Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hollywood, revisited

The following is reprinted from April 27, 2010, based on a question from Laoch in his comment to yesterday's post. My answer was Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. All things Raymond Chandler seem to jam their foot in the blog door often. Herewith, a real connection to a fictional world.

Within a few months of my son's birth, the two of us had a part-time job that involved typing at home, then doing errands all over Hollywood. Our employer was a non-profit organization, funded to develop programs that would improve the employment rate among unions in the entertainment industry.

"The Institute," part of its actual name, had its public office in a Hollywood Boulevard building, rumored to be the same location in which L.A.'s greatest hard-boiled private eye, Philip Marlowe, was based. How could you not love it? The Institute director actually worked from home, first on Cahuenga near the Hollywood Bowl, then in a Beachwood Canyon house with the standard show business pedigree - as in, "This house used to belong to...(fill in the blanks)." I never met a dwelling in that town that didn't have a history.

With my baby in his stroller, we walked the boulevards and avenues - from the photocopy shop on Highland, owned and run by a family from India who greeted my boy like a prince each time we visited, to the elevator at Marlowe's location, frequently sharing the ride with clients of various agencies at that address, many of whom were in states of loud and raging delusion. In the early 80s, as it may still today, that simply went with the territory.

From his much-closer-to-the-ground seat, my son - with his early verbal skills - greeted the locals as they gleaned cigarette butts from the gutter. Because he saw them at eye level, he engaged them all with a smiling "Hi!" and opened the door to conversations that I might have preferred to sidestep. I don't remember seeing many other children, let alone babies, in that part of town; had I been the one bent over the curb, I know I couldn't have resisted him. Had I been looking to make new friends along The Walk of Fame, I had my little rolling ice-breaker.

During my year in the job, it was such a gift to be able to have his company while I did paper work at home or acted as delivery girl in the shadow of the Chinese Theater or Musso and Frank Restaurant. In that year of my administrative assistant duties, the Institute held two benefit concerts, one for the striking Screen Actors' Guild, later for the Musicians' Local when they struck. There was a touch of show business glamor to balance the more real-life aspects of providing services to under-employed creatives.

I think these memories were sparked by the news story yesterday that Hugh Hefner had donated the final $900,000 needed to keep the land around the Hollywood sign from development. With his sum added to the gifts already received, the sign will be protected and its surrounding terrain will belong to the people.

As a native daughter, I have never minded that aspects of Hollywood are only glittering in our imagination, for the truth is powerful beyond illusion. The dream that lured the writers and actors and immigrant entrepreneurs west has not diminished; we are captivated and transformed by images on film. I choose to believe that, should I need to hire him to buy back incriminating photos or locate my missing chauffeur, Raymond Chandler's hero still keeps office hours on Hollywood Boulevard, no appointment necessary.

I've included the comment left at the time of the post. Penny and I and a number of other bloggers, including Donna and Robert had recently found each other. Not long after this note from her, the Australian writer/wife/mother/friend died from injuries received in a single-car accident on a road near her home. We miss her.
Posted by Marylinn Kelly at 7:33 AM

Penny said...

It's good to know that the Dream Factory is still a lure. No irony intended :)
I have just spent a delightful lunch hour reading many of your posts luxuriating in phrases such as "lasso the moon" or "Finnish foozle cloth" or "fluent in happiness".
I'm going to put you in my blogroll, if you don't mind, you're a treat to be savoured.
I've not read Proust either, yet.
April 27, 2010 8:39 PM


Sultan said...

Raymond Chandler was a wonderful writer.

Donna B. said...

Oh made me cry. I miss Penny and still think of her...She wrote me often about your magical, delicious way you weave a story...she LOVED your writing and enjoyed it so much.

My cousin lives by the Hollywood Sign and sells the older Craftsman style homes in Pasadena and surrounding areas...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - I know that I romanticize Chandler's writing. (I seem to remember having a crush on Ivanhoe when we read that in school.) But there is so much there that resonates for me, that seeps in and seems to bring fantasy to life. All of which is why I grew faint with excitement when I found Margaret Atwood's poem, "In Love With Raymond Chandler." Ah, a kindred spirit.

beth coyote said...

I read all of Raymond Chandler in my 20s and closely observed Humphrey Bogart's turn as the fab gumshoe in The Big Sleep. In the book, the evil sister looks at Philip while chewing her lip and says, "You're kinda tall, aren't you?" In the movie she says to a (very) short Humphrey, "You're not very tall, are you..."

Philip never ate anything. He smoked and drank and had the best one-liners ever. Ever.


Marylinn Kelly said...

Donna - I cried, too, when I saw her comment, when I wrote of here. She was so generous with her appreciation, so dear, even in the short time we knew her.

Friends once lived sort-of in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, the development that it was intended to publicize. And getting to see the inside of those wonderful Craftsman houses...I've been in a few...that's a job to envy. In the 1950s my grandmother worked for the County Assessor. Property taxes were based on sending people door to door to inquire about upgrades, additions and my grandmother took the job mostly to visit all those Pasadena homes. She loved the work.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Yes, I remember the (I think) thumb-chewing younger sister telling him he wasn't very tall and I so agree about the one-liners AND I don't remember him eating, ever. A closet Breatharian. Thanks so much for letting me borrow your squirrels and for visiting.

Jayne said...

"[...] I had my little rolling ice-breaker." !!! I love this piece Marylinn--can picture you out in the rolling hills of Hollywood working that stroller, your son breaking ice for you. I would have been just as excited. I'm also a big Chandler fan (how is it so many great writers come out of Chicago?), and in the late 60's and 70's spent most of my free time reading mysteries. Yes, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and then beyond the YA thrillers.
You had a real life thriller of your own, though. So glad you shared this here. Again. (I missed it the first time.) So very sad about Penny. I just lost a blogger friend, and it was shocking to read about her death via a post by her husband. This is an odd thought, but her readers would have never known of her death if she hadn't conspicuously left her Blogger sign-in info for someone to see.
I think how so many of us come here anonymously, and may leave the same way. Yet we've made so many friends. It's kind of sad.

Anonymous said...

a warm read
and a trip to hollywood in my pajamas.

Glad an icon will remain.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - I am sorry for your loss of a blogger friend. Penny's family posted about her accident, but one of our group managed to get an email through when there had been no follow-up, so we knew of her death. Add to the list: be sure someone knows how to post in our absence. Hollywood, the geographical place, may not be what visitors expect, but it is so layered - history, fiction, myths, business vanished and surviving, just the names of the streets - that I always sense its pulse, it quirky and vigorous heart. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - It has lasted this long, through the same changes we've all seen. Happy to have been your guide...and there is so much more. I don't know if other cities create the same experience, but since I grew up in and around Los Angeles, when I am out and about today, I still see and sense what had once been, driving along the same street in the past AND the present. I guess time travel and I are eternally connected.xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

In the short time I have been blogging I have witnessed the lost of two of us; Penny and Peter who died of emphysema a few months ago.

I don't know why I would expect bloggers to be immune from the same consequences and incidentals of life in general that we all face. We are here, then we are not.

Some blogs I have followed have simply disappeared with no known explanation - poof, gone! It is not lost on me that I could have been one of those myself a short two months ago.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - The loss of a fellow blogger had not even crossed my mind before Penny's accident. I, and all those I read, were very grateful to your family for keeping us informed about your surgery and recovery, grateful that you are back on the circuit. There is at least one MIA on my regular list, even though I don't always get there daily, or even weekly, and leaving a fresh comment on the old post has borne no fruit.

Reminders that we take nothing for granted. :D