Memoir

Not Quite Ready For That Close-Up

alto-nido-hollywood-sunset-blvdFrom the Sunset Blvd screenplay

Slow dissolve to:

Hollywood, seen from the Hilltop at Ivar & Franklin Streets.

Joe Gillis (VO)
I was living in an apartment
   house above Franklin and Ivar.

Camera pans toward the Alto Nido, an ugly Moorish structure of stucco about four stories high.

Actually, it is six stories high. I know because I lived there for two years. Just as the screenplay describes it, the Chateau Alto Nido sits at the top of the hill. The basement and the first and second floors are below street level, which places the lobby on the third floor. We lived on the second floor and, for the most part, it confused first-time visitor when they headed up, instead of down to get to our floor from the lobby.

For fans of the movie, a trip to Hollywood requires a visit to Joe Gillis’ apartment, just a block from Hollywood & Vine and the Capitol Records building. Just turn north on Ivar Avenue and follow the Walk of Fame. The Alto Nido was populated by struggling writers then, and still is now, although famous stars of long ago lived here, too. Claudette Colbert called this place home in the 1920s. Lila Leeds almost died here. It is rumored that Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, stayed here.

Despite that, the irony of the reality wasn’t lost on the screenwriters (including director, Billy Wilder.) The script describes it as an ugly structure and if they meant that as metaphor, then it was an indictment of the city of Hollywood as an opportunistic industry.

We ended up moving in, after a series of fortunate coincidences. It was a concrete affirmation that we were well on our way towards attaining the goals we set when we first moved to Los Angeles more than ten years ago. We knew what moving in would represent as struggling artists.

When I finally gave up our apartment at the Alto Nido, my partner was three months into his eight-month contract at one of the nation’s oldest and most successful Shakespeare theatre companies in Oregon. I stayed behind to wait for him, but the luxury of a struggling writer was getting too expensive. He didn’t take the news very well. “I didn’t get to say good-bye,” he said. He meant the Alto Nido. He meant Hollywood. He meant our goals.

Last week, we re-evaluated our goals over Chinese food. At the end of our meal, we cracked open our fortune cookies and mine read, “With integrity and consistency, your credits are piling up.”

Standing atop of that hill on Ivar and Franklin, one can be seduced by the promise of a Hollywood ending. It can dilute integrity as the struggle stretches on for year. Joe Gillis certainly had none and look where it got him.

———–

Essay prompted by this photo prompt from Write On Edge
Essay inspired by this photo prompt from Write On Edge

8 thoughts on “Not Quite Ready For That Close-Up”

  1. angela says:

    How many unfulfilled dreams live in Hollywood? There’s something both beautiful and melancholic about a building that represents goals that the city can’t always make a reality.

    1. And there are a lot of talented people living in that building, too. We moved to make room for them 🙂

  2. What a curious idea of an enduring building outliving all the Hollywood celebrities and their dreams. An ugly, undesirable building at that!

    1. Well, it’s not that ugly, in my opinion. LOL But yes, the monuments do outlive the stars sometimes.

  3. I feel like I stepped into the middle of your story, and I want more. Thank you for such a powerful metaphor, I love how the universe delivers them to us when we need a sense of the bigger picture.

    1. Thank you very much. It was a challenge to keep it under 600 words, so yea, there is a lot that is implied.

  4. This is very beautiful. And I love the title.

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