Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The big Hollywood rally

When I was a kid growing up in LA, the Thanksgiving weekend always began Wednesday night with the annual Santa Claus Lane Parade down Hollywood Blvd. I looked forward to it every year. Unlike parades with elaborate floats and impressive marching bands, this one featured Hollywood B-actors, second bananas, local fringe celebrities riding in cars with their names hand painted on the sides, and a few 100 year old guys from an American Legion Post playing trombones. The big finale was the arrival of Santa Claus, usually on a float that looked like a Cub Scout project gone horribly wrong.

The parade began in 1928 as a way to lure shoppers to Hollywood. In the 30’s and 40’s big stars would participate. It was the only time Bette Davis would get within a hundred yards of real people. In 1946, the parade inspired Gene Autry to write “Here Comes Santa Claus, Right Down Santa Clause Lane”.

Alas, the changing times have not been kind to the parade. The level of celebrities slipped even below Iron Eyes Cody. It was eventually discontinued.

But through the wonder of the Writers Guild strike it was back! In a fashion.

The guild sponsored a giant Solidarity Rally on Tuesday down Hollywood Blvd. Not only could I finally go to the parade, I was IN IT! Me and like 5,000 other people. Tons of folks I hadn’t seen in years. One writer said to me he saw so many people that he thought were dead.

Went with my partner David and my son Matt. We thought we were so cagey. Since parking had to be a nightmare in Hollywood, David suggested we drive to the Valley and take the subway in (Yes, we have a subway in LA. You have to drive ten miles to find it but it’s there.) Easy free parking, no muss, no fuss. Unfortunately, a gazillion other writers had the same idea. Every lot was full. It took forever to park.

But it was all worth it. No crazy people on the train. And the atmosphere was electric at the rally. Anybody who used to be somebody or hopes to be somebody was there. Most in red. A few in those “Tevye” caps to really give the feel of a Communist rally circa 1935.

Finding the stars was like playing “Where’s Waldo”. They were there but in amongst the writers, off spring of writers, the Health Care Workers (who unlike the writers actually chanted), CAA agents with trays of cookies, voice-over artists, Teamsters, guys handing out “Impeach Bush flyers”, crew members, hookers, sympathetic tourists, dogs, and of course that champion of labor – Spider Man.

Someone said they saw Debra Messing, I saw the hot blond from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. And then a thrill. I not only saw, but met, and got my picture taken with Steve Hibbert. You may not recognize him but you’ve seen him and thrilled to him on screen. He played the “Gimp” in PULP FICTION. This goes on my wall along with my picture of me and Michael Dukakis.

As we all assembled, Alicia Keyes gave a concert. We had enough people for a mosh pit but there was more business at hand.

Later, once we had marched down Hollywood Blvd past such landmarks as the Kodak Theater and the Fredericks of Hollywood Museum of Bras there were speeches. I was so far back I had no idea who was speaking or what they said. But I agree with them, each and every one.

It must’ve taken a good hour to march from Ivar to the Grauman’s Chinese Theater but that’s still faster than driving. Along the way I chatted with Batman. He wasn’t carrying a sign but did agree to put a WGA decal on the back of the Batmobile.

In all my years in the guild -- through four strikes and the awards show where Josh Logan fell off the stage during a dance number -- I’ve never seen such unity, such spirit, such resolve. I was proud to be there, proud to be a member of the WGA. And enormously grateful to all the other unions, concerned citizens, and superheroes who joined us in support. All the writers are asking for is a fair deal, nothing more. And as this rally demonstrated, we’re not going to settle for anything less.

It was the best Santa Claus Lane Parade in twenty years.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The rally was great. What's next? Invade Poland.

maven said...

Not much about it on local news! What a surprise. I was thinking of going and taking the subway, but I knew it would be impossible to park (heard it's difficult on a normal work day). Very gratified about the huge turnout. Hang in there!

Bill said...

Sweet Dee!

Anonymous said...

Great. Now I feel lousy for not going to this one. I had bad visions of being felt up by Spidey.

I'm glad it turned out well, though.

Richard Cooper said...

Who is Michael Dukakis?

Anonymous said...

He was Cher's father in "Moonstruck".

VP81955 said...

You can always tell the writers who are either originally from the east or spent time there -- they're the ones riding the subway to rallies.

(BTW, Ken, if you writers aren't picketing on Sunday afternoon, head over to Pauley Pavilion to watch the Maryland women play UCLA. The Terps are #3 in the country this year, have already beaten top teams in Oklahoma and LSU, and are a deep, high-scoring team that's simply fun to watch.)

Warren Fleece said...

Hangin' with the Gimp on Hollywood Boulevard. You're living my dream, Levine.

Anonymous said...

Really energized by and appreciate your updates (although a lot of good that does me here).

Do have you slightly beat in the golden treasury of parade memories department: 1978. Juarez. Circus parade. Dancing bear in a cage, followed by middle-aged woman in torn leotard doing summersaults on the hood of a Buick. Unfortunately missed Debra Messing. But did purchase heirloom velvet portrait of a younger (pre-Columbian) Megan Mullally. I think I snagged the last one.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, this strike has turned into New Years Eve celebrity fair at Universal City Walk! I heard on the news this morning that Alicia Keys performed at the rally. Where and when was a stage erected for that?

All I know is I was stuck downtown on the Hollywood FWY because of the street closures. It was worse than Halloween.

I'm not sure I'm really feelin' this strike by media event strategy. It's one thing to have actors and comics stop by the picket line with pizza, coffee, and donuts, but this is something else. How does this get the industry and, I guess, the American public to understand the issues of equity and parity involved in new media revenues?

I saw tape of Patrick Demsey on Regis yesterday. He seemed to be blaming the writers for bring financial ruin on the industry crews.



David B.

Miles said...

Congrats to the writers on another good event. You are definitely winning the pr war, if nothing else.

As for the subway, yes, L.A. has one and if you people on the westside hadn't been so adamant about not wanting the rest of L.A. traipsing over to your hood by mass transit (like they would, come on!), you too would have easy access to better transit and less congestion.

On another note, I believe the Xmas parade was cancelled after last year, but I believe the City of L.A. will undertake it as the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has given up on it.

Anonymous said...

Spider-Man and Batman, but no Superman? I guess he's not a union man. And I haven't forgotten that he stood by doing nothing while DC was ripping off Siegel and Shuster.

Rob said...

A bunch of red clothes wearing godless Communists representing the liberal media spewing forth their pro homosexual agenda, trying to interfere with free trade and bring down the quality fo the scripts we make here in this country with their insane demands that threaten to bring businesses to their knees.

Keep up the good work.

Unknown said...

skippy was there too! w/pix!

Anonymous said...

I read where Saturday Night Live fired it's "below-the-line" production staff.

I didn't realize they could discriminate based on height?

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize they could discriminate based on height?