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Why the real Hollywood is so disappointing, and why it should be

If you've never gone to Hollywood, California, I recommend that you do. You will be disappointed by what you see, and that's how it should be. I'll see if I can explain.

For people all over the world, Hollywood has meant the movies produced in the U.S.A., specifically Los Angeles. There is a portion of Los Angeles that is actually Hollywood, but the term Hollywood really means anywhere from Burbank, in the San Fernando Valley, to Culver City, to Los Feliz, and anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area where movies are made.

I lived in Hollywood for just a few months in the 1980s. My plan wasn't to break into the movies, I wanted to work for an advertising agency, along Wilshire Boulevard. The neighborhood in Hollywood where I lived, which was at Franklin and Argyle, had the most reasonable rent that I could find in the area. And since I was immune to being starstruck, it was just another place for me, a street in a city where I was looking for work in Graphic Design. So when I go back to visit I'm just visiting a neighborhood that I lived in when I was a young man, that's all.

Most people, of course, think of Hollywood as portrayed in movies and on TV. And since my degree was in Graphic Design, and I ultimately did some art direction of photography, I understood how artful illusion can make things look better than they really are. That's just good design, and good direction. You hire the best-looking models you can find, search out the best locations, and make sure that everything is as perfect as it can be on the day of the shoot. Hair and makeup is done, clothing is selected, lighting is set, everything is squeaky clean. That's how everything from the photos in magazines that you see are done, to movies. The reality, of course, can't possibly be that perfect.

And so when you see an actual location, or meet an actual movie star, it's usually a disappointment. The people and places aren't as beautiful and glamorous in real life. You could drive right past famous places in Hollywood and hardly know that they were there, the same way that a celebrity could walk past you at the coffee shop without getting a second look from you.

I know a lot of people who feel cheated by all of this, as if some kind of dirty trick has been played on them, and that everything is fake. But that's what movies are, they're fantasy, not reality. If you want reality you can just do a Google Street View (above). Speaking for myself, I have the greatest admiration for the people who create that wonderful fantasy, the production people, the artists, the actors, and so on. These people are absolutely amazing!

Go see a Hollywood movie.

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