Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Hollywood of the East Coast

I love nicknames.

I believe all things should be nicknamed. Your car. Your house. Your coffee maker. Even your city.

Some cities have legendary nicknames - Tinsel Town, The Big Easy, The Windy City, The Big Apple, Big D, The Classic City, The City That Never Sleeps, and my favorite - The Biggest Little City In The World … Reno, Nevada.

When I moved here, I discovered Gainesville had a nickname: Hogtown. This has everything to do with the name of the creek that runs through the city and nothing to do with actual hogs. This did not make me happy.

So, I observed the town for many years, then branded it with a new nickname.

The Hollywood of the East Coast.

Realize, of course, that the Hollywood in Gainesville doesn’t jump right out and smack you in the face. It dances cautiously in the shadows, revealing itself only to those who care to spend a portion of their lives here.

Sure, there’s a bigger spotlight on other East Coast jaunts such as New York, Atlanta and Miami. But you would feel totally uncreative calling one of those cities The Hollywood of the East Coast, in the same sense you feel uncreative sexually by telling someone you think Pamela Anderson is hot.

Many of Gainesville’s Hollywood traits are subtle. The sun shines every day here. The people are beautiful, they know they’re beautiful, and they have little to offer outside of their looks. True to Hollywood form.

The nightlife is completely out of balance with a mid-sized college town, offering elaborate dance clubs with cover charges, VIP rooms and dress codes (which only made sense to me when I learned many of the clubs here are owned by the same people who own the clubs in South Beach).

In a roughly sketched portrait, Gainesville features tens of thousands of good-looking young people walking around in the hot sun wearing little, yet trendy, clothing and partying in clubs fashioned straight out of Miami’s South Beach.

It’s a good Hollywood start.

However, to be in true Hollywood style, you need celebrities. And the Hollywood of the East Coast has you covered there.

Let’s begin with Playboy’s 2002 cover girl, Lauren Anderson. A local high school graduate and former University of Florida student, Anderson quickly rose to local fame after baring it all as Playboy’s centerfold four summers ago.

In true Hollywood of the East Coast style, she came to my roommate’s birthday party several months after her spread and drove us to the bars that night in her SUV while playing the Striptease DVD for her passengers.

The fact I actually participated in such proceedings angers me. I loathe everything accompanying that scene including celebrating a woman whose only true accomplishment is being bestowed with an amazing set of tits, even though that is truly no achievement whatsoever.

But sometimes in The Hollywood, you have to just let situations like these run their course. Just roll with the punches and enjoy the randomness.

Celebrity runs much deeper than Anderson, however. The Hollywood gets amped up for Clinton Portis' annual Summer Jam (the NFL Pro Bowl running back was born and raised here). There's always a buzz when celebs like Derek Jeter, Rick Pitino or Warren Sapp attend University of Florida basketball games (once, it was rumored Jeter stayed in town to party in the VIP lounge at The Bank downtown. That guy recognizes Hollywood when he sees it).

Turn on your TV and The Hollywood is well represented. One of ESPN’s most drooled-over personalities, sideline reporter Erin Andrews, graduated from UF in 2000. The Weather Channel’s most popular reporter - Stephanie Abrams - is also a Florida grad. Bob Villa? Tom Petty? Sure, they lived in Gainesville.

Spend enough time here, and your chance of experiencing a Hollywood of the East Coast moment multiplies. Like the time I realized "The All-American Dream," Dusty Rhodes, was standing next to me at the bar (speaking of nicknames, “The All-American Dream” is up there). Or when my dad came to visit and we ate dinner at a table next to Steve Spurrier … when he was head coach of the Washington Redskins.

I’ve played pick-up basketball games with Chicago Bears running back Adrian Peterson and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Travis Taylor.

Don’t be shocked if you see Ruthie from The Real World Hawaii at the bar or Joaquin Phoenix’s sister, Rain, on the streets. If you see New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick or Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro defensive back Lito Sheppard in town, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.

Roger Maris’ son. He lives here, too. Bo Diddly? You know it.

Like I said, if these sightings occurred in a big metropolis it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Somehow, this sleepy little Florida college town, tucked away beneath a massive canopy of live oaks, has turned into Hollywood’s sister city.

The Hollywood in Gainesville never ends. There are three websites that follow the Gainesville nightlife scene (,, and features pictures from bars across the globe. Your choices include such exotic locales as Berlin, Paris, Sicily, New York ... and Gainesville. It makes very little sense, unless you've accepted the power the Hollywood of the East Coast posseses.

Yeah, the NCAA basketball champions reside here. Super Bowl XXXIX was held less than an hour away. The world champions in all four major sports since 2001 have come from this state.

But let’s be honest, Hollywood is not all glitz and glamour. In August, 1990, Gainesville was placed under the national spotlight when “The Gainesville Ripper,” Danny Rolling, murdered five students in a 48-hour span, a spree that transfixed the nation and strangled the city with fear for weeks.

I find all of this tremendously amusing. I don’t seek out all of the worst traits of America that thrive here - pretentiousness, celebrity, fashion and the desire to impress people with looks.

It’s all fake here. The big concert events of Gainesville include Trick Daddy and Snoop Dogg. People don’t celebrate good music here, only music that represents their life style - all attitude and no substance.

True Hollywood style. To be in this city each day, observing the delusion, is an amazing thing. Comedy abounds at each turn.

There is no better example of the irony that resides in The Hollywood than the movie “Doc Hollywood.” This 1991 comedy staring Michael J. Fox and Julie Warner could be one of the most ironic things that ever happened to The Hollywood of the East Coast.

The movie is about a young doctor (Fox) who is driving cross-country to Beverly Hills to become a surgeon. He crashes his car in a rural Southern town and is ordered to stay there and do community service. All the while, he just wants to get to Hollywood.

Where’s the irony, you ask? The movie was filmed right here in Gainesville.

Doc Hollywood was trying to get to Beverly Hills. But what he didn’t realize was that he was already there … in the Hollywood of the East Coast.

The little town grows on Doc Hollywood enough he considers staying.

It’s a poetic ending, I guess.


At 3:29 PM, Blogger Flap McGlaphlin said...

Hilarious! I want to come to gains-vegas during football season. I was thinking maybe the South Carolina game.


At 8:05 PM, Blogger Bditty said...

Once I thought that I found true love, then I caught the early flight home and had a couple of naked people jumping out of my bathroom like some kind of goddamn magic show.....

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