It’s time to tell you where we’re coming from. Physically anyway. World of Wonder Productions owns the landmark, 1930s Shane Building (first home of the Directors Guild of America) at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue, occupying the third and fourth floors and some of the lobby for its film and television production. A depressing-on-the-outside, delightful-on-the-inside sex shop, A Touch of Romance, rents out the corner storefront, right where Red Skelton is embedded in the Walk of Fame. Debbie Reynolds and Errol Flynn enjoy spots in front of contiguous hot(dog)spot Skooby’s, where WOWers lunch before getting drunk at Boardner’s (see below) and Raymond Burr serves as doormat outside Iglesias Universal del Reino de Dios, formerly the Ritz movie theater, where Deep Throat played to packed houses back in 1972. In the Shane’s basement, used now as WOW’s tape library, lurk memories of its nights as the Masque, an LA punk rock nightclub. Belinda Carlisle, Black Flag, the Germs, et al, left their Day-glo graffiti on the black walls.
On a clear day, from the roof, one can spy the nearby Oscarlicious Kodak Theater and the Hollywood and Highland entertainment and shopping complex with its monumental and prophetic white elephant statuary. Using binoculars, a person can pretend to see Bette Davis‘ minuscule shoeprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She was petite.
Across the street from WOW, on Hollywood, is Musso & Frank Grill, arguably the oldest restaurant in Hollywood (80 years). Across the street, on Cherokee, is Boardner’s, a legendary lounge that likes to think it’s Hollywood’s best kept secret since 1942. The WOW staff has experienced many secrets there itself. Around the corner on the Hollywood side of the Boardner’s building, on the second floor, is the spacious showroom of Rabin Rodgers Inc., the fab event planners. . .um, make that “creative consulting and lifestyle marketing firm.”
Heading east on Hollywood, one finds Larry Edmunds Bookshop with, it claims, the world’s largest collection of books and memorabilia on movies and theater. I believe it. It’s kind of like a public library devoted only to movies, but everything is for sale, which is what you should expect to find on Hollywood Boulevard. Exhausting. A little further east is Heidi Fleiss‘ clothes shop, Hollywood Madam. It has a schizo decor: a clash of moderne and fussily Victorian, including a Victorian styled photo booth. The booth is $10 a pop, fed one bill at a time (as if into a G-string), and the four photos come out as a single lousy Polaroid. WOW shoppers, exec assistant Moye Ishimoto and head of development Jim Galasso (pictured, above, in booth), found the merch less sexy than that in A Touch of Romance.
In the other direction on Hollywood Boulevard, heading toward the Hollywood and Highland complex and the Scientology skyscrapers, things get more touristy with the pizza joints, the Wax Museum and Ripley’s, the sneaker stores, tattoo parlors, Scientologists, skinheads, T-shirt vendors, the homeless, the piercing parlors, souvenir stands, out-of-work actors dressed as Superman, Dracula, Darth Vader, and Marilyn, out-of-work actors dressed as out-of-work actors, hustlers, and tourists. But closer to WOW are The Supply Sergeant, the military goods store with the completest line of Dickies wear outside a Dickies factory, the Pig ‘n Whistle restaurant, where you can eat in bed, The Erotic Museum, and Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, a spectacular hieroglyphic of a movie palace, where the American Cinemateque has mini film festivals and revivals that make it worth living in LA.
But everyone at WOW is in agreement that the piece de resistence and the fiercest joint on the boulevard has to be the Tigers store, directly across the street from us. The banner says TIGERS, but it’s actually The Hollywood Zoo–the new sign hasn’t been put up yet. Of course it sells tigers, mostly tigers, but also lions and elephants, dogs. Stuffed, plush, and inexpensive. (The way WOW staffers like their partners.) The eyes of the white tigers even light up, if you like. But why? Was there a demand for toy tigers in this abundance? We don’t know. We don’t care. We just enjoy it.