A slew of souvenir carts and kiosks have been removed from the sidewalk in front of Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre, where the structures were blocking access to historic handprints, footprints and signatures of beloved stars such as Jean Harlow, Bette Davis and Lana Turner.
The removal comes after a dust-up on social media kick-started by noted Hollywood documentarian Alison Martino and her Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page, which posted a photo on Sept. 30 taken by Brian Donnelly. The image showed a retail structure selling inexpensive hats and T-shirts while covering iconic cement blocks lining Hollywood Boulevard in front of the theater. "How incredibly disrespectful," the post reads, as seen below. "If Lucy and Ethel were to try and steal John Wayne's footprints today, they couldn't even find it! This is not a pretty sight TCL Chinese Theatres!"
The post generated more than 750 comments and 530 shares and was enough to launch a Change.org petition requesting the removal of the vendor carts from the forecourt, as well as a news story on Curbed Los Angeles. The petition, signed by more than 2,600 supporters as of Monday afternoon, called for the removal of the carts out of respect for Hollywood history and the millions of tourists who flock to the block each year.
"Capsules of Hollywood history, the cement blocks are precious to film enthusiasts all around the globe, many of whom travel a great distance to visit the forecourt and have the opportunity to see their favorites' blocks," the petition reads. "The current situation of the vending carts directly on top of the blocks reduces all citizens' enjoyment of the forecourt, and does not even allow many visitors to see some of the blocks, being entirely covered by carts.… Please don't allow commerciality to overshadow the history contained there."
While it can be assumed that TCL opted to move the retail structures following the controversy, it's not confirmed, because a rep for TCL Chinese Theatre declined to comment. It remains unclear where the vendor carts will go, though a source indicated they may be relocated to the nearby Hollywood & Highland mall.
Martino offered to talk, telling The Hollywood Reporter that she drove to the block on Monday once she heard that the carts were no longer in place. "It's unbelievable - power to the people," she said, crediting Donnelly with the original image and Elena Parker for launching the petition. "I've been operating the Vintage Los Angeles page for five years and I've never seen a reaction like this. The outcry and outrage grew really fast. My VLA community really took it to heart. It was their passion and perseverance that drove this. Social media is an incredible force."
Sticking with that showing, Martino celebrated the "victory" by posting photos of the clear forecourt on Facebook and Instagram, shown below.
What a #victory this is!!! The junk carts are gone in the courtyard of the Chinese Theatre!!!!! Thank you TCL (#ChineseTheater) for hearing our voices and removing them! This is how the forecourt should look. I am so overwhelmed by my feelings standing here right now. Knowing that my #VintageLosAngeles community made this happen is the most satisfying and rewarding outcome of my professional career. I may have been reluctant getting after them, but this was a GROUP EFFORT! The #historical #signatures and handprints are exposed again for everyone to enjoy! Lana Turner and Bette Davis can finally rest in peace. BRAVO EVERYONE! Class and dignity has returned to the greatest movie palace in the world. History prevails. That's who the petition needed to happen! Thank you to all the news reporters and entertainment media sights including #CurbedLA, @abcnews the #HollywoodReporter for supporting this crusade with me!
A photo posted by Vintage Los Angeles (@alisonmartino) on Oct 3, 2016 at 4:31pm PDT