Monday, August 17, 2009

A (Local) Hollywood Story

Though Hollywood movie stars have popped into Hollywood Cleaners over the years, some visits documented, others existing in anecdote, the neighborhood fixture pays homage to Hollywood for the simple reason that approx. 62 years ago, its owners were trying to think of a name for their new business. Across the street, a barber shop with Hollywood in its name closed, and creative inspiration proved to be only a glance out the window for Nuzio "Bud" Raimondi, and his wife, Marie, whom purchased the barber's sign to save money, and after a few successful years created a new, custom built sign deserving of a Hollywood marquee that still stands, and was recently refurbished to look exactly as it did in 1947. The fact that actor Josh Hartnett once rolled around the floor with Hollywood's resident canine, Sammy, during a movie shoot break, is just icing on the cleaner's long history.

Despite all the real Hollywood stories, if a recent visit to Hollywood Cleaner's at 1438 N. Milwaukee is any indication, the second, and third generation of workers at this family owned, and operated business treats each of its customers like celebrities in their own right. Even if all they do is drop off their dirty laundry.

At the helm of the Hollywood ship is Phil Luparello, whom recently asked his mother-in-law, now 89, about the origin of the Hollywood name, and then passed the story onto me while chatting in Phil's office, which is pleasantly cluttered, full of sports memorabilia, autographed pictures, family portraits, saint figurines, Little League plaques, a poster of Italian movie, and television stars given to him as a gift by his sons that hangs over his desk, and dozens of other small things I didn't take notice of, but I'm sure are important to Phil. He joked that his wife isphil in office threatening to clean the entire office, perhaps streamlining to a final tchotke or two, yet it sounds like one of those arguments that's been going on for decades.

Phil was fresh from his native Italy when he arrived to Chicago around the age of 22. Formerly a butcher in Sicily, he soon met Marie through mutual friends. Marie was spending her summer breaks from school working behind Hollywood's counter at the time, and so eventually was Phil, too, after a stint working at Brach's Candy. Flash forward to 1997: Bud retires, and Phil, and Marie purchase the business. The Luparellos have two sons, Frankie, and Tony, both owners. Frankie is pictured in today's masthead with Phil. Tony helps with designing the Hollywood web site, and other materials. Frankie works full-time at Hollywood, and shares his father's penchant for extroversion, though he admittedly has differing views on whether or not Kevin Bacon whom popped in during a late 1990s shooting for Stir of Echos, was "super friendly." (Phil insists there was hugs all around, adding a panto-mined hug for extra emphasis. Frankie gave his dad an eye roll, and me a shrug)

Ever wonder why some cleaners say it'll take a few days to get your duds back? Most likely they outsource. Hollywood maintains a plant on its premises, thus enabling same day service (in by 11 a.m. out by 4 p.m.) on most items depending on what you need cleaned. An on-site seamstress can hem a pant leg, take in a waistline, repair the lining on your winter coat so you don't jingle, or stab your calve with a pen that might have slipped through the lining. Also on-site 24/7 is Sammy. With nary a prompt from Phil, Sammy will put his paws up, and lean against the counter like his owners, and coworkers.

A chamber of commerce member, Hollywood will participate in this weekend's Sizzling Summer Sidewalk Sale. Marie, whom has corresponded with me via email, and works as a realtor along with handling many behind-the-scenes tasks, would like to encourage readers to stop by during the sidewalk sale, and say 'hello.' A coupon at the bottom of this eNewsletter, offers $5 off of $25, and can be viewed/ printed via Streets of Wicker. **

**story originally appeared in the Pipeline weekly eNewsletter. If you'd like to sign up for the Pipeline, please email

No comments:

Post a Comment