Every year on Oscar Sunday, crowds trample over my family name as they make their way to the award ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard. They can’t help it—that’s where family patriarch, “King of the Bs” movie producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, was awarded his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When his sidewalk trophy was unveiled in 1993, the honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, introduced Sam as “the last stronghold of Hollywood’s Golden Era.” Fewer and fewer places associated with that era still survive, but glimpses of Hollywood’s glamorous past can still be found, if you know where to look.
This Hollywood Boulevard restaurant survives as the last of the old showbiz hangouts, with the same red-leather booths, virtually the same menu, and some of the same wait staff who never failed to remember how Frank Sinatra liked his steaks done. Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix would sit up front, while Orson Welles hid in a corner, telling the staff, “All I want to do is have lunch. I don’t want anyone trying to sell me a script or tell me how their girlfriend belongs in movies.” Bartender Ruben Rueda has poured booze there since 1967. “I like a happy drunk,” he says. He once kicked out Steve McQueen for his behaviour.
True movie-lovers will find an authentic experience at Hollywood’s original 1922 movie palace. At Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, the glamour and history of Tinseltown is preserved by American Cinematheque, which rescued the Egyptian from the wrecking ball 20 years ago. Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the restored landmark now presents a full calendar of archival 35-mm and 70-mm screenings, film festivals, and in-person tributes with guests such as Mel Brooks, Kirk Douglas, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and George Clooney. The Egyptian Theatre will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2022.
The city’s greatest surviving Hollywood haunt is this legendary hotel and its cocktail bar on the Sunset Strip. It has catered to the whims of stars since the 1930s, providing privacy for the shenanigans of Howard Hughes, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. What Columbia Pictures co-founder Harry Cohn told a young William Holden and Glenn Ford in 1939 is just as true today: “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” If only its walls could talk. “It’s just so sexy there,” says Dita Von Teese, who enjoys martinis at the Chateau’s Bar Marmont. She says the best star-sightings are on the patio.
To see where Tinseltown films were made, book a four-and-a-half-hour VIP tour of the oldest-running studio in Hollywood. Visitors can see the iconic New York Street backlot, the prop warehouse and the soundstages where thousands of movies were filmed during the studio’s 100-plus years. The 1940s king of Paramount was actor Alan Ladd, the star of classics such as Shane, The Great Gatsby and The Blue Dahlia. “Paramount meant the world to my dad,” says Pathe Films co-founder and MGM producer David Ladd. “After years of being told he was too short and too blond by casting directors, Paramount became his home for a good dozen years. When the studio system started breaking up and he left Paramount, it broke his heart.”
You can sleep with the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard—even Brangelina—in the rooms at the now-hipper-than-ever Roosevelt. The hotel’s Blossom Ballroom is where Douglas Fairbanks hosted the first Academy Awards event on May 16, 1929. The hotel’s pool is a million-dollar historic monument—and famously appears in a painting by artist David Hockney.
[This story appears in the February 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine]