Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

As sun sets on Sunset Blvd.

  • Print

HOLLYWOOD -- I'm sipping iced green tea with pineapple infusion at a café on Hollywood Boulevard, waiting for Jessica Biel. You can't imagine the crowds and craziness here, an hour before the red-carpet prèmiere of the remake of the 20-year-old Schwarzenegger kill-fest titled Total Recall.

Directly across the avenue is Madame Tussauds palace of paraffin -- "The Most Interactive Celebrity Experience in Hollywood" -- with its terrifyingly unblinking effigies of Leo, Michael, Clooney, Chaplin, Kobe, Tupac and Shrek. Beneath my feet are the terrazzo stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And just down the street is the faux-Fukienese pagoda of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where Jess and I are going to steal a brief, private instant from each other's crazy lives before she goes inside to see the flick.

It's a Wednesday evening, just before the sun sets over Sunset Boulevard, two blocks away. The sidewalks are jammed with gawkers, hawkers, tourists, fawners, hoboes, geeks and bums. There are Japanese girls with pastel hair; ragged panhandlers with cavernous eyes; hundreds of Chinese mainlanders gaggled like geese by flag-waving, whistle-blowing guides. Shills for tours of film stars' mansions hunch like hyenas, waving flyers in the faces of the mob.

Delirious with our proximity to greatness, we trample the inlaid tributes to the once-famous and now-forgotten.

On this side of the street are Dennis Weaver, George Gobel, and Carole Lombard (the Jessica Biel of the 1930s). Elton Britt, an Arkansas yodeler whom my father especially liked just after the war, is immortalized directly in front of my chair. But who else remembers Elton Britt in the year 2012?

The masses stride on, walking all over Aretha Franklin, Veronica Lake, Christina Aguilera, the Munchkins, Godzilla, Kermit the Frog and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

A choir of screams from somewhere between Hooters and the Scientology building announces an arrival at the Total Recall opening. I teeter on Bette Midler on tippy-toes, but I am so far away I cannot tell if the man emerging from the limo is Colin Farrell or the third assistant director.

Now a woman walks up and tries to sell me a window seat on her bus. At Kalashnikov velocity, she rattles off the names of the immortals whose homes -- or at least whose tall fences -- we will see: Katy Perry, Ryan Gosling, Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Stewart, Mila Kunis, Sofia Vergara, a couple of dozen more. (She might have said Tyler Perry instead of Katy, but who cares as long as they're famous?)

"Why do we love celebrities?" I ask the tout.

"People want to be like them," she answers. "People want to be their best friend, be around them, be in their presence. I tell people that the stars are just like us. They may make more money and live in nicer houses, but they're just like us."

The barker turns out to be a long-aspiring country singer named Shellee-Ann Kellee, trolling for tourists between gigs. ("A combination of Las Vegas, Nashville, and Broadway, Ms. Kellee put on a show that would make nightclub acts Sinatra and Minnelli bow with pride," a reviewer wrote a dozen years ago.)

Some nights, Shellee-Ann performs at the Roosevelt Hotel, right here in the heart of Hollywood. But most days, she drives a van around the hills, seeking out the shacks of the chosen few who made it much bigger than she.

"If a movie star says to buy something, do you buy it?" I wonder.

"Never," Kellee replies.

"If they model a brand of clothing, do you wear it?"


"If they tell you to vote for someone, do you vote for him?"

"They're so left wing, these movie stars," Shellee-Ann Kellee snaps. "They think they have the power to control people's votes. I hate that George Clooney is such a Democrat."

It is not what I expect from a semi-successful crooner from Denver who tells me that she once idolized -- and got to meet -- the delicious (and now 71-year-old) Ann-Margret.

"They should be honoured," she says. "They should kiss their stars on the sidewalk. Instead, they charge money to be in the Christmas parade."

Shellee-Ann Kellee has nothing mean to say about Jessica Biel.

Finally, it is time. I cross the boulevard and shoulder my way to the courtyard of Grauman's, with its famous hand- and foot- and hoof-prints impressed in mid-century cement: Roy Rogers and Trigger; Greer Garson; Myrna Loy; Charles Boyer; Clifton Webb; Abbott and Costello on Dec. 8, 1941, the very day after Pearl Harbor.

"ALL HAPPINESS!" carved Judy Garland, in her soul-deep misery.

A Cadillac Escalade rolls up. My Jessica is inside in a pastel-pink gown and a pearl necklace that Arnold himself couldn't lift.

"Get in! I've been looking all over for you!" she orders.

Watch the trailer for Total Recall and she'll say the same to you.

Allen Abel is a Brooklyn-born Canadian journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2012 J1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Top 5: Famous facts about the Stanley Cup

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google