The Fabled Hollywood
In 1963 I was stationed in Riverside, California, with the United States Air Force, and one of the first things I did was to organize a trip to Hollywood. Hollywood was a fabled golden city to a Mid-East Coast boy of 18. I expected to see movie stars lounging on corners, in restaurants and walking the streets. There was none. We made our way to fabled Hollywood and Vine to see what all the hoopla was about. There was no hoopla, just your typical buildings.
Sunset Strip was cool but only because of the tv show of the same name. Do you remember Kookie and the song Kookie, Kookie give me your comb? Edd Byrnes, the actor who played Kookie, passed away at 87 in 2020. That night, we drove to one of the nightclubs (I forgot the name) and discovered that a monthly salary of $82.00 wasn’t enough to enjoy the Hollywood lifestyle. So, the four of us slept in the car.
The next morning, we had enough of Hollywood. It didn’t live up to the hype, so we set our sights on downtown Los Angeles. What a pit that was in 1963. Porno movie theaters seemed to be the most prosperous establishments. The tattoo parlors were active as well. I had been warned that the Air Force didn’t like airmen to get tattoos. Yeah, but they weren’t there. I had an argument with one of the guys with me, saying tattoos did not hurt. My fellow airman said they did. We agreed we both would get an affordable tat to determine who was correct. I went first.
I asked to have my nickname “Bud” put on my upper right arm. The price was one dollar—finally, something I could afford. So, when it was finished, and I had fortunately held in my screams of pain, I said to my friend, “It hurt like hell.” He then decided not to get his tattoo.
So, our visit to Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles was exciting but not pleasurable. It didn’t meet my high expectations. Before being reassigned to a different duty in 1964, I found a place that exceeded my expectations- Disneyland. Ever since Disneyland opened in 1955, I had dreamed of visiting. It was doubtful that a boy from a working-class family in Philadelphia would ever realize that dream. I finally got my wish, thanks to the United States government. It truly was a wonderland.
Other wonders I saw were Sequoia National Park with its incredible giant redwood trees, the amazing desert just outside of Riverside, Huntington Beach, the Pacific Ocean, Yosemite National Park, and many other unique places. They all exceed my expectations. I didn’t know it then, but I would soon be in a country I had never heard of and would experience things I never knew existed. My next two years were spent in Saigon, Vietnam.