At the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood, there stands a peculiar set of buildings, out of place in the increasingly stucco-and-tiled universe of Southern California. Lots of dark wood and brick. Quite stately in its way.
Oh, and there’s also a statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Charlie Chaplin out front.
These buildings are what’s left of Chaplin’s original Hollywood studio and at which he filmed The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator, among other classics. After he co-founded United Artists and moved to new digs, the lot was eventually purchased by A&M Records and became their headquarters.
In 2000, Jim Henson’s children bought the property and leased it to the Jim Henson Company, thus explaining what The Little Frog-Tramp is doing there.
It’s quite amazing to think of what all has been created there at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue. In addition to Chaplin’s early films: The George Reeves “Superman” TV show was shot there, as were “Perry Mason” and others. “We Are The World” was sung (and the accompanying video was shot) there in 1985. “Rattle and Hum” was mixed there. Guns and Roses had sessions there — more recently, so did No Doubt and Jane’s Addiction.
There is a plaque marking the site as Historical Cultural Monument No. 58, which it was declared as by the City of L.A. in 1969.
One wonders what the arrangements will be for the Henson Company Headquarters, for Historical Cultural Monument No. 58. Will they replace the Little Tramp hat with a set of Mouse Ears? Will the Kermit statue be toppled by American troops and Henson dissidents? Will there be Muppets lined up out the gates, being herded into trucks waiting to take them to Anaheim?
Here’s a quote from the email Henson employees received informing them about the deal: “Building the future for a ‘new’ JHC, while helping Disney achieve long lasting greatness for the properties from our past, seems like an ideal combination. On behalf of the Company and the Henson family, we thank each one of you for your help in making it happen.”
Meanwhile, somewhere just in your peripheral vision as you drive down La Brea, a bedraggled tramp hobbles across a dusty side street, ghostlike, ethereal, disappearing with a tip of his hat into the shadows.