All through the 1980’s
it was breakfast at the Rexall Fountain
on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue,
or Snow White’s coffee shop,
where eating there
felt like some sort of
Disney ride on acid
with all the boulevard mutants,
much more effective
than any ride
I’d gone on at Disneyland.
There was the Las Palmas Bookstand
and Miceli’s Restaurant
and of course Red’s Baroque Books,
with the finest and complete
Bukowski collection around.
It didn’t get any better than Red’s.
There was Hollywood Book & Poster
for all your Horror and B-Movie needs,
for the real memorabilia jones.
There was Musso & Franks,
and Jojo down at Book City
with every paperback and hardback
classic known to man.
Grecco’s with all the
heavy-metal-white-trash runaways
and a slice of MTV
with your pizza.
And across the street
Frederick’s Of Hollywood
looking like a giant Wurlitzer,
always pumping out
that slow bump ‘n’ grind,
right there in the middle of it all,
and to this day
the best shoes in all of Hollywood.
There was J.J. Newberry’s
and the magic shop.
Johnny’s Steak House
for that $3.95 steak dinner,
and it was good.
Hooray For Hollywood
for cheap rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts,
3 for-a-dollar.
And of course Playmates Of Hollywood,
which started out
as a children’s store
and grew up with its customers,
from toddler to stripper.
Then there were the bars;
The Zero One After Hours
right above Playmates
when David Lee Roth owned it.
The Frolic Room #2,
Boardner’s,
The Gaslight,
The Firefly,
the original Frolic Room,
The Cathay De Grande,
home of fine punk rock.
The Vine Bar & Grill
for Blues and Jazz,
and last but not least
Raji’s where you could see Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
the Vandals and TSOL
all in one night.
And then on the outskirts
of Hollywood Boulevard
were all the places I lived;
The Cliffwood Manor,
Disgraceland, The Havenhurst,
and The Fontenoy,
surrounded by churches, schools,
auto mechanic places
and cheap dirt-bag, dope fiend motels,
with the letters always
burned out in the signs,
the kind of places
that only look good
in the movies
and only sound interesting
in a Tom Waits song.
Like The Mark Twain,
The Saint James,
The Saint Moritz
and The Sunset 8.
Yes, Hollywood in the 80’s
was a great time.
it was before Crack and AIDS,
it was the coming and going
of Ronald Reagan
and before all the real damage
he did as President hit,
before homeless was normal.
Now I look at Hollywood Boulevard
and it’s just like a former lover
grown old and alcoholic,
an old lover that never took care of itself.
My two favorite times
to catch Hollywood Boulevard
used to be at dusk and at dawn.
At dusk when the sun was barely out
but all the neon was on,
and in the morning
before pedestrians.
Raymond Chandler put it best
when he said, “Hollywood Boulevard
at sun-up is like an aging hooker
without her make-up on.”
Now it’s like that
around the clock and worse.
And when the L.A. riots hit
and Hollywood was burning,
I thought, “Oh no, not my Hollywood Boulevard.”
But it’s not my Hollywood anymore,
now it belongs to the gangs,
the mutant homeless,
the corporate conglomerates
and the tourists.
The new Americana,
God bless them all.
No, it’s not my Hollywood anymore,
but Hollywood in the 80’s
was a great time,
it was my Paris in the 20’s,
and yes, a good time
was had by all.

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IRIS BERRY has been called a lot of things but one of the best is “a punk rock James Ellroy in fishnets.”

One of the true progenitors of the LA punk scene, her writing has been widely anthologized. In The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry she appears alongside the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

No stranger to the microphone, Berry co-founded and toured extensively with the legendary rock-n-roll spoken word troupe, The Ringling Sisters (A&M Records), produced by Lou Adler. The Ringling Sisters were famous for their numerous benefit shows and through the years enlisted fundraising help from the likes of Henry Rollins, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, X, Possum Dixon, Ann Magnuson, The Gun Club (in their last-ever appearance), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, River Phoenix, Mike Watt, Concrete Blonde, and more. Iris also fronted, sang, and wrote songs for LA combos The Dickies, The Flesheaters, The Lame Flames, and Pink Sabbath.

Her experience as a chronicler of and participant in LA’s extensive underground scene is wide-ranging. From bartending at after-hours speakeasies, to stints in rehab; working within the “legit” entertainment industry (Paramount, CBS) to strutting around a Mexican wrestling ring in showgirl feathers; authoring the sex column titled "Forbidden Fruit"; starring in a number of indie films, including the classic Border Radio, directed by Alison Anders, the recently-released Beth Dewey film Killhouse, and Chris Desjardin’s I Pass For Human.

At present, she is completing a book called Tales From The Tropicana, about the notorious Tropicana Motel, and recently she co-produced a series of burlesque and comedy variety shows with comic and activist Margaret Cho called The Sensuous Woman, with all proceeds going to charity.

In March of 2009, Iris received her second certificate of merit and achievement from the City of Los Angeles for her contribution as a Los Angeles writer and historian, and for the charity work she has done, producing large scale fund-raising events to benefit organizations such as The American Red Cross, Habitat For Humanity, Hollygrove Orphanage, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Amnesty International, and Rock the Vote, as well as many women’s shelters and organizations devoted to homeless youth and runaways. For the past seven years, she has served as a member on the Board of Directors for Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.

With her prolific creative output, devoted work ethic, and passionate social awareness, Iris has been an inspiration to generations of writers and artists in Los Angeles.

20 responses to “My Hollywood Boulevard”

  1. […] week we offer you poetry from such varied talents as Iris Berry, Jackie Sheeler, Lisa Johns, Kenneth Shiffrin, Jerome Dunn, Doug Knott, and this week’s Featured […]

  2. Robert Allan says:

    This brings back so many memories! I remember living in the Chateau Le Fleur, on Cherokee and Franklin, back in 82, 83, riding the bus to Melrose to work in the mornings. During that time, at least twenty street preachers tried (in vain) to save my soul. It was a magical time in Hollywood. But we still complained about all of the old buildings, either being bought by the church of Scientology or being torn down to build mini malls. We knew where it was going.

    This is a stunning piece of poetry/writing! Love your style!

  3. Jack Skelley says:

    Beautiful, Iris. You have a great eye and the memory to go with it.
    -Jack

  4. Ray Gange says:

    Iris, you take me back to a time i loved, to a place i loved, neither of which are there any more and the last time i was there, in the theme-park replacement, it made me want to cry, not just for those past times but for the new breed that dig it now but know not what was there not so long ago. I love you Ms Berry

  5. monalia says:

    I love this poem! You and I were raised in the same basic hood/scene/sleezy but romantic glamour epitomized by the years centered around the Fontenoy, which is the epoch where I began to lose some friends to AIDS and drugs…

    You are a character forever etched in my Hollywood adolescence, Iris, with your twinkly periwinkle eyes, wry smile, cute heart shaped face and the charming small gap between your front teeth which makes it hard to take ones eyes off you when you tell a charming story.

    Your piece captures an era, the generation you and I stomped around as teens and then as post teen punks et al – post 1976, pre 1990. John X is my other Hollywood buddy who I still keep close contact with, and he also tells me something profound has changed in Holywood, a major shift in the corporate direction, however there is still a healthy motley crew of old friends who do kooky things together.

    • iris Berry says:

      Monalia,

      you are too too kind. Thank you. I am now forever connected to you after our long exchange yesterday. It was incredible… stay close.. perhaps one day I’ll visit!!! i sure hope so…
      keep me in your loop. I love the way you live. iris xo

  6. rachel mcK says:

    “before homeless was normal.”

    ugh. such a dagger. thank you for this. you are, as always, an inspirational kick in the guts.

    • iris Berry says:

      you are so welcome, it is sad, but so true… and it is and was such a dagger, remember when it first started happening… i couldn’t believe it….. still don’t, really… thank you Rachel, for your kind words.

  7. Tod Goldberg says:

    A great poem, Iris. This part especially hit me:

    But it’s not my Hollywood anymore,
    now it belongs to the gangs,
    the mutant homeless,
    the corporate conglomerates
    and the tourists.
    The new Americana,
    God bless them all.

    • Iris Berry says:

      Tod, thank you for your comment, forgive me, this is the first time that I’ve seen it… thank you for your very articulate comment… i so appreciate it. I miss the old Hollywood Blvd. so much, but I still make it down there every chance I get, because the essence of it can never be taken away… it’s still there, thank god… Thank you, again, so much!

      Iris xo

  8. Johnny’s Steak House circa 1973: That was my first job out of college. I needed a part timer, so I could continue to paint my series of the Hollywood streets. I had to learn quick and as good looking 23 year old waitress, my tips were good. The old timer waitress were very unhappy that the boss was hiring chicks.. I lasted s weeks because I gave the boss advise: Don’t leave your burning cigarettes on the sedge of the waitress station dangling over the edge. Bam… next day a young Asicn girl was sharing my area, and as they gave me my check,” Don’t bother coming back.”
    I took the bus straight to that old Italian place on Vermont near Hollywood Blvd and got hired that night.

    • Iris Berry says:

      Marion,

      your advice good, too bad “they” didn’t see it that way. I loved that place and I’m sure during your brief stint you probably waited on me… more importantly, your series of paintings of the Hollywood Streets?
      I’d love to see those?

  9. Ben says:

    Iris, I was there for Screamin’ Jay at Raji’s, and I’m sorry I missed you. This poem is just fine. YOU are just fine.

  10. Derek says:

    Dear Iris,
    I dont know if you are the same Iris I used to party with in the Manor on Cherokee. My girl and I had a band called The Barking Spiders. Her name was Lisa. God if thats really you..please email me. I must get in touch with my roots. Derek Edwards. Time line would be about 1981. Cheers!!

    • iris berry says:

      Derek, yes I am that same Iris that lived at The Cherokee Manor… how can I find you? iris xo

    • Trudie says:

      Iris, your writing breaks my heart and I love it. I’m a Sacto girl and see a lot of similarities. It took us a little while longer to get there (we were still a little shiny in the 80’s), but here we are now, just the same.

      • Iris says:

        Trudie, thank you so much… Glad you got to see the Hollywood Blvd that changed all of our lives. We are the lucky ones! And they can change it all they want. I’ll always love it! Iris xo

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