Hooray For Hollywood!
Visited: February 2018
Wham!!! Pow!!! Bam!!! Holy Campy Hollywood History Batman!
Once we heard there was a special exhibit featuring the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder Robin, Tracy and I carefully slid (not as young as we used to be) down the MaiTai Poles to the MaiTai Cave and hopped in the MaiTai Mobile. We sped (obeying at least 75% of the speed limit signs) to the old Max Factor Building in Hollywood that houses the Hollywood Museum, an establishment that claims to contain, “the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world.”
Truth be told, Hollywood is one of my least favorite cities to visit in Southern California. It’s pretty run down, dirty and filled with tourists who think taking a photo with a fake character from Star Wars or Cinderella is the highlight of their vacation. Que será. But, having been raised on television and the movies, this museum had piqued my curiosity for quite some time … so we braved the always terrible Hollywood traffic, pedestrians wearing Walking Dead (and looking like it) t-shirts while crossing against the light staring at their cell phones. We somehow made it to the parking lot a block away.
Located on Highland Avenue just south of Hollywood Blvd., the Hollywood Museum features “10,000 authentic show business treasures including costumes, props, photographs, scripts, stars’ car collections along with personal artifacts, posters, and vintage memorabilia from favorite films and TV shows.” If you’re a movie and television fan, this is your place to visit.
This property was purchased by Max Factor (“Hollywood’s Make-Up King”) in 1928 (next three photos courtesy of cosmetics&skin.com).
The timing could have been a little better because not only was Hollywood Blvd around the corner, so was the Great Depression. It finally opened in 1935, in architect Charles Lee’s beautiful art-deco style. Stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball got their “star looks” right here (Lucy was not really a redhead and Marilyn was not originally a blonde).
Digression: “In 1938 Factor was traveling in Europe on business with his son Davis when during a stopover in Paris he received a note demanding money in exchange for his life. An attempt was made by the police using a decoy to capture the extortionist, but no one turned up at the agreed drop-off point to collect the money. Factor was so shaken by the threat that he returned at the behest of a local doctor to America, where upon arrival he took to his bed. Factor died shortly thereafter at the age of 65 in Beverly Hills.” His son Frank (who changed his name to Max Factor Jr. and who was also a very innovative force in make-up) took over the business.
The building was sold to the Hollywood Museum in 1994. By 2003, the Hollywood Museum was ready for its close-up, complete with its art-deco lobby. There are four floors to tour (including a scary basement…more on that later). Note: The one-story portion on the right is now Mel’s Drive-In, a 1950s-nostalgia restaurant. (photo from wilipedia).
By its name, you know this Batman exhibition focuses on the campy 1960s television show (I never missed one, which helps explain why my high school grades weren’t higher). It starred the late Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. To my surprise, I read that the series only ran three years (’66 – ’68 … seemed longer). During its first two years, Batman aired two episodes per week. It was time to look around.
…proving just how impactful this television show was at the time, and what it added added to the American pop culture for a few years.
In front of us stood the Batmobile.
Leaving Batman behind, we were at a display case with perhaps the most famous telephone operator in television history, Ernestine (aka Lily Tomlin). Her other famous role on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was that of Edith Ann, whose oversized chair was on display.
Around the corner, in a Blazing Saddles flashback, I wanted to give a Laurel … and Hardy hand shake to this comedic duo. This was a section that highlighted stars and equipment used in the early days of movies and entertainment.
…and then a little about the movie Lassie. It made me a little melon-collie.
Who did we see next? None other than the Clampetts, who struck it big after Jed found that “bubbling crude.” Here they are driving to that mansion with the cee-ment pond.
There was memorabilia from shows like Rin Tin Tin, Dennis The Menace, Bonanza…
On the main floor are rooms where Max Factor worked his magic on the stars. There was a shrine to Lucy.
This studio was where Lucille Ball was transformed from a brown-haired girl to that crazy redhead and Marilyn Monroe into a blonde bombshell. Judy stopped by here, too.
All this make-up made me blush.
We checked out Cary Grant’s Rolls Royce. It would Take A Thief to get it out of here, and I don’t think I could have pulled off that Charade.
…and soon we stood at the top of the stairs headed toward the dungeon. This area once was once a bowling alley (that’s probably why they have so many spare rooms) and, during Prohibition, a speakeasy. Today it houses “all things creepy and scary.”
There stood one of my favorites. In the early 80s, Cassandra Peterson (“wearing a revealing, black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown”) hosted horror movies on KHJ TV in L.A. Her portrayal of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark certainly kept me a breast of all those horror movies.
The Hollywood Museum is a fun place to hang out, especially for those who are really into movies and television. It does have its shortcomings, however. I wish it was laid out in a more cohesive manner from decade to decade, but considering it has to shuffle 10,000 items, I suppose that’s to be expected.
1660 N Highland Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday
Parking: Lot one block south of museum – $10