Sunday, November 28, 2004

Hollywood Christmas Parade, Mortuos Est?

Well, now. Here's a tragedy that's sure to have you crying in your eggnog. The annual Hollywood Christmas Parade has degenerated to the point where it's primary drawing power rests in - I kid you not - SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob SquarePants??

Before I continue, there are a few things you need to know:

1. I, personally, have not watched the Hollywood Christmas Parade since I was a kid.

2. The Hollywood Christmas Parade, as an institution, could disappear next year for good, and I would not shed tear one.

3. The stars that used to make the Parade watchable are all dead. The last one died earlier this year. There aren't any left.

4. Not one.

Johnny Grant, whom I never got, celebrity-wise, was even hauled out of retirement to try his magic "Save the Hollywood Christmas Parade" act once again. To no avail. In his words:

"I'm not sure we have the caliber stars today that we had back in the era of the golden days of Hollywood. It has changed drastically. Today the young kids are making a lot of money and they hop the charter jet to Miami or the ski slopes or wherever."

This statement pretty much says it all. Caliber is sadly lacking in Hollywood today. In fact, Hollywood itself is nothing but an empty shell of its former self. The stars don't live there anymore, the studios aren't filming there anymore, and the stuff associated with it is pretty much dreck anymore.

Let's take a closer look.

Decades ago, under the old studio system, actors worked under contract to one studio for years at a time. As it happens in sports today, for a star to be "traded" from one studio to another could spell either disaster or victory for that actor's career. Once a star made it to the "A List," celebrity was guaranteed and demanding. Personal appearances were nearly as important to an actor's career as were the movies that catapulted them to stardom in the first place.

Many actors were truly larger than life. A favorite of mine was Jimmy Stewart. An outstanding actor, and a combat veteran, Stewart embodied "every man" better than perhaps anyone else in Hollywood. He was also, as it happened, a genuinely nice person. It was easy for fans to look "up" to Stewart as a celebrity because he exuded the qualities of grace and charm that were expected of him. This is the stuff of legend.

Compare to any number of celebrities today. Those who are famous enough to warrant the attention seem not to want it. Personal appearances are limited to papparazzi slugfests. Many of those who deign to speak in public do so only to further their own political agendas. The money given to them by their fans is used to keep those fans at a distance. Most of them have a hard time deciding which community to support because they live in three or four of them. Not including the one their names are attached to. Hedonism is the hallmark of the modern actor. Accountability is a foreign concept to many of them. They are either nomadic recluses, or in-your-face activists.


Of course, having read biographical works of many legendary Hollywood personalities, it really wasn't all that different back then. Still, the actors were usually able to make their public faces believable enough to sell the image to a starving public. Nowadays, they don't even try.

Rest in peace, Hollywood Christmas Parade. You had your day, and that day has passed. Time to retire the legend and return to the business of making entertainment for those who are still willing to pay for it. We had our fun watching you, but we've long since outgrown you. Or maybe you've outgrown us. In either case, expect no requiem.

We've got better things to do.

UPDATE: This morning's radio news reported that "hundreds of cars" were towed from around the parade route last night. Seems the No Parking signs were posted after the spectators parked. And the whiney spectators are reportedly angry. Now there's a surprise. I'm sure this will generate lots of goodwill for the parade next year. [Must suppress evil chuckle!]

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