Iconic Hollywood, Sans GlitzYour guide to 'hidden Hollywood,' a quieter version where enduring venues of yesteryear mingle seamlessly with new arrivals removed from the tourist hordes.
The sights in Hollywood — the historic heart of the Los Angeles film industry — tend to be of the splashy, dazzling variety. Along Hollywood Boulevard, where the Walk of Fame honors celebrities with stars in the sidewalk, you can glimpse the gargantuan TCL Chinese Theatre (previously known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre), a landmark movie palace from the 1920s; the Dolby Theatre, current home of the Academy Awards; and Madame Tussauds Hollywood, featuring lifelike replicas of famous actors and musicians.
Yet slightly removed from all the glitz is a very different Hollywood, a quieter version where enduring venues of yesteryear mingle seamlessly with new arrivals removed from the tourist hordes. You might call it "hidden Hollywood."
A journey through hidden Hollywood is best begun in a barn, as that's where the first feature-length film made in the area had its production offices. In 1913, producers Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) leased a local barn for their nascent movie company, whose inaugural film was 1914's "The Squaw Man." They would go on to partner in the creation of Paramount Pictures and, in the process, birth the modern film industry.
Today known as the Lasky-DeMille Barn, it went through a series of moves (including one to the Paramount Studios lot), ultimately settling at its current site near the Hollywood Bowl concert venue in 1983. It was then carefully restored and transformed into the Hollywood Heritage Museum, a petite (and oft overlooked) collection of movie-related memorabilia. In addition to photos of historic Tinseltown moments, movie buffs will thrill to artifacts like a re-creation of DeMille's old office and a 1930s Technicolor camera that was used to film such classics as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."
For a different taste of film history, retreat into an intimate leather booth at the Musso & Frank Grill, a classic steak and chophouse. Open since the 1920s (and in its current location since the 1930s), the restaurant was a favorite haunt of classic Hollywood actors, including Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, as well as a meeting ground for scribes like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler.
But of course, many of Hollywood's hidden gems are more current, like Susan Feniger's Street restaurant, a paean to international street food. In-the-know foodies flock there for bites like Singaporean kaya toast and exotic cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, for some low-key nightlife, music insiders know to head to The Hotel Cafe, a coffee shop turned intimate lounge that has become a launching pad for popular singer-songwriters (John Mayer and KT Tunstall among them).
For an experience that tips its hat to both old and new Hollywood, feast on Middle Eastern fare at Cleo (named for Cleopatra), a restaurant tucked inside the Redbury Hotel. Its elegant, understated setting is the antithesis of the brash scene unfolding nearby on Hollywood Boulevard. At the entrance to Cleo, a larger-than-life photo of silent film actress Theda Bara as Cleopatra serves as a reminder that in Hollywood, sometimes silence is golden.