First Person: Hollywood Revisited

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday April 16, 2009 - 06:57:00 PM

As an avid moviegoer since early childhood, I happily signed on for the Oakland Museum’s “Hollywood Revisited” tour, arranged through the History Guild this past March. The trip also included Los Angeles, about which I had misgivings, having been brainwashed by the late Herb Caen, who viewed this city with utter disdain. 

Departing from the Oakland Museum early on a Tuesday morning, with tour directors Inez Brook-Myers and Mary Lou Cianni at the helm, our coach headed south via the Grapevine. Passing through green, fertile vineyards and orchards, we arrived at our destination and settled into a Holiday Express Inn, our home for next four nights. 

The days that followed were, to put it mildly, packed to the brim with visits to movie studios, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Fowler Museum at UCLA for its collection of exquisite textiles. Visiting Universal Studios, producer of Milk, we saw clips of this film and the outfits worn by Sean Penn. To our disappointment, at no time during our time in Hollywood did we spot a single movie personality. Perhaps today’s stars share Herb Caen’s contempt for “Tinsel Town.” 

Our most exciting and nostalgia-filled evening was that spent strolling leisurely along Hollywood Boulevard, stopping at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, famous the world over for the hand and foot prints of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars (the oldest being silent film actress Pola Negri). Tourists delight in having their pictures taken as they step into these footprints. Our group, of course, was much too sophisticated for such antics, although we did take photos. (I took one of Jimmy Durante’s nose, embedded in the pavement). A short distance from Grauman’s is the Kodak Theatre, site of the Academy Awards, evoking memories of all those actors, past and present, who have strode across that red carpet. Exhausted and famished after our walk, we next headed for dinner at Musso & Frank’s, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. 

The final day of our trip took us to the Ronald Reagan Library, an event I had not particularly looked forward to. Surprisingly, this visit turned out to be a very rewarding experience. Driving up a long, winding road in the beautiful Simi Valley, we were all overwhelmed at the gorgeous panorama looking out over the valley. It was easy to understand why Ronnie chose to be buried there. Cynic that I am, I assumed the “library” would consist chiefly of Reader’s Digests and People magazines. Wrong! 

This impressive building presented a living history of America and of its presidents, with portraits of all 44 presidents lining the walls. As was to be expected, there were many statues of Reagan and videos of his films. It was our good fortune that an original Magna Carta, written on sheepskin in tiny print, was on display; there are only four such documents in existence. 

All in all, the “Hollywood Revisited” tour was pure joy for this dedicated movie aficionado who has never, ever lost her lifelong love for the magic make-believe world of motion pictures!