Sewing the Shadow on Peter Pan
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Here in L.A., it's not difficult to visit scenes from your subconscious mind.
You can hike out to the old M.A.S.H. site up in the Santa Monica Mountains and stand where Alan Alda used to meet the helicopters with that look of compassionate concern--you know, the look which probably still defines compassionate concern somewhere in your brain.
You can sit at the seaside restaurant where Bette Davis found love in Now, Voyager.
You can go to the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park, where movie monsters hid in your childhood and Batman kept Robin after school.
Visiting these locations offers a surreal pleasure, like gluing the real onto the imaginary, or sewing the shadow back on the heel of Peter Pan.
Of course, you might feel a slight initial disappointment. These spots never carry the same glow they carried onscreen: The lighting's different, the extras are gone, the set dressers have removed the potted plants.
A famous actor once told me that every time he meets fans he braces himself for the momentary shadow that sometimes passes across their faces, that slight disappointment to find that he is, after all... human. The same thing happens when tourists first step out of their cars in Malibu and remember how it looked in Beach Blanket Bingo.
Still, we feel compelled to connect with actors and locations. Often, we simply stare dumbly, waiting as if they will suddenly reveal some half-remembered secret from our souls.
We make a tough audience. Some Angelenos have catalogued their subconscious minds as efficiently as the IMDB database, and eagerly correct Harry on his facts. Worse, we prove uninterested in locations from throwaway comedies or summer features.
I mean, who cares?
Come late afternoon, we find ourselves at the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier, where Harry arranges a tour of the mysterious upstairs. To enter the carousel is to revisit not just the improbabilities of one's youth, but a hundred Hollywood shoots: half-recalled gunfire and ghostly visits to the hand-carved horses. In your dreams, you may often hear the old-time calliope.
Near the beginning of The Sting, Robert Redford finds Paul Newman hiding out in a brothel housed in a carousel in 1930's Chicago: really, of course, it's our carousel with a little makeup. In the movie Redford quizzes the madam as she sweeps the white staircase on the west side, then he enters to find Newman hung over in a little room out behind the horses.
The Urban Man watches this clip, then stands at the bottom of this same stairway, and tries to sew the shadow back on the heel of Peter Pan.
I say to myself, "Let's see. Every day, deep in our innermost selves, we live out the hucksterish and distinctly American freedom represented by the two handsome men in he Sting--a freedom more real to me than any found in any authentic history."
Okay, it's just a staircase, once used for a 40-second shot. Still, the Urban Man waits for the tour group to disperse. I brace myself for a momentary disappointment. Then with a shy upward glance, I leave the sunlight and climb in the company of all that meaning.
Copyright © 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
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