By Kay Tornborg
Has this happened to you? Once in a while . . . probably not often . . . you find yourself in the Right Place at the right time? That's what I'm thinking about all of our good fortune at being in Hollywood at this moment in time and being members of Hollywood Heritage NOW . . . as Hollywood finally re-invents itself.
There's excitement in the air along the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment National Register Historic District due, partly, to the November opening of Hollywood and Highland, its look influenced by D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, with its upscale stores and restaurants, the Kodak Theatre and EXCITING public spaces, walk-ways and the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Collection dressing itself for an early summer opening. And right next door there is the EXCITING and exotic Grauman's Chinese Theater, beautifully rehabed/restored. The Chinese lions guarding the entrance having been made whole again (by restorer/Hollywood Heritage member Amy Higgins) and the wonderful Chinese decorations have been carefully cleaned and restored, some by Hollywood Heritage's Robert Nudelman, who volunteered his time. For sheer EXCITEMENT it's hard to beat the upper exterior floor of Hollywood and Highland, looking down on the sparkling El Capitan Theater or standing in the middle of the walkways and looking north up Highland Avenue as cars stream by. IT'S MAGIC . . . DON'T MISS IT. And count the restored theaters . . . all doing very good business, thank you . . . the Egyptian, the El Capitan, the Pantages and Grauman's Chinese . . . and the Cinerama Dome is on the way.
It looks and feels like preservation is finally taking hold as a viable economic alternative and a cultural balm for those appalled at malls and glass/concrete boxes. Downtown, developer Tom Gilmore is turning elegant old buildings into desirable apartments. All around town there is a growing interest in the economic and cultural benefits of Historic Protective Overlay Zones (HPOZs), with EIGHT currently on the list and more waiting in the wings. The resounding success of Pasadena's Old Town (a primer on adaptive re-use) has finally given credence to the idea that small scale and charm are a draw in the marketplace.
To all of you who have driven by the Hollywood Heritage Museum "a hundred times" without coming in: STOP BY AND TAKE A LOOK. To those of you who couldn't imagine, last year, a Friday night stroll and dinner on Hollywood Boulevard: COME DOWN AND TAKE A LOOK. Take the subway . . . it's fun, it's clean, it's cheaper than parking.
I'm EXCITED to be the new president of Hollywood Heritage at this time when the idea of Hollywood having a heritage suddenly seems RIGHT. The fact that we, who love Hollywood and its history, can enjoy these moments is due, in no small part, to our departing president Robert W. Nudelman. Actually, departing is the wrong word; perhaps re-assigned is more appropriate. The list of Robert's accomplishments, both as Hollywood Heritage President and as "civilian" preservationist (not to mention Museum curator/designer/archivist), would require an article three times this length. Fortunately, Robert will continue the peerless job he has done on preservation issues and will still patiently explain to us all the Byzantine and baffling ins-and-outs of preserving icons like the Hollywood Bowl and all the formerly run-down historic structures that now glow in the festive lighting along Hollywood Boulevard.
Come to the Barn, get involved, have some fun. I look forward to meeting you ALL.