Where Is Hollywood?
On April 2, 1974, Hollywood’s biggest movie stars gathered in the Los Angeles Music Center. They had come for the forty-sixth annual Academy Awards ceremony. Winners in more than twenty-one categories would receive a gold-plated, thirteen-and-a-half-inch statuette called Oscar.
The awards for best director, best actor, and best actress were announced. There was one award left. What movie would win for best picture?
David Niven, a longtime leading man in many films, appeared onstage. He was there to introduce the legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor. She was going to announce the winner for best picture, the last and most important award of the night.
But before Elizabeth Taylor came out, the audience started to laugh. Niven looked confused. He hadn’t said anything funny. The audience kept laughing and clapping, so Niven glanced over his shoulder.
A man was running across the stage behind him. Two of his fingers were raised in a peace sign and . . . he was naked!
The runner dashed offstage. The audience kept laughing. Now Niven was, too. “That was almost bound to happen,” he said. Everyone knew what he meant. Running naked in public places was a silly fad in the early seventies. It was called streaking.
There have been a lot of crazy, weird moments in the history of Hollywood and the movies. But few have topped the incident with the “Streaker Guy” seen on TV by forty-five million people all over the world. Chapter 1
In 1849, America was growing. There were thirty states. All were in the eastern half of the country. There were none in the West yet, and it didn’t look like there would be any for a while.
California was the name of a vast stretch of land along the Pacific Ocean. Native American tribes, like the Mohave and Washoe, had lived there for thousands of years, but few white settlers had made it that far west.
Cars hadn’t been invented. There were no trains in that part of the country. If you wanted to start a new life in this remote area, you had to travel by ship or covered wagon. Both ways were dangerous and took months.
California wasn’t a state then. Not yet. In order for it to become one, sixty thousand settlers had to live there. At that time, there were less than eight thousand.
But after gold was discovered in Northern California, hordes of people began the rough journey westward. These prospectors dreaming of riches were called forty-niners. (The name came from the year gold was discovered—1849.) Suddenly, there were almost a hundred thousand settlers. Way more than enough to qualify for statehood.
On September 9, 1850, California became the thirty-first state in the United States of America.
Most of the newcomers settled in the northern part of the new state, where the gold was. Not many came to Southern California. Those who did sent back letters about the beautiful land by the sea. The weather was warm and the sun shone bright day after day. It was perfect for farming.
By the late 1870s, traveling far distances became easier. The Transcontinental Railroad was complete. Trains were running all the way across America.
Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife, Daeida, known as Ida, were living in Topeka, Kansas. They were tired of harsh, snowy winters. Maybe it was time to throw away their winter coats, sell their snow shovels, and move to a warmer place.
The Wilcoxes took one of the first trains to Los Angeles. They toured the area. Harvey had a knack for seeing what the future might hold. He was sure this city would keep growing. In time, people would start searching for more space outside of town.
Harvey and Ida visited a tiny community of farmers and ranchers a few miles to the west of Los Angeles. Acres and acres of lush green land were available to buy. Cows grazed. Crops flourished. What a perfect place to live! They returned to Topeka, packed up their belongings, headed west, and started buying land.
Before long, Harvey was selling land parcels, one piece at a time, for $150 an acre. Well-off people from the Midwest wanted to build second homes so they could spend their winters away from the cold. So Harvey bought more land, divided it up again, and sold it off. He was starting a community. Now it needed a name.
Ida Wilcox had once heard about a beautiful home in Florida. It was called Hollywood. Ida loved the name. She thought that’s what they should call their new community. Soon, everyone was referring to the rural area as Hollywood.
Word began to spread. The weather was wonderful all year round. Los Angeles kept growing. In the 1880s, it was a frontier town with no paved roads. By 1900, it was a sprawling city. More than one hundred thousand people lived there. As for Hollywood, it had grown, too. In 1910, it became part of Los Angeles.
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