Not many people realize today that the current iteration is not the first time Italy’s venerable Fiat 500 was sold on these here shores. In the late 50's, Fiat exported a small number of the original 500 minicar to the land of huge iron leviathans. I’m actually not sure for how long or how many were sold, but these American spec. 500's are pretty rare. The tad larger 600 is much more common.

The little Fiat unfortunately suffered some damage in a minor accident on the Walk of Fame when we, no joke, got bumped into by Spider-Man. Damn you, Wall-Crawler! The perils of driving/walking in Hollywood, I guess.

All of the American 500's I’ve seen are from 1958 or ‘59, so it could just be those two years that some were imported.

The most distinguishing feature of these cars is the frog-eye headlight pods to comply with ‘Merican regulations.

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As shown by the previous photo, one of the drawbacks of headlight pods is that they’re not impervious to superheroes and they can fall off.

I had to do some errands in Hollywood yesterday, so I brought this little guy with me in the hopes of recreating the glorious diorama it comes with. This Universal Hobbies by Hachette came to me from Jobjoris in one of the Boxes of Wonder I’ve received from him. I’m pretty sure he covered it in a post, but I couldn’t find it. For some reason I found it really funny that they used the Hollywood sign to represent America.

I forgot to bring a real camera, so deep focus was out.

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Thinking about it, though, Hollywood is America distilled down to its essence. As much as so called “real” Americans wouldn’t admit it. Right down to the fact that the Hollywood sign was originally an advertisement for a real estate venture before it became the symbol of Tinseltown.

Hollywoodland was a fairly remote housing development up in the hills, so they put up this ginormous sign to let people know it was there. They made it so big so it could be seen from the cars buzzing around the city below.

Like the rest of the nation, the sign became decrepit during the Depression with “H” finally collapsing during the war years. It was set to be demolished when the city of Hollywood offered to refurbish it if they could drop the suffix. And, a great symbol of stardom, hopes, and tourism was born.

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Hollywood is one of the greatest tourist traps in the world. I rarely walk down Hollywood Blvd. because there’s rarely a reason to, but it’s a trip. Masses of tourists walking up and down the street looking to be ripped off.

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For a time in the 70's and 80's Hollywood Blvd. was a real cesspool. Much like New York’s Times Square, it’s gone from a den of drugs and prostitutes to a sanitized attraction.

The massage parlors have been replaced by cheap t-shirts and the Kodak Theater. Which is nice for the tourists, I guess, but Hollywood’s sure lost a lot of its personality.

The Boulevard’s most famous feature is the Walk of Fame, of course.

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The Walk of Fame was the brainchild of the president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, E.M. Stuart. In 1953, he proposed it as a way to honor the industries that built our town and, obviously, a tourist attraction.

Hollywood was a pretty rinky-dink little village of small houses and orange groves before the movies moved out here.

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But, once the film industry took off, it grew quickly. And, after WWII, when folks could finally afford to go on vacation again, Hollywood became a big destination. People came wanting to see movie stars, which wasn’t always possible, so the city gave them a sidewalk adorned with stars.

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Wikipedia has an interesting rundown of how they picked the first 1,558 stars. There’s over 2,600 now and apparently there’s one guy that spends all his time polishing them, beginning at one end and starting all over once he gets through them all.

The other place sightseers can get close to movie stars is Grauman’s Chinese Theater where they have all the foot and handprints.

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Stories vary as to how the tradition of putting the prints in concrete outside the theater was started. Sid Grauman, who built the theater in 1926, was an interesting character. As a kid, his father brought him to the Yukon during the gold rush there. But, they didn’t go to mine, they went to build a theater. Sid’s dad knew that folks up there would be starving for entertainment. And they were. Young Sid would sell newspapers for a dollar each while his father promoted boxing matches and various musical productions.

The Egyptian is now run by the American Cinematheque who mostly screen classic films there. It’s a great place to see a movie and one of my favorite spots in town.

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The family later opened vaudeville theaters in San Francisco and around the northwest before coming down to L.A. to get into the growing motion picture theater business. Their first theater was the lavish Egyptian. It was one of the first movie palaces in town and the only one with a theme. It became a huge attraction when it hosted the very first movie premiere in 1922 for Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood. Unfortunately, the elder Grauman died before the theater’s completion, but Sid took over the business and, buoyed by the Egyptian’s success, built the Chinese Theater up the street. Someone didn’t tell them political correctness was going to become a thing.

Not all the footprints are human. This is Trigger.

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Anyway, the legend is that silent film star Mary Pickford accidentally stepped in wet concrete when the theater was under construction and Sid decided to leave her footprints. Later, Sid said it was he who first stepped in the concrete and then he beckoned Mary to do the same. But, it seems like what happened was that the foreman, Jean Klossner, put his autograph in a block of cement in a discrete place and a lightbulb went off. He told Sid he should get actors and actresses to autograph the walkway to the theater’s entrance at every premiere. And Sid, now well experienced in show business, thought hands and feet would make a better photo op for the trades. Mary Pickford was indeed the first, though. And, Klossner would always mix the cement and became the master of ceremonies for the cement stepping.

That’s kind of creepy, Bogie.
Threepio!

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One gross thing you still can’t escape in Hollywood are the Scientologists.

They’re still all over trying to hand you pamphlets on the dangers of psychiatry.

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You also have your Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! This is their Peel Trident. World’s smallest car! This is one of the new ones, not an original.

My favorite place to go look at old movie stars is Forest Lawn Cemetery down the street from where I live in Glendale.

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Mary was the world’s first real movie superstar, the biggest draw of the Silent Era.

It may seem morbid to hang out in a cemetery, but there’s hardly ever anybody there, so it makes me feel good that at least I’m still here paying respects to these people who were giants in their time. Sometimes I’ll find flowers, so I guess I’m not the only one.

Bogie’s middle name was Deforest.

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Is it disrespectful to bring my diecast car to take pictures of their graves? I don’t know. I come here all the time because it’s a nice place to take a walk and I love old movies. So, I probably feel a certain undeserved ownership over the place that makes me feel cavalier about it. These people were movie stars, so I doubt they were very uptight about stuff like this.

The King.

So, that was a jaunt around Hollywood with a car that probably wasn’t all that common out here. Although, I did once almost buy a U.S. spec 500 with bug eyes in Hollywood. It was complete minus floors, so it most likely wasn’t a California car.

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This was a really nice 1:43 before Web Head sent it crashing to the ground somewhere between Marilyn Monroe and Roddy McDowall. So, a big thank you to Jobjoris for sending it to its rightful home here in the Land of the Stars.

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This where I used to go to work like, 20 jobs ago.