Once Upon a Time on Hollywood Boulevard

Updated: Jan 15, 2020


The Sunset Strip | Photo by Brian Donnelly

I approached the iconic Musso and Frank Grill when I noticed a group of people stopped forming an inconvenient clump in the middle of the sidewalk. A man was standing in front of them, his arms gesticulating wildly as he spoke. I didn’t pay him much mind as I skirted around the group. My automatic brain was used to scenes like this on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and I registered him as a tour guide speaking to a group of tourists.


“You need to wait here!” he snapped at me.


“Why?” I asked, baffled but not really caring enough to wait for an answer. I saw others walking up ahead and saw no reason to stop as I continued on. Besides, as far as I knew he was one of the many street hustlers trying to sell me something. The second you stop for them they get their hooks in you.


It wasn’t until I was in front of Musso and Frank that I suddenly realized the only other people around me were clad in 1960’s era clothing.

Tarantino on set on Hollywood Blvd | Photo by Brian Donnelly

Oops.


I had just inadvertently walked through the set of Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (OUATIH). The guy I blew off was a crew member tasked with only allowing costumed extras to walk by the windows while they shot interior scenes.


So if there happens to be an anachronistic woman in a pink jacket among the extras, it was me, the rushed local who couldn’t have been bothered to listen to some random guy on the street barking orders.

The summer of 2018 saw our Hollywood neighborhood transformed to the year 1969 for Tarantino’s film. There had been a lot of buzz about the production and its story about the gruesome Sharon Tate murders by followers of Charlie Manson.


Our first clue about the upcoming production came during an early morning walk when Brian and I noticed an artist sketching out a mural on the side of one of our favorite burrito shops. Whenever we happen to catch an artist at work we like to stop and watch it unfold for a bit. If the artist is open to chatting we love that too – hearing about their inspiration etc. It was an unusually hot morning and the artist was coming down from the scaffolding to take a break from the sun.



He was very friendly and we chatted for a bit. When we asked about the commission the artist suddenly became less chatty.


“Its for a production,” he said with a sly smile.


“The Tarantino thing?” we asked.


He dodged the question and we didn’t persist. He was generous with his time and we didn’t want to press.


Shortly thereafter, other signs of production started popping up and it was unmistakable that Hollywood Boulevard was getting transformed to Manson era 1969. Somehow, believe it or not, the seedy boulevard became even more seedy with the return of XXX stores, the Pussy Cat Theatre (where Deep Throat ran for a record ten years). Even our favorite little burrito shop was given a new X-rated exterior.


I was walking home at the end of a long day. I turned off of Hollywood Boulevard and onto my street. Over the weeks of shooting my block had often become a “forbidden zone” as it occasionally served as a base camp for production. Avoiding this area would mean walking blocks out of my way to get home. But as long as I played it cool and “looked like I belonged” I was in and out of the zone in under a minute.


“You can’t go that way!”


Ugh. I heard the barking command but I was half a block from home so I ignored him and kept walking.


“Hey!”


“Hey!”


“You can’t go that way,” he shouted as he ran past to get up ahead of me.


Photo by Brian Donnelly

He stood in front blocking my path. I continued walking. He walked backwards ahead of me while still yelling at me to go back.


He wasn’t a cop so I didn’t care what he had to say.


Rather he was with the film crew. He had a job to do and I can respect that. But by this time I had lost count of how many times I had been yelled at by a Testosterone-Filled-I’m-Working-for-Tarantino-So-I’m-Going-To-Throw-My-Make-Believe-Authority-Around crew member.


Besides, I was almost home and I was just steps away from exiting the “forbidden zone” anyway.


“This area is closed,” he repeated as I went around him.


Silently, I continued walking.


“You can’t go this way.” He was becoming increasingly agitated as he continued to pursue me.


“Looks like I can,” I calmly smiled as I continued.


“I’m going to call the police!” he shouted.


I shrugged. Like LAPD didn’t have bigger things to worry about.


Photo by Brian Donnelly

Don’t get me wrong. The transformation of the neighborhood was a lot of fun. With the new look and energy, all summer long there was an extra excitement in the air.