2017 Photo Essays

Photo Essay: ‘Back on the Boulevard’ by Q.V. Hough

In June 2006, I moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Hollywood, California. My sister, pregnant with her first child, made the 30-hour drive with me. Eight months prior, I arrived in Los Angeles for various production-related interviews. Shortly before returning to the Midwest, I parked my rental car on Sycamore Avenue, just around the corner from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I didn’t know it then, but that tourist area, and that exact block, would soon become my home.

Today, I live in Fargo, North Dakota, just across the border from Moorhead. As Vague Visages’ founding editor, I use social media daily to promote new content. That wasn’t the case five years ago. Back then, I spent my time living in Hollywood. As the production manager for LUSSIER, a vendor for ABC On-Air Promotions, I had to be ready for surprises. During my six-mile trek home from the Cahuenga Pass to Hollywood, I could usually expect heavy traffic, courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl, so I detoured through Mulholland Drive and down Outpost. No phone connection. When I reached Franklin Avenue, a half-block away from my apartment, I could expect text messages and voice mail. Quinn, please call the office. Back to work. (Full disclosure: I spent my first two years in Hollywood without a smart phone. In fact, I didn’t own a cell phone until age 23.)

That was the Hollywood life. These days, I work from my South Fargo apartment. Last summer, I visited California for a Big Bear family reunion and spent a couple days in Hollywood. I roamed the Boulevard once again and carried both a Fujifilm X100 and iPhone6 to document my return.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. For a long time, this iconic spot represented a viable alternative to the beach; a five-minute walk from home. On weekends, I’d walk through the lobby and head to the pool, hoping that security would be occupied. 50/50. Many after-parties took place at the Roosevelt, and I’d often acquire wristbands from departing guests. On Oscar night, from 2007 to 2012, I’d sometimes meet international filmmakers on the corner of Hollywood and Orange, right outside the Roosevelt. I remember their excitement. From my perspective, it was surreal that I could actually watch the Oscars on TV and then speak with nominees/winners a few minutes later on the street. Lots of history and memories, always a good time.

Last summer, I spent an hour reminiscing at the Roosevelt pool. No hassle, no worries. Like old times, I brought a backpack and a few beers. Drinks are pricey at the Tropicana Bar. Nearby, a photoshoot took place. I thought of Marilyn Monroe; she once lived at the hotel, and some believe her spirit remains there. On this particular day, I thought about new Hollywood arrivals, opportunity and expensive drinks. How much are you willing to pay?

Martin Scorsese’s The Departed premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in October 2006. I’ll never forget the energy of that Friday night viewing. A few months later, I’d watch Scorsese receive an Academy Award from my apartment a couple blocks away. This was my spot; part of my daily routine. But I never took it for granted. The sights and sounds always reminded me that I was in Hollywood. Tourists. Chaos. All day, every day. Crazy/beautiful. I looked forward to film festivals, and AFI Fest 2012 marked my last visit to Hollywood’s famous venue…until last summer. After stopping by the Roosevelt, I saw Suicide Squad. Inside, I noticed a few changes. Outside, everything was the same.

After Suicide Squad, I re-connected with Hollywood & Highland. At the top of the frame, tourists gaze at the Hollywood sign in the distance. And why not? It’s right there — part of the experience; a point of view. I used to hang out one level below at Koji’s, a Japanese restaurant. Salmon sushi and Kirin Ichiban. During Oscar week, this area could be difficult to navigate, unless you knew a few tricks. Over time, I could identify the usual street hustlers and locate the appropriate detour.

The corner of Hollywood and Highland (East Side). I often passed by this location on my way to The Power House, a famous Hollywood dive bar (darts and $3 PBRs). This photo reminds me of all the people I met way back when, and those whom lurked in the shadows. At The Power House, one could expect a variety of customers, including drunk, obnoxious tourists. I occasionally took their money while playing darts. I remember the jukebox, the grimy floor and the cricket tournaments. By closing time, this area was quite filthy but never dangerous. By three or four in the morning, the main stretch of Hollywood Boulevard had been cleaned. A new day, a new person on the corner. (The Power House is now a bourgie bar — with no dartboards.)

The Walk of Fame. Every year, this spot is covered in red carpet. It’s the exact location where Oscar attendees pivot to the Kodak (Dolby) Theatre. I spent a lot of time here before and after movies, watching the street performers and having a few drinks at the Hard Rock (previously the Virgin Megastore). In relation to this image, my former apartment is two block ahead, a half block to right. When friends and family arrived from Minnesota/North Dakota, I always enjoyed their reactions to all the tourists and movie characters. Some played along, some got angry and frustrated. It’s a prime locale for street photography — years ago, I carried a disposable Kodak and had film developed at CVS.

The Charleston Apartments. Before leaving Hollywood last summer, I returned to my old residence and waited for a shuttle to LAX. To the north: Franklin Avenue and the Highland Gardens Hotel, the location where Janis Joplin passed away in 1970. To the south: Hollywood Boulevard, the beginning of the chaos. I met some good friends at this exact spot, and I spent a lot of time thinking on the steps before international trips. Sycamore Avenue didn’t initially feel like home in 2006, but it would become exactly that. I moved four times within the 24-unit, two-story building during my six-year stay.

Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and the Founding Editor of Vague Visages. In 2004, he graduated from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) with bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. From 2006 to 2012, Quinn lived in Hollywood, California and now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.