There’s glamour in the grit and hustle of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. The City of Angels has always been a city of dreams for wannabe stars, but the harsh reality is that for many of them it has also been a city of hardship and struggle.
Whilst the old Hollywood glamour is harder to find now, Urban Adventures tour groups assemble nightly to find the hidden dives, bars, theatres and food joints that have been the staples on the Boulevard, watching dreams be made and crushed. But hey, what better way to deal with another crippling rejection than by having a drink with mates, right?!
I am actually running ridiculously late for the start of the tour. LA traffic is insane at all times of the day, but the tour starts in the middle of peak hour, so I turn up a flustered, sweaty mess in desperate need of a wet wipe and a cold beer.
Snow White Cafe
Luckily, the first stop on the tour is a beer drinking stop. The Snow White Café doesn’t sound like the kind of place to be serving up cold ones, but it is and has been since it opened back in 1946. I’m having the Shock Top Beer which comes with a refreshing slice of orange on top, and instantly feel cooler and de-stressed from the crazy rush hour traffic jam I’ve been stuck in for the last hour.
The Snow White Café lives up to its name, with characters from the original Disney animation gracing the walls. I can’t imagine Disney ever allowing a collaboration with a bar today, so it is truly a unique treat to see something this unusual.
Musso & Frank’s
A little further down the Boulevard is the oldest eatery in Hollywood, the evergreen Musso & Franks. Still as fancy and lovely as ever, this dining room has bar seats to accommodate solo eaters as well as lovely tables with crisp white tablecloths for groups. In operation since 1919, this spot also boasts that they serve the perfect martini, which I did head back on another night to put to the test. If not perfect, it’s pretty darn close.
At Boardner’s, I sip on a Moscow Mule and nibble a shared plate of nachos, before wandering out to the back courtyard to marvel at the gorgeous mosaic tile fountain just sitting there as if it had been forgotten over the years. I’m a total sucker for tiles, and these are to die for. As far as history goes, if the walls at Boardner’s could talk, there would be some fascinating stories to tell.
Tonight is a night of Old Hollywood, which could never be complete without a trip to Miceli’s – the area’s oldest Italian restaurant where Chianti bottles drunk dry and signed by their consumers hang from the ceiling. The waiters sing here, too, and it’s a delightful little joint to come for a quiet plate of pasta and red wine. In fact, I do just that the following night and despite the portion sizes being about 3 times what I can eat in one sitting, it’s perfect.
Now, the real Hollywood of old is nothing without the incredible movie history made here. If you wander the Boulevard, the theatres that dot it are where the true magic of LA lies. These places are where the dreamers aspire to see their names in lights one day. They’re where careers are made.
The glory of the Pantanges Theatre, where Hamilton is currently playing is still evident in its decadent gold décor and at the other end of the Boulevard as we walk tonight, the Chinese Theatre lights up the road. Apparently Hollywood went through a bit of a cultural phase, because across the road is the Egyptian Theatre, also owned by the same guy, Sid Grauman (who was neither Chinese nor Egyptian).
The Chinese Theatre is famous for the celebrity handprints in the cement out the front of the movie house, although there isn’t much room for any new ones now as the space is nearly full up. The Egyptian Theatre has rolled out the red carpet tonight for the opening of a Film Festival and glamorous people arrive in droves. One woman has brought her dog, dressed up in a tuxedo and sunglasses and they pose in front of the theatre for onlookers.
Finally, we reach the Roosevelt Hotel where Marilyn Monroe lived and apparently met Arthur Miller. This hotel is rich in history (and hauntings) with a huge, open downstairs bar that is bustling even on a Thursday night. We don’t stay – it’s very busy – but it is possible to get a very real sense of how huge and iconic this hotel actually is.
The Hollywood Boulevard can be a tough place for a young, stars-in-their-eyes actor. But walking the street and being a part of the history here feels special, despite the grit and grime.
Here, I am walking amongst stars. Here, there are stars on the pavement, stars in the movie theatres and maybe some stars of the future, pushing their way down the street, hoping for their big break.