First Words — 11 May 2012
When Hollywood came to town

On the road to work last summer, we could watch the HOLLYWOOD sign going up in 20-foot letters on the (only) hill in the distance. There was buzz we might bump into Tom Cruise at a certain restaurant, Alec Baldwin on the street, Julianne Hough at the beach. We could put the top down on the way home and cruise the famous Sunset Strip, Miami-style, imagine shopping at a faux Frederick’s of Hollywood, or dream of cutting an album at Tower Records.

For a few days last summer, we were all sharing director Adam Shankman’s California dream. We were all part of the backdrop for his musical, Rock of Ages – a movie about young love and rock-star dreams in Southern California in the ’80s, shot on location in South Florida in the 2010s – which we’ll all get to see in theaters come June 15.

Some of us – and some of our landmarks – had bigger parts in the dream than others. In a towering performance, Broward County’s Monarch Hill landfill – the (only) hill in the distance – played the Hollywood Hills. The Broadwalk in Hollywood, Fla., stood in for Venice Beach, Calif. Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Julianne Hough starred on our stage – as themselves, of course – when they weren’t playing characters on sets built at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale or on North Miami Avenue or the old Hirschfeld Theatre in Miami Beach.

I loved having them all here, loved the flashes of movie-making magic behind the yellow warning tape, loved seeing South Florida cast convincingly as another place in another time. We may not be on Hollywood’s A list, but we are the Meryl Streep of locations.

Would we want all of that here all the time? Would the fantasy begin to fray, would the dream start to seem more like work in a company town the longer it went on?

“After the first night it was one of the most boring things, seeing Tom Cruise ride his motorcycle back and forth on the block like 1,000 times,’’ one store owner tells writer Elizabeth Rahe in our cover story, pg. 76 “And that song, We’re Not Gonna Take It. I was so traumatized by that song by the end of it.”

We are gonna take it, apparently, just not 1,000 times.

On the road to work now, we only see the (only) hill in the distance. The HOLLYWOOD sign has come down. There’s little chance we’ll bump into Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin or Julianne Hough any more. The sets have been struck. The crew, and the spotlight, has moved on.

We are left with the stage the way it was before they came on. We fill it with our own stars now: 100 Outstanding Women of Broward County (pg. 23); doctors on the shining edge of medical treatments (pg. 109); interior designers on the cutting edge of media room style (pg. 94). As always, we enjoy the stage itself, including our sparkling waterfront restaurants (pg. 135), even our own Hollywood, all to ourselves (pg. 86) again.

It may not be Rock of Ages. But it rocks.

Mark Gauert

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