Let’s Hear It For Hollywood – Cityhood That Is!

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The iconic Hollywood Sign.

They describe Hollywood as a district in Los Angeles, California, USA. The district, according to what is written, is situated northeast of downtown Los Angles. Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of the movie studios and stars, the word Hollywood is often used as a metonym for the American film, television and music industry.

I am here to tell you that Hollywood should be a city. I am certain that I am not the first person or will I be the last to make that statement verbally or in writing. I once corrected my old friend, the late Sam Yorty, former mayor of Los Angeles, when he described Hollywood as a street running down the center of Los Angeles. I informed Mayor Yorty, who was attending a party at my home at the time, that he should thank Hollywood for making Los Angeles what it is today. Everyone seems to have kicked Hollywood under the bus.

Every year, that district in Los Angeles, known to millions around the world as Hollywood, is the object of interest when the Kodak Center comes alive with the Academy Awards. People journey to Hollywood from every continent to gaze in amazement at the boulevard of stars. No other city other than New York City has the fascination and excitement as does the district in Los Angeles called Hollywood. There are so many memorable landmarks that have somehow survived the wrecking ball. Those landmarks are steeped in a rich and lasting history of Hollywood.

There is the famed Capitol Records which, by the way, is still Capitol Records and not condos. It was at Capitol on Vine Street near Hollywood Boulevard where Ol’ Blue Eyes and those boys from Liverpool, England, released their legendary songs.

Not far from Capitol Records, near the corners of Hollywood and Vine is the Pantages Theatre where the reclusive Mr. Hughes – Howard Hughes that is – once had an office. From 1949 to 1959, the Pantages was home to the Academy Awards. Today, the Pantages is where Broadway productions such as The Lion King and Wicked are presented. I am sure you get the picture.

Hugh Hefner, savior of The Hollywood Sign.

Hollywood is more than just a district; it is in every sense of the word a state of mind and most assuredly should be a city. In 2005, District Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg and Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz introduced Bill 588 that, for the first time, established boundaries making the district appear as if it were independent of any other city. What Councilwoman Goldberg and Councilman Koretz should have introduced was a letter to the Mayor, the Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors encouraging them to grant immediate cityhood to the district known as Hollywood. If the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and that ceremonial group that turns out each time a celebrity gets a star would grow some courage, perhaps they could shame the politicians into granting cityhood.

I think it is important that I cover the boundaries that comprise the District of Hollywood. I believe there is a sign at the northeast corner of Fairfax Avenue and Melrose Avenue indicating that one is entering the District of Hollywood. Generally, Hollywood’s southern border follows Melrose Avenue from Vermont Avenue to Fairfax Avenue. From there, the boundary continues north on Fairfax, wrapping east around the separate City of West Hollywood along Willoughby Avenue then wrapping around La Brea Avenue and heads west along Fountain Avenue before turning north again on Laurel Canyon Boulevard into the Hollywood Hills. The eastern boundary follows Vermont north from Melrose, past Hollywood Boulevard to Franklin Avenue. From there, the border travels west along Franklin to Western Avenue, and then north on Western Avenue into Griffith Park. Most of the hills between Laurel Canyon and Griffith Park are part of Hollywood. The population of the District of Hollywood is estimated at 300,000. I would say that is certainly a number that qualifies the District to be a city on its own.

The big question is who would draft a petition or, better yet, a bill for cityhood. I am sure this idea of cityhood will take at least a year or two to organize.

Perhaps the City of West Hollywood could be the guiding force. I remember years ago driving down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, from Fairfax to Robertson; it was not a pretty site. When West Hollywood became an incorporated city, that all changed. Palm trees, greenery in the center dividers, outdoor restaurants and charming boutiques now line that area. Perhaps if Hollywood became a city, those piercing and tattoo parlors could give way to outdoor restaurants and shops that would be in keeping with the area between Highland and La Brea where the Kodak Theatre is located.

Lest we forget that in 2002, a number of Hollywood citizens began a campaign for the District to secede from Los Angeles and become as it had been a century earlier, its own incorporated municipality.

Secession supporters argued that the needs of the community were being ignored by the leaders of Los Angeles. In June of that year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placed the secession referendum on the ballot for a citywide election. To pass, they required the approval of a majority of the voters in the proposed new municipality, as well as a majority of the voters in all of Los Angeles. In the November election, the referendum failed by a wide margin in the citywide vote. First of all, why were the citizens of all of Los Angeles included in the vote? It should have been just the citizens residing in the boundaries that comprise the District of Hollywood. I say to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: Grant immediate cityhood to the District of Hollywood.

No city in America deserves to be a city other than the District of Hollywood. In the ten years from 1910 to 1920, Hollywood began a dramatic transformation from a sleepy suburb to the film capital of the world. In 1985, the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places protecting important places and ensuring that the significance of Hollywood would always be a part of the future. That protection of public buildings did not come soon enough.

That same year, the oldest actors club in America, the Masquers, located at 1765 North Sycamore Avenue in the District, was razed and became a fifty-unit apartment complex. The Masquers was where everyone from John Carradine Sr., John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney – to name but a few – held forth. An appeal was made to the Director of the National Register of Historical Places in Washington, D.C., but it was too late. The Urban Development Corporation of Century, City, California, purchased the building for $475,000. Former Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, who represented the District at the time, said she was going to fight to save the Masquers. My publicist Chris Harris, who led the campaign to save the Masquers, said she did nothing. If the District of Hollywood had been a city, perhaps the oldest actors club, the Masquers, could have been saved.

The District of Hollywood has as many landmarks as our nation’s capital. I sincerely hope if anyone reads this column, they will email the Mayor, the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors demanding that the District of Hollywood be granted cityhood.

In preparing this column, I had decided to write just about Playboy icon Hugh Hefner and his generous gift that allowed the symbol of the district, The Hollywood Sign, to be free from estates at the top of Cahuenga Peak. If Hollywood had been a city, those bums who wanted to build homes at the top of Cahuenga Peak would have been laughed out of town.

Actually, it was Hugh Hefner who inspired this column. He, along with many others, rallied to buy a new sign in 1978, and then in 2010 save the distinctive setting on the flanks of the Santa Monica Mountains from estate homes. Mr. Hefner would have a fan in H. J. Wilcox, who in 1886 came up with the name “Hollywood.”

I suggest that the particular group that shows up each time a celebrity gets a star bestows the title of honorary mayor on Hugh Hefner. With Mr. Hefner as honorary mayor, it would be a start towards cityhood for the District of Hollywood. Mr. Hefner would most assuredly get attention and his celebrity would have an impact on moving the District toward cityhood. Hugh Hefner is forever associated with The Hollywood Sign, and The Hollywood Sign is the image embedded in the minds of people around the world.

Most people around the world believe that the District of Hollywood is a city. In fact, most people living in Los Angeles believe that the District of Hollywood is a city. Someone did a survey a few years back and asked thousands of people the two places they wanted to visit in their lifetime, which was Disneyland and Hollywood.

When my father was a publisher of the Los Angeles Evening Herald, he helped bring the Summer Olympics to Los Angeles in 1932 through his editorials. He convinced President Calvin Coolidge to grant 160 acres of land to UCLA to build an agriculture college. It was the editorials that got President Coolidge’s attention. When the City of Los Angeles needed land to widen what was Dark Canyon Boulevard (that connects Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley at Cahuenga Pass) in the early 1930s, he gave the City his land and the City out of gratitude renamed Dark Canyon its current name in honor of my father: Barham Boulevard. If my father was at the helm of the Los Angeles Evening Herald today, I can assure you he would be writing editorial after editorial for Hollywood cityhood.

Just before my father sold his newspaper to William Randolph Hearst, he wanted to begin a series of articles on Hollywood cityhood. Let’s forget the referendum and the voting. Come on, Mayor Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, grant cityhood to the District of Hollywood. The citizens of the District are capable of running their own city and there is certainly enough tax dollars to pull Hollywood from under the bus.

I would like to hear what you have to say. Let me know at pattebarham@hotmail.com.

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