A Brief History of Hollywood

Most articles written on the history of Hollywood tell tale of the burgeoning movie industry of the golden age and the “idea” that is Hollywood: Entertainment capital of the world. Hollywood is truly one of the major brands of the world, and its “logo” is probably recognizable by more citizens of the Earth than the facade of the White House. Once you begin to peel back the layers attached by world perception, we can perceive the real Hollywood as the neighborhood itself. That’s the subject of this article.



Most tales of this historic settlement begin with a lone Adobe house in 1853. It was the beginning of a flourishing agricultural community producing grains, pineapples, and bananas (the latter two now sold in full deliciousness at the Sunset and Vine Smoothie King). All this changed when a gent named Harvey Wilcox bought 160 acres of land south of the foothills and amidst the Cahuenga pass in a great real estate scheme designed to lure Midwesterners to “winter” on the coast. Having recently moved from the onslaught that is Midwestern winters, I sympathize. It was Wilcox that paved Prospect Ave, which later became the famed Hollywood Blvd and the “Walk of Fame”.

Other stories link the birth of Hollywood to a man named H. J. Whitley, the so-called Father of Hollywood. A Midwestern real estate baron himself, he and his wife reportedly came up with the village’s name on their honeymoon. Whitley also built the Hollywood Hotel, the first of its kind in the area and on the same lot now used by the Kodak Theatre. In any case, both Wilcox and Whitley managed to get streets named after them.

Contrary to what you may have heard, Hollywood was not originally called “Hollywoodland” – the original signage on the foothills overlooking Hollywood. Indeed, this was the name of a real estate community built by Whitley associates Woodruff and Shoult, who marketed their development as a “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.”

The entertainment industry roared into the neighborhood in 1910 with the entry of D. W. Griffith and his Biograph Company. Accompanying him was an acting company featuring a young Mary Pickford. The first full-fledged studio to set up shop was New Jersey-based Centaur Co at the corner of Sunset and Gower (yes, there is still studio space there). 1914 brought the first feature film made in a Hollywood studio: The Squaw Man, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. By 1915, Paramount, Warner Bros, RKO, and Columbia all had a major presence in the burgeoning film capital.

And so the golden age of Hollywood began.

The 1940’s and 50’s saw the rise of television and Hollywood was the place to be. The music recording business began its trek towards Hollywood as did radio. With radio, film, television, and music colliding, the neighborhood solidified its reputation as the unchallenged entertainment capital of the world. As decades progressed, the spirit of Hollywood busted past its borders. Major studios moved out of the neighborhood that gave them birth and spread across Los Angeles. The term “Hollywood” no longer referred to geographical place, per se, as much as an idea or even more abstract: A promise of the American dream.




The 80’s and 90’s were rough for this gilded neighborhood, as it saw itself begin to decay. The word “seedy” replaced “glitzy”, industry and tourism withered as crime took over. This wasn’t the end, though…

The 2000’s represent nothing short of a rebirth for the fabled neighborhood. Tourism picked up, and the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex was built on the grounds of Wilcox’s old Hollywood Hotel. Industry began to return as did investment capital, shops, bars, restaurants, night clubs, music venues, and theatres. It is now one of LA’s premiere leisure spots as anyone looking for parking on a Saturday night will attest.

Earlier this decade, the Hollywood Media District was formed that amongst other things, established “Theatre Row” – a collection of 15 or so theatre spaces dotted up and down Santa Monica Blvd and Highland Ave. And it is here that we set our scene.

In 2010, we hope to add our own chapter to the storied history of this epic neighborhood. Hope to see you there.


Meet the Fringe Freaks

All great endeavors require mascots: The Orioles Bird, Uncle Sam, The Keebler Elf (cookie-making counts as a “great endeavor”).

We at the Hollywood Fringe didn’t plan on a mascot…it never occurred to us. Until one morning I received an email from our graphic designer Gavin Worth. He had been working on some branding ideas, one of which appeared to be a street corner with a whole bevy of freaky-type characters. It also include a disparaging note about one of our mothers (identities hidden to protect the guilty).

For some reason, it stuck and we have been plastering our new friends – the “Fringe Freaks” – on much of our promotional materials. Who knows, you may see these little guys walking up and down Santa Monica Blvd come Summer 2010.

So without further introduction, I bring you The Freaks themselves:


Twittering the Fringe

Ain’t technology fun.

For those of you that are into the Twitter thing, good news for you! The Hollywood Fringe now has a Twitter.

For those of you who don’t know what twitter is read on….

Twitter is a web utility you can use to post your current status and read the statuses of others. For example, if I were eating lunch at a new restaurant in Hollywood, and I wanted everyone to know about it, I could tweet: “eating lunch at this fabu restuarant…y’all should come sometime”. You get the idea, it’s like a mini-blog post.

(yes, I did use the verb “to tweet” which is the correct parlance for posting a status on Twitter)

A few weeks ago (being a minor space geek) I decided to start following the Mars Rover twitter. I get updates every few hours on what that little guy is doing and seeing. Recently, the Washington Post twittered the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

For you folks craving that moment-by-moment update on LA’s first Fringe Festival, your appetites can be sated by checking our Twitter:

<img border=0 src=“http://static.twitter.com/images/twitter_bubble_logo.gif” />

We will try to keep it updated often for your viewing enjoyment.


Fringe Website 2.0

Barring some freak technological blip, you are reading this latest article on our new website, the hot bed of our future web-based adventures. Welcome!

The site is currently relatively bling-free, which is intentional. Strolling through the gamut of international Fringe websites is a fun exercise. Generally, they convey something of a chaos inherent in the perceived psyche of Fringe festivals. This is a good idea as design conveys emotion and context, and this chaos fits well within the Fringe atmosphere.

We have slightly different aims in our web-world and that is to muster and communicate with the resources to bring this festival successfully home. The Internets is central to our awareness and promotion startegeries. You may have already noticed that the “blog” element of our to-date web presence is front-and-center. Communication is king, and best served on a clear and concise dinner plate.

That said, we have plans to further develop our web presence from a design and content perspective. So, I suppose a little bling is forthcoming.

We have added some more data on the festival itself and what is vies to achieve. First on the menu of future features is a comment engine followed by a newsletter. We will also be unveiling the “alpha” version of our submissions website, which will power the great democratic initiative of the Hollywood Fringe festival.

So welcome! The old fringe site is dead, long live the new fringe site.

Ben


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