That little red thing up there is something I got back in the spring of 1988— my first trip to Hollywood at 8½ years old. Making the haul from my house in Corona, we set off one mid-afternoon on up to the LA area and each time I hear three songs I go right back to that day: Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2), Man in the Mirror (Michael Jackson) and Father Figure (George Michael).
Still Haven’t Found… played on the radio in the car as we gassed up at the Shell station down on 6th in Corona which was right next to the 91 freeway on-ramp. Man in the Mirror came on as we entered the Hollywood city limits along the 5 freeway as did Father Figure during our rides down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. It’s amazing how sounds, much less smells, can take you back so vividly.
That day I recall we did all the driving-by sights, and even got one of those old school Maps of the Star’s Homes. It reminded me of a elementary school yearbook being a nice, semi-glossy magazine-style booklet with black and white pictures of various houses and their addresses.
I believe we made a short detour on up around to Malibu, by way of Pacific Coast Highway, just to see the coastline and I saw my first wicked billboard ever—it was for the first Child’s Play film.
As sunset was approaching we were going through Beverly Hills and I had wanted to see Lucille Ball’s house, and regrettably we didn’t get to. I was one of three children at the time and everyone was getting hungry. We headed over to a place I had never heard of—Fuddrucker’s—and it was an immense hamburger I had for dinner.
To cap off the night we finally hit the Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and it was packed. It was nightfall by then, but the foot court and surrounding area was brightly lit with what I now call 80s off-white fluorescence.
I recall not being wholly interested in the hand prints and signatures as, being quite young, I didn’t know who nine out of ten people were when reading, much less trying to make the names out. We ventured over to the side and came across a nifty little machine that was making wax molds on the spot for just one dollar.
We checked it out and my dad ended up getting us a couple of them. You put in your money and the machine went to work one step at a time and after a minute or two… you got your novelty piece of wax.
And that’s what you see from first reading this post: A little pagoda commemorating the-then Mann’s Chinese Theatre. For years the place was known as Grauman’s, and then in the 1970s became Mann’s, and since around 2013 it’s now called TCL Chinese Theatre. Ah, naming rights in Hollywood has become a semi-nauseating theme these days.
As the second wax figure was being made up, I found myself getting distracted by a window display right next to it. In department store fashion, this display was of Sylvester Stallone, either as a full wax or plastic figure, as Rambo, and I remember his automatic weapon he was holding, but I don’t remember if he was on a motorcycle or not, but the backdrop and surrounding décor inside the display was fit to the jungle theme. It was in promotion for the then-upcoming Rambo III.
In what ended up feeling like a long, long ride home… has been a day I have obviously never forgotten. And I’m glad I still have a piece of it to remember it by.
I recently came across a company, Moldville, who happens to own the exact machine that made those wax pagodas. You can visit their pagoda page here, and they also have a nice Facebook set-up as well. Interesting stuff!