Issue: Issue Summer 2007
Discovering Old Hollywood
L-R: Carole Lombard in her Hollywood Boulevard home decorated by William Haines, 1933; Delivery boys outside the Hollywood Citizen-News on Wilcox Avenue below Selma Avenue, 1933;
, Alex Williams arrived in
in 1915, same year, D.W. Griffith
turned movies into motion pictures with The
Birth of a Nation.
made his movie at Triangle
Studios at Sunset and Virgil. Alex Williams set up business
with two brothers-in-law named Linardos at Sunset and
Gordon, next to the Poverty Row studios. It wasn’t the
movies, but The Linardos Brothers Market sold groceries to
them along with anyone else in the neighborhood. Alex
Williams was my grandfather.
It took my father Dino and I fifteen years to create “The
: An Illustrated History.” Released
this fall, it chronicles the legendary place that gave its
name to show business. Our first book “The Story of
Hollywoodland” was fairly simple. But it was so much fun,
we thought we’d try something bigger. “The Story of
” follows our hometown from dirt until today.
During our research, we found an aerial photo that shows The
Linardos Brothers Market. Taken in 1922, the old
Paramount/Lasky lot is in the foreground at Vine and Sunset.
Silent movies were golden then and
was the most
golden of the studios. In the middle of the photograph, you
can see Poverty Row at Gower Gulch. The family store is a
block after that. My dad’s oldest brother, Harry, spent
his infancy in one of the upstairs’ apartments. (Today’s developers make a big deal about apartments above retail;
my grandparents did it in 1922.) Beyond the store is the
Beesemyer ranch at Sunset and Bronson where the Warner
Brothers built their first Hollywood studio.
’s story swept me up from the start with its
characters and events. Some of the writing helped me connect
family stories I had heard growing up: Uncle Harry delivered
groceries to Harry Cohn and Jean Harlow: Uncle George told
of seeing Gable and Lombard trying on cowboy hats in
: Dino said the only time
he saw his father cry was when Alex lost ten thousand dollars
in the Guaranty Savings and Loan default. Gilbert Beesemyer,
who grew up on his parents’ ranch and founded Guaranty,
caused the failure. A lot of trusting Hollywood citizens lost
their savings at the start of the Depression. Beesemyer went
to prison. Scientology now owns his
Some of the research connected me to my own past. My first
came as a young child on
shopping trips with my mom. As we headed for the posh
Broadway Hollywood, I would stare at the Hody’s restaurant
and Vine. Its brightly painted clown with a
spinning beach ball nose totally mesmerized me. But we never
ate in the restaurant. It turns out that in 1933, Carl Laemmle,
founder of Universal Studio, opened the Coco Tree Café in
that building designed by architect Richard Neutra. The Story
documents this corner and more along
’s major thoroughfares.
Originally, Dino and I had planned to license the photographs;
there are over eight hundred in the book. Like
dummies, we hadn’t taken photos of
for all of our
years here. Much of that
is only a memory now.
So we went to every library collection we could find and looked
photo they had, incorporating many of them
into the book. (We also fell in love
with photo librarians.) The
project, however, went up a notch when the
photographer named Cliff Wesselmann came to us.
newspaper photographer from the 1920s
to the early ‘60s. He spent a large part of his career at the
Hollywood Citizen News
on Wilcox. Wesselmann went to premieres,
radio broadcasts, Academy
Award ceremonies and murder scenes.
He photographed Hollywood streets for
the fun of it.
When he died in the ‘60s, his heirs abandoned his photos and
negatives, about eighteen thousand of them, in his San Fernando
that was about to be demolished. Hollywood camera-store
McCrary saved the collection, storing it in his attic for close
to thirty years.
When he heard of our book, he sold us the collection,
most of it never-beforeseen
4X5 negatives. Truthfully, “The Story of
Hollywood” merely sketches the story of this famous place. Writing the
book made me fall in love with
all over again. When Paris Hilton
gets a DUI at Wilcox and
while heading to Sunset and
for an In-N-Out burger,
is still creating characters
and events to write about.
Cecil B. DeMille, Marlene Dietrich and Clark Gable at the first Lux Radio Theater broadcast from Hollywood, 1936; Hollywood Boulevard looking west from inside the Taft Building, 1925. (Images reprinted with permission from BL Press, LLC
Gregory Paul Williams is the author of the new book The Story of Hollywood,
an Illustrated History now available at bookstores nationwide and online at
www.storyofhollywood.com. Greg was born in the shadow of the
and is a professional puppeteer. His
credits include Men In Black I and II, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Beakman’s World
and his own original productions. www.puppetstudio.com