LA’s Greatest Landmarks: Hollywood and Highland

HarshLight's HiHo photo used through Creative Commons License

It bears mentioning that Hollywood and Highland, the garish retail/ hotel/ entertainment complex on the eponymous HiHo corner, is the only landmark we argued about in developing a list of what to cover for this series–well, Rob and I argued about it anyway. Rob thought it was an upstart piece of the landscape, only opened in 2001, not seasoned enough to call itself a real landmark and living parasitically [I am putting words in Rob’s mouth, but this was the gist] off the bodies of Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak. I myself love HiHo because it’s so vulgar it makes an art form out of grotesque. To me, it’s only too fitting that a mall so pretentious as to model itself after DW Griffith’s vision of Babylon, should emerge like the monster in Alien out of the stomach of old Hollywood. Is nothing sacred? Well, no, in fact, nothing is. Next question?

DW Griffith's Babylon set for Intolerance

First and foremost, there’s the architecture. Oh, the architecture! Really every time I drive down Highland into Hollywood and that neo-retro Egyptian/Babylon arch rises in front of me like a freaking spaceship of stage-set excess it makes me smile. The elephants! The columns! And to design the entire thing after a movie set in Babylon that cost about two million in 1917 dollars–such an expensive┬ádisaster it caused Griffith’s studios to go bankrupt–a movie about worship of false idols, no less! That’s inspired, people, truly. Anyone who criticizes LA for shallowness fundamentally does not understand the complexity of our shallowness. HiHo is a palimpsest text with so many layers of shallowness it’s got its own depth. And yes, it did win Curbed LA‘s ugliest LA building award in 2007. Hurrah! Even better, it cost $615 million to make and it was sold three years later for $200 million. When we do white elephant in LA, we do it big.

The three things you need to know about HiHo, in my opinion, are: 1. You can park there for 4 hours for $2 with validation (and $10 all day & night). 2. There is no better place to cultivate your disdain. Hootchie skirts, affliction shirts, and–yes still–Uggs abound. 3. There is a Beard Papa there, which is to say, you can have awesome cream puffs while you scorn everyone. Intolerance? You said it.

7 thoughts on “LA’s Greatest Landmarks: Hollywood and Highland”

  1. Now, I wouldn’t say parasite, more of a symbiotic relationship, I guess.

    They definitely intended for it to be considered a landmark. Even the Hollywood Sign was only meant to be temporary. (Hey! We should do a post on that! -heh-) I just kinda felt it needed more time to be established as one. I’m clearly wrong there, however. It’s a landmark already, though it may have gained it’s status in record time.

    The thing that finally convinced me was found at Disney’s California Adventure. I happened to be there with a friend the day we were discussing HiHo’s status,or lack there of, as a landmark, and I saw the mock ups of the elephants gracing the entrance to the “Hollywood” part of the park.

    The whole park celebrates and lampoons California landmarks, that’s kind of their schtick. If the Disney juggernaut calls it a landmark, who am I to argue?

    As for the HiHo nickname, I wish I could take credit for that. I can’t remember who I first heard use it, but it certainly fits. Hiland and Hollywood certainly feel more Disney-esque since the mall went up, and not just because El Capitan is across the street.

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