• markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    Margaret, you will see a transformation in people's attitudes in the rest of my story. I may blame the California horrse racing for Hollywood's demise. But I am just as responsible.
  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    Halfway through the card long lines started to develop. I mean lines not seen in these parts since the Breeders' Cup. And there were people walking around not knowing what to do. I'm talking about the newbies. Where did they come from? Why were they here? While the LA Times said little about Hollywood's closing, the local TV stations actually did a good job of covering it. Nearly every station did a report. But still, would a short story by Eyewitness News entice people to Inglewood? People who had never been to the horse races? People who don't even gamble? While the lines were long and newbies were walking around looking lost, nobody was complaining. This is LA. LA people complain about everything! What's wrong with this picture? And as I watched all this unfold, I just put down my racing form and helped out. I actually enjoyed teaching people how to bet because they were so gracious. And they were smiling. I don't know why. Maybe because this was their first horse racing experience and everybody was having a good time. When old timer degenerate gamblers are smiling after the sixth race, you know something's up. As far as enthusiasm goes, Del Mar with its youthful beach crowd is the best. On a typical day at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park they make a little noise as the horses approach the wire, but not much else. They rarely get off their feet. Not on this day. They may have come here to pay their last respects or because they were curious, but they got down. They made their bets because that's what you do at the horse races and they screamed and jumped because this was turning into a celebration. And it was also turning into a feeling as though they felt so glad they decided to come. This was turning into a vibe. As the crowd kept filing in, one has to wonder how many showed up on the spur if the moment. Could they have been watching on TVG or HRTV and decided to jump in the car? I asked a lot of questions. If you've never been to the horse races, why today? "Because I always had heard of Hollywood Park. And when I heard it was closing, I just wanted to see it." Little did I know that somehow, someway Hollywood Park had woven herself into the community. And the cars kept coming. By the sixth race, a steady stream of cars kept turning left off Prairie and into the lot. The lot was now completely full from Century to the end of the grandstand. And only a few cars were leaving. On any given day, plenty of cars would be leaving due to brokeness, and I don't doubt that there were plenty of broke people by now. But they weren't leaving. After the 7th race I walked up to my favorite stomping place, the upper deck. This was painful. I had avoided going up there because of the neglect. There were no betting machines anymore. Bay Meadows Land Company had pretty much stripped her bare. But there was people up there! The crowd was becoming so big that they went up there despite the filth. There were bench seats that hadn't been cleaned in decades. But that didn't matter. On this day nobody complained. They just enjoyed. By this time there was a sense of privilege. Privilege that we were invited to this party. But what was this party's occasion? What were we celebrating? Horse racing? Zenyatta's home? What was going on? As I walked towards the dirty seats there was a sign posted to stay from this area. Kind of like a radioactive sign. On this day, nobody paid attention. And then I looked up to my left, and there it was . . . The hole in the wall that lead to somewhere. But where?
  • There were ladder type steps leading through the hole. You had to tilt your head on the last step. I can now surmise that this was a gate leading to a porch area. I walked out onto the porch and I saw a group of young men in their twenties. They were from LA. And the group had a talkative leader. He said "I've been coming here for 15 years and they're tearing her down." Even though I had been coming here for a much longer time, I didn't mention it. I let him have his moment because he was me 25 years ago. We all walked up more ladder stairs to the roof. And as the orange/pink sky of a setting sun loomed in the distance, with still more cars rolling in and the roar of loud jets flying over our heads with the rush of the cool Pacific air, me and him took it all in. It was both exhilarating and so sad. I felt like I was standing on top of LA. And underneath me was her people. People who had lived through generations of divisions. While the horse racing business was on shaky ground, Santa Anita and Del Mar weren't in much trouble at this time. People still went to those places. But they stopped coming here. And nobody wants to talk about the real reason. Back in the 1980's simulcast racing came to California. That meant if you lived in the suburbs you didn't have drive all the way to Hollywood Park to bet on the live races. Instead you could simply drive to Santa Anita or Los Alamitos and watch them on TV screens. It made good economic sense at the time. LA freeways are jammed most of the time. Plus people feel safer in their own neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with their own types of people. After racial curfews had been lifted, Inglewood had evolved into a 90% African-American city. Whites started staying away. Simulcasting gave them a good excuse because nobody likes to talk about race. True, Inglewood has a crime problem. But so do most areas of the inner city. Since previous generations preferred racial divisisions, ignorance and fear live on. Since the 1990's, Inglewood started becoming more and more Hispanic. Today, Hispanics are the majority. And while simulcasting had made it more convenient, horse racing was losing its heart. TV screens at makeshift betting parlors don't have hearts. But live horses do. And simulcasting proliferated, people started to stay away. And when the city erupted in racial violence in the early 90's, Hollywood Park began to fade from the consciences of race goers. It was just to risky to go there. For me personally, I had been grooming harness horses at the time. We spent spring in Sacramento. Sac was small potatoes compared to LA. And so were the traffic jams. And I also noticed neighborhoods that were racially mixed. At that time I was a huge fan if the sport. I bet a lot of money on the horses at the time. But I left LA for the harmony of Sacramento. I left my playgrounds in Inglewood and Arcadia for TV screens at Cal Expo. And when I visited my dad in the LA suburbs, I let him talk me into going to simulcasting at Santa Anita instead of live racing at Hollywood Park. I let his fears overpower my love. I stopped supporting her. Inglewood isn't a barrier for me. But I still didn't go. Only when Zenyatta raced would we return to Hollywood.
  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    With two races to go, even more cars were pulling in. At this time fans started to dismantle things. Some wanted a cherished memory and they brought screwdrivers with them. It was kind of cool seeing happy walking around with a memory in their hands. Later as I was leaving through the entry gates security would confiscate items. This was a reflection of just how Bay Meadows treated Hollywood Park. And on this day, her final day, they spared no expense. For managers to claim they were in the horse racing business just isn't true. For a real horse racing person wouldn't have treated her the way she was treated. This wasn't just business, this was about respect and honor. Even Santa Anita, who would open their meet in just four days didn't send any representatives to assist the people whom they would inherit. They could have put up booths and staffed assistants to help new bettors learn the game. But they didn't. And while glaring mistakes were made, it just didn't matter. At this point, it was getting closer and closer to closing time. And as the sadness wore on, the mood remained festive. It had been a long day. Hollywood carded 11races. While the final race had been schudeled for 5;30, they were over a half hour behind schedule. This is very rare because tracks usually stick to that schedule unless there's a weather delay. And as walked out to the paddock for the final race, a happy Asian couple asked me to take their picture. This had been going on all day. I asked them where they were from. They said West LA. I told him I stayed in the San Gabriel Valley by Santa Anita he said something that will stand out in my mind. He said with a powerful flair: I'M FROM WEST LA AND THIS IS MY TRACK!" and as the horses came onto the track for the final race, the meaning of this day was starting to take shape. And as the horses came onto the track for the final race and I descended down to the grandstand apron for the final time, my eyes were getting blurry. I wanted to watch this race with my people. And as I turned around looked up at a packed grandstand where the beautiful people up in the turf club were standing, clapping and holoring along with the working class people, where old and young, black, white and brown stood in unison in the night sky, I realized this day was about hope and love overwhelming fear and ignorance. And there was a feeling of guilt. For we let that fear conquer us and we lost a place that was so special. And by the time we realized it, it was too late. Hollywood Park may not have been as pretty as Santa Anita or Del Mar, but she had so much character. Los Angeles is often described as laid back and pampered. It's a place of plastic and not much history. And as Woodman's Luck got up in a dramatic finish, I leaped in the air as high as I could. For the grand old lady on Prairie Avenue had sent me and 30,000 of my friends out a winner. This was an LA thing. They showed up in an unimanagable way. The warmth and kindness of the day was unforgettable. And this day will live on forever.

    Because this was our hood and this was our track!
  • A few things I wanted to add, I asked many if the mostly-LA crowd if they planned to make trips to Santa Anita now that Hollywood Park was closing. Most said yes. Despite not having people there to assist all the newcomers, for them it was a spectacle. There was a feeling of being part of something because the old timers were telling them stories. This day will produce more fans than Santa Anita's opening day because of the glow everybody had. For the old timers, they rediscovered the thrill of being with the crowd. And there was mingling going on! Perfect strangers talking to each other. You don't see that in LA, especially at the race track. Yes this day brought people together. I'm sure many took the day off from the casinos. And they might return to the track. Yes this was gambling, but it was a different type of gambling. It was much more social because of all the cheering. I was at Bay Meadows closing day and it was rather mundane compared to this. Perhaps it WAS because Hollywood was so much maligned and mistreated but deep down inside we discovered our love for her because she was a place we could be together.

    I'll be heading back to Northern California. I'm still not a race fan until the industry pulls itself together. Today is opening day at Santa Anita but I'm skipping it. For as much as Frank Stronach has made mistakes, he has done good job in tastefully renovating Santa Anita. The renovations add modern conviences without taking away the older art-deco theme. It's too bad the slumlord owners of Hollywood park didn't do the same. They let her rot away.

    Perhaps this will be a turning point? We'll see. And good luck to the industry and horse people. I feel there are many lessons to be learned. One is give the people a reason to come to live racing. Believe me, once they get there they will gamble because it's the social thing to do. That crowd at HP really bet a lot despite the long lines and it being three days before Christmas.
  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    I also wonder if Woodman's luck got up at the wire in the last race just for Zenyatta? Do you see a connection? Zenyatta's movie could have a Hollywood ending.

    And I have two winning tickets on Wiodman's Luck. I want to give them away to two people whom I feel deserve them. Rachel and Louise, personal message me a mailing address. They are yours as a gift.
  • Mark, nice writing. I have to admit, I left Hollywood Park when the Goose Girl was no more. Well maybe not then, but my last memory is being pushed in by the crowd when trying to look down into that pit of a walking ring just to see the horses “up close”. Hollywood Park felt like a concrete jungle compared to Santa Anita and Del Mar. I know there were some improvements made but I never did have a desire to return. Although, recently flying into LAX, as we flew over the track, I did feel a pain of sadness knowing she would soon be no more.

    P.S. What a sweet gesture to Rachel and Louise.
  • No doubt Hollywood was a concrete jungle built to accommodate large crowds. Santa Anita has beautiful art-deco architecture and Del Mar is a modern facility by the beach. My point being that beauty is only skin deep. As the city of LA grew up racially divided, Hollywood Park was the place where we put our differences aside. The riots happened on Hollywood Park's opening day just a few miles away. I was there and got out of the area just in time. Those riots exposed the painful past of a great city. And a week after, Hollywood opened her doors again to let the healing begin. Unfortunately, most stayed away. For suburbanites and the OC, Hollywood Park left their radar. Many will surmise it's not worth the risk of venturing into Inglewood, but on the busiest shopping day of the year, on a busy airport boulevard, we all did. And we were so glad we did.
  • I have the memories stored. I feel by sending them the tickets, they will be able to feel the memories. I feel better by sending them out. I could go to Santa Anita today and cash them, their cash value is $13 each, but that is a pittance to what they meant. I'm just different than most people. I grew up in the safe suburbs and later resented it. I always enjoyed going to Hollywood Park because it was different. Just driving first through the downtown skyscrapers then into the neighborhoods of south central LA and Inglewood was charming to me. Some people claimed they got robbed but I never experienced a problem. At Hollywood Park, the only barriers we had were economic barriers. The working class sat in the grandstand, the wealthier in the club house and turf club. By the time she closed, they had removed the barrier between the club house and grandstand. And it felt so nice to just freely walk into the former club house area. It was like family.
  • edited December 2013
    It was truly rude how they turned the lights out on the track right after the final race! They could have given the fans and the race track people a little time to say good-bye, not cool, not cool at all! It was as if they didn't want the fans there, as they did not have enough food, drinks or seats prepared for the guests! I come to expect that from low-life corporations who only care about their bottom line, but from the management of HP to snub, fans, horses, staff, trainers and owners, just totally uncalled for. You would have thought that HP would have had a better send-off, but to turn the lights off on Trevor, unbelievable! FYI, even tho they miscalculated the number of people that showed up, they could have ordered more food and drinks when they saw it wasn't going to be enough; no, they wanted to pocketed every last penny they could! TVG and HRTV were still on the air and final winner hadn't even left the winner's circle.......just plain RUDE!!!!
  • I also wonder if Woodman's luck got up at the wire in the last race just for Zenyatta? Do you see a connection? Zenyatta's movie could have a Hollywood ending.

    And I have two winning tickets on Wiodman's Luck. I want to give them away to two people whom I feel deserve them. Rachel and Louise, personal message me a mailing address. They are yours as a gift.

  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    Yes! Because of your devotion for our four-legged friends and how you proclaimed you wished you was there on closing day. Just send me a mailing address. The spirit of that day was giving. The old timers gave the newbies assistance, warmth and plenty of history.

    Valeria, management had clues as to how big the crowd would be. The turf club had been sold out for some time. They charged $10 general admission. They give a program with each admission. So they pretty much only printed 13,000 programs which is a shame because they could have easily sold any leftover programs as souvenirs. And they were way short on mutuel tellers and betting machines. Since they make money off of the betting, notice hoe they delayed the start of the races? They were running way behind.

    But the history of the day overshadowed all that. Seriously, I didn't hear one complaint. The people there were troopers to say the least. And the fact that 30,000 showed up proved just how much she would be missed.

    Santa Anita's opening day attendance was today was over 30,000 also. I'm thinking some how t
    Here was an effect from Hollywood's closing because that was an 18% increase for SA.

    I didn't attend even though it's just down the street. I'm still down here probably until Saturday. Doubt I'll go tomorrow. SA just doesn't have the same appeal right now. I'm still in mourning. Hollywood wasn't just a race track. She was a gathering spot for me and my friends.

    I'll never watch any video of her being torn down and please don't any of you post that in this discussion. Thanks.

  • The major reason people stopped going there was fear. But how realistic was that? Horsemen had been driving into that neighborhood sometimes up to 100 times a year. John Shirreffs worked there every day with no complaints. On that last day we discovered that she was just too important to be saddled by fear. And the started streaming in.
  • @Markinsac, sent u a message
  • Ok, I'll send it to u tomorrow. When u get it, feel the memories of that day. And picture Woodman's Luck getting his nose down at the last second as the crowd roared and as the Grand Old Lady took her last breath.

    Then put it in something to preserve it.
  • Oh i definitely will, i might tear up when i get it. The only thing i have of Hollywood Park amd never being able to go see it. Thanks so much Mark!
  • That day was something like the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Walking around discovering old things and a few things I've never seen before. I only regret not going up to the turf club. That's an area with a dress code. I'm sure on this day they would have let me in and talk to the rich people. Because we were one . .

    Enjoy it and do you see any movement out there to save her?

  • Rachel, ticket has been sent. Louise, I'm waiting to hear from you
  • I dont think so :( all the flamingos are gone now. Once theyre gone, i dont think theres hope for it :(
  • They got the last two out?
  • I believe so. They had a truck there and Barbara Livingston took some photographs of the roundup, she should be posting the pics sometime soon. They will be sad to look through
  • They went to a zoo
  • markinsacmarkinsac Member
    edited December 2013
    We'll those flamingos remind me of a track that might have suffered a very similar fate as Hollywood Park. Hialeah Park in Hialeah, FL, just outside Miami also closed her doors a couple of decades ago. She sat in ruins. It seems as though people stopped coming because of the neighborhood. It took the prospect of a casino to save her. Today she is safe. She hosts a Quarter Horse meet and the casino is on the way.
  • RachelRachel Member
    edited December 2013
    I have seen racing at Haileah, i must say the quarter horse racing there is far more thrilling than at Los Alamitos. Maybe its cuz the track is so close to the fans and when they go by its like a rush. Ive seen the races on TVG and get a thrill out of it
  • Her grandstand is one of the most beautiful in racing. Her owners are suspect. But if they save her, then it's all worth it. I hope Gulfstream gets the gumption to lease her out and host the Breeders' Cup there.
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