• At that point, the obscured sign that you missed seeing leaves you guessing and then shunts you on to the Hollywood Freeway North.
• If you manage to escape the freeway trap, stay to the right and continue north on Cahuenga Blvd. East.
• Soon, you will pass under the Mulholland Drive Bridge itself.
• Without any warning or directional signage, you must then turn right at Lakeridge Place., reversing direction in order to head south.
• Soon, with new energy light shining down as it does in this Google Street View, you will gain access to the original, two-lane, 1940 Mulholland Bridge.
• After crossing over the freeway, you will intersect Mulholland Drive, which was your original destination.

The original 1940 Mulholland Drive Bridge over the Hollywood Freeway, viewed from Cahuenga Blvd. East - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I indicate above, why should any historic Los Angeles street be so difficult to find? Did some influential residents of Mulholland Drive ask City Hall to remove the directional signage? Did residents pay a private crew to remove the signs? Did adequate directional signage from Hollywood to Mulholland Drive ever exist? In the absence of a simple answer, I cannot yet abandon my Mulholland Drive Hollywood Conspiracy Theory.

In our next article, we will motor along the scenic Mulholland Drive to the new Mulholland Drive Bridge, currently undergoing replacement in Sepulveda Pass.