Seeing Stars: the Schools of the Stars.

 

1521 N. Highland Avenue,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 461-3891



A large mural overlooking the athletic field at Hollywood High declares that the school is the "Sheik Territory," a team nickname that's a not-so-subtle reference to silent film star Rudolph Valentino.



Although this large school looks a lot like many other old high schools, in fact this is where dozens of movie stars attended high school, including:




      

James Garner ("The Rockford Files"), Mickey Rooney ("Boys Town"), John Ritter ("Three's Company"), Scott Baio ("Charles in Charge"), Mike Farrell ("B.J." on "M*A*S*H"), Laurence Fishburne ("Event Horizon"), Jason Robards ("All The President's Men"), both Keith Robert Carradine, Richard Long ("Nanny & the Professor"), Joel McCrea ("Sullivan's Travels"), Johnny Crawford ("The Rifleman"), Alan Hale Jr. ("Gilligan's Island"), and Lon Chaney Jr. ("The Wolf Man"), actresses Judy Garland ("The Wizard of Oz"), Fay Wray ("King Kong"), Carole Lombard (Mrs. Clark Gable), Barbara Hershey ("The Stunt Man"), Nanette Fabray ("One Day At A Time"), Meredith Baxter ("Family Ties"), Charlene Tilton & Linda Evans ("Dynasty"), Sally Kellerman (the original "Hot Lips" in "M*A*S*H"), Gloria Grahame (the fast girl in "It's a Wonderful Life"), Alexis Smith ("Night & Day"), Ione Skye ("Say Anything"), Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks), Jill St. John (Mrs. Robert Wagner), Tuesday Weld ("Looking for Mr. Goodbar"), Swoozie Kurtz ("Sisters"), the late Sharon Tate and Stefanie Powers ("Hart to Hart"); plus dancer Marge Champion, director John Huston ("The Maltese Falcon"), singer Brandy Norwood, child actor Dickie Jones (voice of Disney's "Pinocchio") and comedienne Carol Burnett. Singer Ricky Nelson ("Ozzie & Harriet") was going here when he decided to try his luck as a rock & roll singer - to impress a girl he was dating. (Some sources also list Marilyn Monroe as a Hollywood High student, but that seems to a mistake.)

Tucked away between Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd (just a short walk from the Chinese Theatre), Hollywood High has also been the site of several live concerts by top name artists, including the Byrds (1966), Elvis Costello (1978), and the Stone Roses (1990). David Bowie reportedly tried to pick up girls here back in 1972, but didn't meet with much success - probably because (according to his friend) he was wearing a dress at the time. Rita Wilson (producer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") says that when she first went to Hollywood High, there were photographers doing a shoot at the school - someone from Harper's Bazaar spotted her and wanted her in the magazine - and that started her showbiz caareer.

Legend has it that Lana Turner was discovered at Schwab's Drug Store, but the truth is that she was actually discovered at the Top Hat Malt Shop (which used to be located right across the street from Hollywood High, at the northeast corner of Sunset & Highland).

"The Hollywood Reporter," one of Tinseltown's leading trade papers, began operations at 1606 Highland, also across the street from Hollywood High School. One afternoon in 1936, the newspaper's owner, Billy Wilkerson, walked to the corner Top Hat malt shop to get one of the twenty Cokes he drank each day. There, he spotted a cute 15-year-old girl sipping a Coke at the soda fountain's U-shaped counter. She was Judy Turner, a student at Hollywood High, who had just skipped her typing class to run across the street to the café. Wilkerson asked her if she wanted to be in the movies - she replied that she would have to ask her mother. Later, when M-G-M encouraged Judy to choose another first name, she chose "Lana."

Lana Turner, soon nicknamed "The Sweater Girl," went on to star in a host of films with Hollywood's leading men, including "Love Finds Andy Hardy" (1938) with fellow Hollywood High alumnus Mickey Rooney; opposite John Garfield in the original "Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), Kirk Douglas in "The Bad & The Beautiful" (1952), Clark Gable in "Honky Tonk" (1941), John Wayne in "The Sea Chase " (1955), and Spencer Tracy in "Cass Timberlane" (1947). In 1957 she got an Oscar nomination for "Peyton Place."

There is a small Alumni Museum at Hollywood High. It's located in the library, and contains photos of the stars who attended classes here, as well as donated school memorabilia such as letterman jackets, awards, banners, yearbooks, programs, and the like. (The museum has irregular hours, so call ahead if you want to visit the museum, and ask to see the Assistant Principal in charge of counseling.)

Built in 1910, the high school opened just as the formerly quiet hamlet of Hollywood was first being overrun by movie producers. By the 20's, it became the school of choice for the children of movie stars. But as the neighborhood grew more seedy with the passing years, and with a change in school district boundaries, most of the well-to-do Hollywood parents stopped sending their children to Hollywood High, opting instead for schools like Beverly Hills High and Santa Monica High. Today, the school caters to a broad ethnic mix of students, speaking dozens of different languages.

(Note: if you watch the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, you'll notice that the first unit to march down the Boulevard each year is usually the Hollywood High marching band.)

Getting there: Hollywood High is located just south of Hollywood Boulevard, at the northwest corner of Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, right around the corner from the Chinese Theatre. You can see the Sheik mural (with a giant portrait of Rudolph Valentino in full sheik headdress) by driving south down Orange Street from Hollywood Blvd.



[For more information on this subject, you can access Hollywood High's official website at: http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us/Hollywood_HS.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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