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"Mornings like this encourage a more intimate relationship with the mighty Pacific Ocean. Take time to stand on the bluff above the beach, and you can hear the surf crashing. If you listen carefully, you can even hear its hissing retreat over the sand. Rows of white-capped breakers stand out in stark contrast to the grayish-green sea. Gulls stretch their wings to mirror the white surf against a dove gray sky. The light is soft, without the midday glare that obscures subtle dabs of green and tan on the sandy cliffs above the highway."

"Here and there a few of the original single-family homes built before the developers arrived have also survived. Twenty-four-twenty-eight turned out to be one of these tidy little wood-frame California bungalows. Judging by its design and construction, I guessed Wendy's home dated back to the teens-maybe 1915, or so."

"The coffee table sculpture drew me over for a closer inspection. The subject was a well-contoured woman standing with her marcelled head tilted back and turned slightly to one side. Her arms were at her sides, angled slightly away from her body. The woman's hands were extended with palms down and fingers stretched to the sides. Her rose glass upper body was nude, while her lower body was draped in a long bronze skirt flowing from her hips to a wide circle that formed the base of the statue.

"Feeling I'd seen this lady before, I walked around the coffee table, looking at her from all sides. I couldn't place the face or the body. Well, maybe I met her on a Duesenberg radiator cap. It definitely would have been a Duesie. She was far too classy for something as plebeian as a Cadillac or Packard."

"When they built the sign originally, the developers also erected a white dot part way down the slope below the sign. Very few people know about the dot because it no longer exists and doesn't show up in most photographs of the original sign.

"It was called a dot because compared to the letters it was relatively small. But if I had my facts straight, the dot was actually 35 feet in diameter and made of sheet metal like the sign. Also like the letters in the sign, the dot had light bulbs around its circumference. So at night the dot appeared to be a brilliant white circle floating against the dark hillside."

"There had to be more, so I cranked ahead to Tuesday's local news section. This time it wasn't a headline, but a photograph that caught my eye. Peg was staring back at me from the middle of the page. I recognized her because the photo was similar to the one Ken Schessler used in his book. She was looking at the camera and smiling a Mona Lisa sort of smile with her arms folded and resting on a flat surface. The photo was backlit, so her blonde hair was fringed with a kind of wispy aura. The photo was captioned, 'Millicent (Peg) Entwistle.'"

"The gray Ford Model A was driving up Beachwood toward the hills. I walked out to the street and watched in utter amazement as it rolled past. I wasn't amazed at seeing a 1931 Ford-lots of restored Model A Fords turn up at car shows. What left me standing there with my mouth open was that this was no restoration. It was an original 1931 Model A roadster. I knew it wasn't a restoration because the windshield and fenders were filthy. People who spent fortunes restoring antique cars didn't drive 'em around dirty. Or maybe I knew it wasn't a restoration because the old Ford looked perfectly at home in these surroundings-like a photograph from a book about the 1930s."

"A minute later we crossed the most famous intersection in America-at least it was in the 1930s. The street signs said "Hollywood Blvd." and "Vine St." Back in Hollywood's heyday, it was said that no matter where you were from, if you stood at the corner of Hollywood and Vine long enough, you would meet someone you knew. It might have been fun to test that theory, but it probably didn't apply to time travelers."

"A few minutes later we were passing the Vine Street Brown Derby on our left. Most people don't know there were actually four Brown Derbys.

"The Derby we passed on Vine Street, however, was the legendary one. It had the celebrity caricatures on the walls and Cobb salads on the tables. Legend has it that this was where Gable popped the question to Carole Lombard."

"We crossed El Centro, and at Gower, the huge globe atop RKO Studios' entrance loomed ominously in the darkness. The building would still be around in my time, but then it would be part of the massive Paramount lot owned by Viacom. I glanced down the El Centro side of the building and saw the giant RKO RADIO PICTURES sign. It was an image right out of the Hollywood history books."

"After turning right onto Marathon, the Paramount lot was on my left. Having spent some time behind its tall fences, I knew Paramount continued on for about four blocks to Van Ness. Here, again, several streets were blocked to make room for the studio. The second cross street I came to was Bronson. It dead-ended at the famous Paramount gate."

"Thinking about Peg's suicide made me look up toward the Hollywood Hills. Up ahead, through a break in the trees, I saw it again. The old, familiar landmark was still lit up like the Vegas Strip on Saturday night, but each time I saw it, the sign's appearance took me by surprise. Intellectually I knew the letters now spelled HOLLYWOODLAND, and yet no matter how often I saw the famous sign in its original incarnation, each time was like coming home and finding your living room painted a different color. It looked familiar, but not right."

"But Hollywood Memorial is the granddaddy of them all in the who's who department. Tourist guide books almost always include a map that will lead you to the graves of everybody from C.B. DeMille and Rudolph Valentino to gangster Bugsy Siegel and Virginia Rappe, the actress silent film star Fatty Arbuckle was supposed to have accidentally squashed to death during a wild orgy in San Francisco. The best of them all, though, is the simple gravestone of Mel Blanc, the voice of such cartoon notables as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Below his name and the dates of his life, it simply says, 'That's All, Folks.'"

"'Now I am certain you are lying. No one who saw Thirteen Women could possibly believe there was anything great about it, least of all my portrayal of Hazel.'

"She had me there. Back at the library my dim recollection of Thirteen Women had brought to mind poor acting and even worse directing, but I had picked a direction and decided to stick with it. Oozing sincerity, I countered, 'No, I mean it. On the whole, Thirteen Women was pretty bad, but you handled your part well in spite of weak direction and a poorly written screenplay.'"

"Around 1911 the Nestor Film Company came out west from New Jersey and rented an old tavern at the corner to use as a studio. The tavern happened to be vacant because the righteous citizens of Hollywood had just voted a local prohibition against the sale of alcoholic beverages. So the Nestor company moved in and cranked up their cameras to create the first film made in Hollywood-a one-reel western."

"At the Plaza's main entrance, a domed canopy with bronze filigree extended over the sidewalk. Beneath the canopy, a pair of glass entrance doors with brass fittings were inscribed, "Hollywood Plaza," in glittering gold script. It was the kind of place that should have had a doorman. Maybe it did during more reasonable hours."

"After what seemed like an hour but was more like ten minutes, the tall sandstone tower on the east side of Beachwood Drive that marked the entrance to Hollywoodland came into view. I recognized the tower because it would still be standing in exactly the same position seventy-eight years from now. Beyond the tower, a Tudor-style building with a large sign that said "Hollywoodland Tract Office" overlooked a wide intersection of four streets branching off in different directions."

"The most famous sign in the world was only a few hundred yards above me, and the sight of it stopped me in my tracks. The light bulbs surrounding the letters must have been controlled by a timer of some kind because they were off now. But what shocked me was the scale. I was used to seeing the sign from a distance. From this perspective there was no sense of the word HOLLYWOODLAND. All I saw from here were gigantic letters looming dimly above me in the moonlight like ancient monoliths erected in tribute to the gods of some long-extinct tribe. A primal feeling of foreboding prickled the hairs on the back of my neck. I could imagine the traveler of an earlier age coming across Stonehenge in the dark and experiencing a similar sensation."