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A Star Is Reborn, With Deals for All

TIMES FASHION WRITERS

Lights! Camera! Shopping!

Merchants along Hollywood Boulevard are ready for your close-up--at the cash register, that is. With last week’s opening of the Red Line subway to North Hollywood, increased security along the strip and a multibillion-dollar revitalization effort--the boulevard beckons.

Sure, it’s still a tourist trap with almost 20 million visitors coming to the 18 blocks of schlocky souvenir browsing, hokey museums, historic landmarks and star gazing. But it’s not just the Hollywood hoopla that draws shoppers to the area bound by Gower Street on the east and La Brea Avenue on the west.

Amid the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (“Shaft” star Samuel L. Jackson was mobbed when he got his star the day we shopped) and the famed footprints at Mann’s Chinese Theatre is one of the funkiest shopping areas in the city.

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Trendy clothing boutiques, international emporiums, juice bars and that must millennium mainstay--a cyber coffee shop, where you can surf the Internet--exist between tattoo parlors, erotica shops, leather and T-shirt stores and lingerie boutiques--Playmates, By George and Frederick’s of Hollywood, just to name a few.

Classic clothes are a rarity--but they are available and reasonably priced. But if it’s trendy garments and accessories you want, you’re in Hollywood heaven. Some stores offer well-known designer clothes by Los Angeles’ Karl Kani, Pelle Pelle, Fubu, Bisou Bisou, DKNY, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Iceberg and Giorgio Armani.

Knockoffs of European labels for men and women are common. So are shoes, purses, hats, jewelry and lots of sportswear by California manufacturers.

Most of the prices are moderate--and at several stores, sales staff make like the Godfather and often are the first to pitch, “I’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse.”

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Of course, we couldn’t, not when you can get a Versace knock-off scarf-print skirt for $29.99.

The strip’s local street scene also is eclectic and eccentric with tourists sharing the pavement with locals--many of them pierced and tattooed--shopping their neighborhood, sipping latte or chowing down at a sidewalk table at the Snow White Cafe & Restaurant.

“The boulevard has changed for the better,” says Michael Shea, a senior lead officer with the Los Angeles Police Department who has patrolled the strip and the nearby area since 1981. Shea, a former child star, has lived in Hollywood for 35 years and knows the history of his neighborhood.

“When I came here as an officer the area was on a downhill slide. It was kind of disgusting in the late 1980s. But in the early ‘90s, the boulevard started to do an about-face,” he says, giving credit to the combined efforts of police, the area’s Business Improvement District that has pumped money into increased private security and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

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The boulevard, though sprinkled with several empty storefronts and others being remodeled for new retail stores, also offers a multicultural mix of art, musical instruments and exotic clothing from shops specializing in African, Indian and Peruvian wares.

And get this--the strip has become so hip that even Krispy Kreme doughnuts has temporarily invaded Hollywood. And you don’t have to wait two hours to satisfy your sugar fix. Through Tuesday, the doughnuts--at 75 cents each or $9 a dozen--will be sold at the Dinosaurium, a big bad lizard exhibit next door to El Capitan Theatre at 6840 Hollywood Blvd.

And one final tip--the farther you head east on the boulevard--away from Mann’s--the cheaper the T-shirts and souvenirs, as much as $3 to $4 less.

The Route

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Starting at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, head west on one side of the boulevard, cross over and head back. The total loop should take about two and a half hours to complete. But we just didn’t browse, we shopped, and it took us nine hours. For that, we deserve an Oscar.

* Hollywood Suit Outlet, 6420 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 462-8228. The store boasts a $10-million inventory of menswear including designer suits from Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin. But it’s the package deals that bring shoppers here. For $499, you get three wool suits (up to size 70) and five trousers. Plus, three each of the following: dress shirts, silk ties, leather belts, socks, pocket hankies and pairs of shoes.

* By George, 6435 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 462-6694. Let’s make this brief. This is the Frederick’s of Hollywood for guys. Slinky thongs, tight Lycra see-through boxers and mesh undies range in price from $12 to $35 for a matched tank top and brief set. On the shy guy side there are soft silk robes, pajamas and nightshirts.

* Retro Clothing, 6439 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 466-8863. It’s back to the future at this place with racks that are filled with vintage clothing, including $20 Levi jeans, $6 ties, fox fur wraps for $145 and an aviator suit for $195. There’s more: flapper dresses, wedding gowns, tuxedos, petticoats and hosiery still in their original gift boxes.

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* Maya’s Exotic Dance Footwear, 6523 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 962-9467. Maya Milikan has fitted just about everyone’s feet from starlets to drag queens (size 17) with her unique and over-the-top shoe and boot designs. And if you can’t find something to please your tootsies from the 10,000 shoes available, Milikan will create them for you: any color, any fabric and any size. But it’s her boots that are unique and popular and priced from $49 to $350.

* In Style, Fashion for Less, 6530 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 467-8522. If following the latest trends is your thing, this is your place because knockoffs of the hottest looks are crammed into the store. Dresses range from $19.99 to $29.99. Pants, including capris, go for $9.99 and tops--halter and spaghetti-strapped--are mostly $9.99.

* Andes, 6536 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 469-0157. When you step inside this store, you’re in another world. Birds dangle overhead, flutes play around you and pictures of mountains on rugs look like art on the walls. And they’re all for sale. Customers from as far away as Long Beach and Riverside come to Juan Juy’s store to check out the Peruvian merchandise: arts, crafts, wind instruments, dolls, tapestries and cooking spices. On weekends, live music featuring flutist Jose Arciniegas as well as other entertainers is performed on the sidewalk outside the store. Arciniegas also gives flute lessons at the store.

* Consumers Drug Stores, 6542 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 461-3606. Medicines, toiletries, Dr. Scholl’s foot pads--this drugstore has it all and more. But the store’s magnet is a huge fragrance counter with the latest scents--folks, this is the real stuff--such as Poeme by Lancome for $48, compared with $70 in a major department store, or Fendi for $35, compared with $70. For guys, there’s Jaipur by Boucheron for $41.99, compared with $55, and Ferragamo for $34.99, compared with $45.

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* Hollywood Toys & Costumes, 6600 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 464-4444. If you ever wanted a secret identity, this is the place to get one. You can find any costume imaginable--from an astronaut, the most popular, to gruesome monsters--or have one custom made. Costumes are $30 and up, wigs are $15 to $89 and masks begin at $10. The store has been here for 50 years, offering everything from special effects makeup to toys.

* Frederick’s of Hollywood, 6608 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 466-8506. Besides mountains of lingerie, there is a free Celebrity Lingerie Museum featuring items such as Cher’s bra, Mae West’s peignoir, Madonna’s pointy corset, and even Tony Curtis’ brassiere from the flick “Some Like It Hot.”

* Tempest, 6640 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 462-5189. They’re hot to bargain here and, like Hollywood stylists, the saleswomen are eager to make you over from head to toe. The clothes are mostly cute and casual, but there are also many glamorous gowns that would fit the bill for prom night or just a night out. We paired a slinky black tank top ($24) with a red satin below-the-knee skirt embroidered with a dragon and slit high on both sides ($55, after $25 was knocked off).

* The Blue Stone, 6674 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 464-1411. Hip, trendy women’s and men’s clothing store featuring current collections from designer labels such as Iceberg, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Polo and Dolce & Gabbana. We scored big time with a Dolce & Gabbana men’s shirt after we haggled $80 off the original price of $216 with a salesman who initiated the wheeling and dealing.

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* Cinderella Fashion, 6711 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 463-3525. By day she scrubbed floors on her hands and knees and looked a mess. But at night, Cinderella went clubbing--and this is probably where she shopped. The clothes are inexpensive. The looks are straight out of the pages of Seventeen: colorful, sparkly, trendy and oh so tight. Leopard print dresses and tops--our faves--were more than affordable at $10 and up. Party on!

* Abyssinia, Gifts from Africa, 6727 Hollywood Blvd. (in the Artisan’s Patio), (323) 467-5453. Step into this store and perfumes and body oils entrance the shopper. There are Egyptian jewelry, musical instruments and African-inspired clothing; among the prettiest are the scarves that go for $45 and up. African masks are priced $27 and up.

* Infinity Store, 6729 Hollywood Blvd. in the Artisan’s Patio, (323) 464-7009. Cute girl’s and women’s accessories for real cheap: toe rings (99 cents), hair handkerchiefs ($1.99) and colorful, embroidered purses range in price from $19.99 to $29.99.

* The Cozy Room, 6729 3/4 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 462-6902. Luxurious draperies and pillows created by Dean Long and contemporary art by Arman Buenviaje are tucked into this quaint store that lives up to its name. Long, a designer who opened his shop two months ago, custom makes exquisite--and unique--draperies, duvet covers, comforters, slipcovers, shades, pillows and much more. A matching pair of pillows created from Versace dining table place mats go for $265 each, but other down-filled pillows adorned with fringe and decorated with gold trim range in price from $40 to $190. Throws made of Old World tapestries on one side and lush velvets on the other can double as capes because they’re that pretty; they sell for $180. Buenviaje’s art ranges from $110 to $600.

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* Capitol Rock, 6739 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 957-1480. If you’re into leather, this place is for you. There are leather jackets airbrushed with the word KISS or Elvis and a variety of leather trousers and rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts featuring the names of current hot musical groups. Prices range from $109 for leather pants to $180 for a jacket.

* Hill Street’s Blues, 6755 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 465-5675. This guy’s clothing store features jeans, shirts and jackets from hip designers Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Kani, Pelle Pelle and others. Also in stock are Levi jeans and T-shirts with funky sayings for $14.95. Plus, you can bargain here.

* Tower Records Clearance Center, 7201 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 461-6901. Open for about seven months, this is probably Hollywood’s best-kept secret. Most CDs, including the classics, rock and country western, are marked down to $9.99. Movie videos--comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror--range from $7.99 to $9.99, and DVDs go for $19.99 and up. And most laser discs sell four for $20.

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The Scoop

Where: Hollywood Boulevard between Vine Street on the east and La Brea Avenue on the west.

Hours: Most stores are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; others, such as souvenir shops, close at 10 p.m. and later.

Parking: One-hour metered street parking is available (25 cents for 30 minutes with a one-hour limit). Some free street parking can be found on side streets off Hollywood Boulevard, but get there early. There are several parking lots, and rates vary.

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By subway: The Red Line subway between Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and North Hollywood has two Hollywood Boulevard stops: one at Highland Avenue, the other at Vine Street. The cost is a flat rate of $1.35 for a one-way trip from either downtown to Hollywood or from the North Hollywood station for those coming from the San Fernando Valley. The ride from downtown to Hollywood is about 20 minutes.

Stores: See accompanying story.

Where to Grab a Bite: See E3.

ATM: Bank of America ATMs at 7080 Hollywood Blvd., near El Cerrito Place. The Bank of Hollywood ATM at 6900 Hollywood Blvd. at Orange Street. Several stores along the boulevard have their own ATMs.

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Where to Grab a Bite

* Musso & Frank Grill, 6667 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 467-5123. Open since 1919, the Grill, often called an L.A. institution, claims to be the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. Customers routinely ask to dine in celebrity booths, such as Charlie Chaplin’s, which is located by a front-corner window facing the boulevard. The eatery used to be the hangout for such greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and William H. Faulkner. Famous for its martinis, steaks and chicken potpie, prices range from $5.25 for a cheese sandwich to $35 for Porterhouse steak dinner.

* Bar Bee, 6687 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 464-3626. A healthy alternative to fast food, this juice bar offers a variety of blended juices and juice shakes, smoothies, sandwiches and salads. Its special Body Cleanser drink ($3.25) is made of cucumber, carrots and beets.

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* The Green Room, 6751 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 860-0775. This place has live music, Hollywood hipsters and waiters with awesome tattoos. We liked the ice blended mocha ($3.50) and caramel latte ($3.25).

* Snow White Cafe & Restaurant, 6769 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 465-4444. Dopey, sleepy, grumpy, bashful . . . what, no hungry? We took care of that with a Snow White hamburger ($5.50) and a Snow White linguine dish ($8.50). The menu includes everything from salads to sandwiches to pasta dishes. Service was slowey--er, slow--so you have to be patient. Closes at 2 a.m.

* Theodore’s Restaurant at the Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 466-7000. Continental cuisine is served in an elegant dining room at this historic hotel. But half the fun is reading the menu with dishes such as the Jennifer Lopez appetizer (spicy chili with sour cream, onions and cheddar cheese for $7.50) and the Ricky Martin pasta (sauteed rock shrimp, artichoke hearts and fettuccine tossed with spicy chipotle cream sauce for $14.95).

* Cyberjava, 7080 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 466-5600. A convenient place to hook up on the Internet and energize your body with juice fusions and power boosters. Coffee starts at $1.35, and fruity drinks go for $3.25.

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