Miami and Hollywood share a coastline and that’s it.* Our northern neighbor is dirtier, older (seeming), drunker, gloomier, poorer, and uglier (Young Circle’s recent facelift notwithstanding). It’s also, to me, more beguiling. In a way that would probably titillate David Lynch, Hollywood seems to have its secrets, and to hide them right out in the open. I sense that in a bar like the Lamp Post Lounge, north of the Circle on US1, which is open for business but, in its wooden, one-windowed shell, utterly uninviting. I sense it in the Gold Coast Roller Rink, further north on US1, a grand inverted hull with the words “ROLLER RINK” spelled out in sickly lightbulbs across its mint-green and purple facade. The building is actually a few feet into Fort Lauderdale, but it is a Hollywood outpost through and through.
I sense it most, though, in the neon-lit motels north and south of the Circle on US1. Some with incongruous names (Grand Motel, Light Haven), others, like the Lucky Boy, whose names are spot-on, these buildings, bleak and garish at the same time, beg the question: “What is going on behind those doors?” At the slight swaying of a curtain, the report of a shut door, the sight of a cigarette cherry pulsating in an otherwise dark corridor, you dream up the strangest things. And yet these motels, landmarks of ugly Hollywood, are alluring, even beautiful. Hunkered low and lurid on the side of US1, havens for God knows what manner of recreation (maybe sleeping), they are beautiful in a way foreign to Miami, at least along its southern stretch of shimmering coastline. If Miami’s brand of beauty personified is a sculpted, finely tanned, flawless figure, then Hollywood’s is Patricia Arquette by the end of True Romance, a bedraggled harlot who’s been through the shit.
But unlike Miami’s, Hollywood’s brand of beauty doesn’t envelope or dull the senses. It unsettles, repels, tempts. After years of driving by, we finally succumbed to temptation and took a stab at capturing Hollywood at night with our cameras. Arielle had photographed some of the motels a while back to use as subjects for a series of reverse-glass paintings; a few of her photos, done with a point-and-shoot, are included here. Since none of us is an expert photographer, this, our first dedicated attempt to photograph neon-lit buildings at night, has borne imperfect fruit. Some of the photos aren’t as sharp as we’d like, and it wasn’t easy balancing the radiant neon with the lower-lit buildings themselves. Still, I think we managed to capture at least a trace of Hollywood’s mystique. We definitely plan to go on another shoot sometime soon, but we’re going to wait for everyone who took us for cops on a stakeout to forget our license plate number first.
Until then …
Photos #1, 2, 5, 9, 11, and 13 by Robby Campbell. Photos #3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, and 15 by Jordan Melnick. Photos #7 and 10 by Arielle Angel.
*This post was revised at 8:50 p.m. on 9/6/2010.