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It’s Time for Your Gigantic Close-Up

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They stand huge and omniscient, flanking the thoroughfare much like the giant jackals that guard the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. From the steadfast--the Marlboro-style ad--to the transient--the latest Lifetime lovely--the billboards of the Sunset Strip are this city’s celestial paean to celebrity. And now you too can be part of the pouting pantheon, and you don’t even have to convince the Gap that you look really good in 20-foot-long khakis to do it.

Just west of Kings Road, wedged between the Sunset Plaza Best Western and the Sunset Tattoo Parlor, is the still-under-construction VideoTron. Twenty feet off the ground and 466 feet square, VideoTron gives new meaning to the term big-screen TV. Loosely modeled on the oversized screen in New York’s Times Square, it adds a “Blade Runner”-esque shimmer to the already visually cacophonous Strip. And from now until Oct. 9, it will be a proletariat portal to stardom. For just $300 and a small set-up fee, aspiring fame-seekers get a Warholian 15 minutes, broken into 15-, 30- or 60-second spots, during which they can do or say just about anything (within the bounds of law, order and West Hollywoodian taste).

Designed for viewing 24 hours a day, the screen has been working part-time for about a month, flickering with ads for Cher, Las Vegas, Wells Fargo and other strange bedfellows. It is the pet project of developer Joe Shooshani, whose family owned the odd, angular plot of land for 10 years before it dawned on him that the only thing it was really good for was a truly enormous television. With a newsstand and coffeehouse tucked beneath. Programming, he says, will include news, public service announcements, lots of commercials. And art. Shooshani’s permit agreement with West Hollywood requires that the VideoTron show arts programming--such as animation, film, or art pieces--every evening from 6 to 10 p.m., as well as three minutes of every hour during the day.

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And until Oct. 9, screen time is open to the paying public.

“While we were testing, we would shoot the faces on the sidewalk and I tell you, Sunset just stopped. Everyone, from the oldest man to the smallest child, likes to see themselves on TV.” Shooshani says,

He says he already has a request for a marriage proposal, a birth announcement and “all sorts of wild things.” While the arts programming choices must be approved by the West Hollywood Fine Arts Commission, the personal infomercials are selected by Shooshani.

“We will break it up into little spots so it isn’t boring,” he says. “And obviously, we don’t want to offend anyone, so we are being very careful.”

Just don’t tell the creators of “The Blair Witch Project.” That’s all we’d need. Coming soon to an intersection near you. . . .

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For more information, contact Classic Media at (818) 558-3343.

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