David Brunson

updated 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Hollywood's Founding Father and Mother were Harvey and Daeida Wilcox, who owned and began to develop most of the land on which the town now stands. Daeida died in 1916, but her grandson, David Brunson, a 63-year-old real estate developer, was born in Hollywood and still lives in Pacific Palisades, 12 miles west of Hollywood and Vine. He has strong feelings about the deterioration of his home town.

I never knew Daeida, but the impression I had was that she was a forthright, austere, powerful woman, almost a Prohibitionist. Her sister Madge, who became one of the first morticians in California, was the same. I think there are four locations in Hollywood where their land was donated to churches.

It could have been another Beverly Hills. Back in the '20s and '30s you could walk down the street at night in complete safety. When I was growing up in Bel-Air, a few miles farther west, in the springtime there were hundreds of acres of poppies and lupine, a purple wildflower. It was beautiful.

The entertainment industry, of course, put Hollywood on the map. The stars and the studios began moving out during the '20s and '30s, but the merchants maintained the myth. They came up with the idea of putting a bunch of stars' names in the sidewalk, though for the life of me I can't understand why retailers would want to make the guy who's walking in front of a store look at the sidewalk instead of at the display windows. But what changed Hollywood was the canteen during World War II. All through the war there were about one million servicemen in the area, and every one of them had to come see Hollywood. So a tremendous number of opportunistic owners put in retail operations to service the Gls, and that had a terrible impact. There's the Hollywood of the dream, the Camelot Hollywood and the real Hollywood, a carny town.

Of course the power structure in L.A. kind of likes Hollywood the way it is because every large city needs its steamy subdivision. But my wife is a tour director, and she says it's heartrending to see people's faces when she tells them, "Here's Hollywood." They say, "You mean this is all there is? Where are all the stars?"

Nowadays when I drive through Hollywood, I feel disappointed, to say the least. I think it has so much potential, that it's prime for redevelopment and could become a viable, credible community, standing on its own with retail operations and a corporate headquarters for the entertainment industry. I would like to see the town cleaned up. If Daeida drove down Hollywood Boulevard today in her horse and buggy, she'd miss the pepper trees. I think she'd just shake her head.

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