Just a few days after the New Year, while in Los Angeles, we visited Hollywood Boulevard. While I don’t imagine the beautiful people do a lot of hanging around in that particular neighborhood, it is sacred ground for the global mythology of Hollywood. Visiting the “walk of fame” is, after all, what tourists are expected to do when they visit L.A. So we went to see the stars—more specifically the traces they have left behind—their handprints and their footprints and the concrete stars embedded in the sidewalk.
That Hollywood’s narrative and representational power is truly global in scope is today an unsurprising fact. It was really tangible, however, amid the sounds of a variety of languages and the throngs of international tourist-bodies surging up and down the walk snapping photos, buying things, lining up for bus tours of the mansions, favorite haunts and graves of the stars. Of course, I suppose “the star walk,” with its focus at the front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, has always had some kind of eye to the international—albeit an Orientalist one.
Walking up and down the street, I enjoyed looking at the shops, the tourists and the stars underfoot. I saw classic golden-age stars, action stars, stars I have enjoyed and stars that suck. There were a lot of them and it was quite a long walk cover them all. I imagined a time, hundreds of years in the future when the “star walk” will have expanded outward geometrically to cover the entire city—when every sidewalk has a star on it.
I had, however, always assumed that the concrete stars all had to represent actual human actors—that there had to be a real human being behind the representation. People who played other people on the screen and then came to play themselves in a larger-than-life way as “movie stars,” at some level still had to be flesh and blood. So, thought it was a bit unusual when I found that Godzilla had his own star. Somehow the giant mutant monster managed to make it onto the walk of fame.
For me, however, the highlight of the afternoon was on the way back to our car, when we walked past a small group of young people clad in baseball caps, sunglasses and tee shirts that read “Jesus Christ, Call, Change, Commit.” Two of them held a banner that read,
“Repent! Repent! Repent! Repent!
GOD WILL DESTROY L.A. Abortionists, Homos, Adulterers, Perverts, Blasphemers”
At different moments members of the group would alert passers by of the impending destruction and call on them to change their ways. Seeing an opportunity I walked up to one of the men on the edge and asked him what it was all about and why they were there. He calmly and seriously told me that God was going to destroy L.A. He and his friends had traveled from Montana to Hollywood to share their message—to warn people in Los Angeles about the end. When I inquired as to how he knew this and how God would do it, he replied that it was certain because of the Godless evil that Los Angles represents. He did not know how it would happen, but was certain that it would. When I asked him if he was worried that it would happen while he and his friends were standing on Hollywood Boulevard, he replied that he was not, because he was doing God’s work.
I respectfully asked him which God he believed would destroy the City of Angles. He replied, that he and the others were Christians. When I commented that there were many types of Christians and asked which denomination, he replied that their church did not have a denomination. They did God’s work.
When I asked where in Montana they were from, he responded “Montana.“
At one point I took a moment to shoot video of the Montanan Christians when a group of what appeared to be Korean Christians walked past holding their own protest. They were marching with signs that read “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus is The Way.” For a moment I was exactly between them—at the confluence of the Old Testament and the New—one group publicly claimed that their Wrathful God will Destroy while the other offered a way to forgiveness. Unfortunately, while I was filming a nearby heckler began to try to shout down the groups’ messages with his own. For your viewing pleasure, here it is in HD:
After the Koreans passed, I asked the Montana group if they knew the Korean group—and the guy I had spoken to earlier replied that they “see them around a lot.”
I could have talked with the Montana guy all day there on the street, but it became pretty clear to me that he wasn’t really much in the mood to discuss issues or share details. He and his friends already knew their Truth and when you know something there isn’t much need in discussing hypotheticals. L.A. would be destroyed by the hand of God and they were just there to let us know.
In the time since my brief interaction with the protesters, I have thought about them. On one hand they, quite frankly, scare the shit out of me. I find it impossible to understand their insensitive conviction, apparent lack of curiosity and clear hatred for difference that goes against their beliefs. As far as I am concerned their message is basically the same as that of hateful fundamentalists everywhere: Those who believe differently are doomed.
Yet, I also can’t shake a small measure of respect for them. They are on the street peacefully making their views known. They have their convictions and are not afraid to stand in public and assert them. They are there often, as are others, trying to spread their belief. If they can do it, I wonder what it would look like for other groups to demonstrate commitment in the same way. What if five students and three professors stood on street corners everyday reminding us about the growing unequal access to education and opportunity in the US?
I suppose that message doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Repent! The End is Nigh!”
Curiously, however, I have been thinking about how perfectly poetic it was that those groups of protesters serendipitously crossed paths at that moment on Hollywood Boulevard proclaiming the End of The World and its Saving. They converged at the symbolic heart of a fantasy industry that has destroyed many things in a multitude of ways, and just as often told the story of how one man miraculously saves things in the nick of time just before The End.
John McClaine. Jack Bauer. The Death Star and Luke Skywalker. The crew of miners that fly up in a spaceship to destroy the asteroid that is going to crash into the earth. The Man with No Name. It is a familiar narrative that is deeply embedded in the mythos of Hollywood itself—a storyline that plays no small part in attracting tourists from all over the world.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the eyes of some of the throngs of tourists who coursed up and down the sidewalk the protesters were not just another Hollywood spectacle—a reading of their faithful protest anticipated by the many images of bearded wackos with sandwich boards that are such a common trope of American popular culture. Sort of an inverse of the same power that made Godzilla real enough for his own star.