Hollywood Seeks Friendly Ghosts, Good Witches

Times Staff Writer

While talk of Hollywood secession is new, the old practice of promoting Tinseltown as the place to be goes on.

After ballyhooing the Hollywood Christmas parade, New Year’s Eve, the return of the Oscars and other galas, organizers and a Hollywood business group have come up with a new idea to attract a crowd: a family-oriented Halloween night celebration on Hollywood Boulevard that they hope will be the world’s largest costume party.

The event, dubbed Hollywood Halloween, will be staged within a closed stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and Vine Street. It will feature street entertainers, a karaoke stage, tents for food and beverages, musical performances, a celebrities’ autograph tent and balloon rides.

As many as 30,000 are expected to attend.


“Halloween should be a destination event for Hollywood,” said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment District, a business improvement group for the boulevard. “Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Year’s Eve in New York City, the potential for a new tradition is endless.”

Admission will be $10 for adults; children under 12 get in for free.

The Halloween celebration represents a departure from most Tinseltown events because organizers are targeting families. They have given out fliers at schools and community centers.

“It’s definitely for families because we’ll have face painting, a rock-climbing exhibit, a kids’ costume parade, a giant Ferris wheel and a large balloon for rides for the kids,” Hollywood publicist Kim Sudhalter said.


In recent years, crowds of mostly young adults, from 80,000 to as many as 200,000, have descended upon the boulevard for informal celebrations of Halloween. Police officials have closed the boulevard for crowd control and have experienced only sporadic problems.

Still on the minds of some in Hollywood is the unofficial 1988 celebration that turned into an ugly melee. It came at a time when Hollywood was seen as a less-than-glamorous place plagued by prostitution, runaways living on the streets and drug dealing.

On that October night in ’88, some in the crowd of 100,000 Halloween revelers tossed bottles at police, smashed windows and looted stores on Hollywood Boulevard. It took 170 officers in riot gear, backed up by mounted units and two helicopters, about two hours to restore order.

Twenty-eight people were arrested and six others, including two police officers, were injured.


Saying that about 300 Los Angeles police officers will be on duty at this year’s event, authorities expect few problems, based in part because of past years when few, if any arrests, were made.

“For us, it’ll be just another big crowd,” said Sgt. Mike Arminio, who handles police arrangements for large-scale events in Hollywood. “If they don’t throw anything at me, I’ll be fine.”

To ensure the event’s family nature, organizers have decided to ban Silly String, the ubiquitous nontoxic foamy tendrils, that seems to be part of any celebration since it was introduced to the gag-gift market in 1969.

Morrison said that Silly String has been an increasing problem in Hollywood and that empty aerosol cans littered the streets after previous Halloweens. Eventually, they make their way into storm drains and the ocean.


“We’re trying to be environmentally safe,” she said.

Also, illegal street vendors, who frequent many public events to sell food and other items, will be discouraged.

If there’s a risk in this Halloween event, it’s being taken by the producers staging it.

Pam Sakow, who puts on the annual AIDS Project Los Angeles Summer Party on a back lot at Universal Studios, says she and two others are putting up $200,000 to $250,000 of their own money to stage the event because there was little time to attract major sponsors.


“It could take as many as two or three years” to make money at the event, Sakow said. She noted that many merchants -- “good citizens” -- had held down costs to help event organizers.

“That’s because they also believe in Hollywood,” she said.

An effort to attract Latinos, who make up a good portion of Hollywood’s residents, is being undertaken.

Promotions are being aired on KSSE-FM, a Latin contemporary music station known as “La Super Estrella.”


To lessen opposition among the boulevard’s merchants, the sidewalks will not be closed, a broad hint to area bars and restaurants to remain open.

In addition, the Red Line subway stations at Hollywood and Vine and Hollywood and Highland will be open. For the Academy Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in March, the Hollywood and Highland station was closed.

Because of the time needed to set up rides, booths and stages, Hollywood Boulevard will be closed between Highland and Vine, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. It is to be reopened to traffic by 6 a.m. Friday.

Regardless of how many end up at the event, organizers say it will likely be recognized as the world’s largest costume party by the officials at the Guinness Book of World Records. At this time, there is no record for such a category.


So, organizers are hoping for large crowds with many Hollywood look-alikes mixed in with the monsters and the ghouls.

“I don’t want to scare anybody at a Halloween party,” said Todd Graham, 29, of Los Angeles as he window-shopped on Hollywood the other day.

“If I come to the Halloween thing here, I’ll come as a Beatle. I just love their music ... yeah, yeah, yeah.”