What's in a name? Ask actor Dennis Williams.
For nearly four years, Williams has been engaged in a personal campaign to get Hollywood back its postmark.
You didn't know Hollywood's postal moniker was gone? Don't fret. Apparently a lot of people didn't.
But Hollywood, along with thousands of other cities and/or unincorporated towns across the country, had its postmark replaced in 1970 when the Postal Service instituted the centralized mail sorting concept and began marking first-class letters with only the name of the state and the ZIP code of the city where the letter was processed.
'No One Remembers'
"That's when area mail processing started," said Dave Mazer, public affairs officer for the Los Angeles Post Office. "But I think Hollywood lost its postmark before that. It was so long ago, no one remembers. People working here in 1961 think it was around then that they took the canceling process out of the Hollywood station."
Persons who wish to have a special Hollywood mark on their letters can go to the Hollywood station on Wilcox Avenue, stand in line and ask for a hand-stamped letter. It is what the Postal Service calls "round dated," and carries a circular mark that reads: LOS ANGELES, CA HOLLYWOOD STA. All processed mail is postmarked simply, Los Angeles. Mazer and other postal service officials insist that the public doesn't care where its mail is processed or what the postmark says as long as the service is efficient.
But Dennis Williams does. He cares about Hollywood.
"Everyone recognizes Hollywood as being different than any other city in the world," said Williams, who is a longtime Hollywood resident. "It is that city where dreams come true, fantasy becomes reality. All you have to do is mention Hollywood anywhere in the country and it's special. A special place. People do care about Hollywood."
In 1981, Williams started out alone on his quest to get back the Hollywood postmark, but since then he has picked up some important backing--in the form of letters, resolutions and telegrams--from Mayor Tom Bradley, City Council members, Hollywood historic society representatives, the Chamber of Commerce, radio and television station officials, Screen Actors Guild, state congressmen and Sen. Alan Cranston.
So far, though, it's still no sale with the post office.
Under a Mandate
"It's not that we're against community spirit," Mazer said. "But we are under a mandate to operate as efficiently as possible. We just can't be doing this by hand when we have highly sophisticated equipment to do it faster."
Since 1975, when Postal Service officials decided to put the names of cities back on postmarks, they have used only about 250 cities in the United States that have mail-processing centers.
There are seven such "sectional centers" in the Los Angeles area: Los Angeles Terminal Annex, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Inglewood, Pasadena, Van Nuys and Alhambra.
According to Mazer, Los Angeles Terminal Annex is the designated postmark and processing center for most of the city, except for all of the mail sent from the San Fernando Valley, which is postmarked Van Nuys and processed from the center there.
"Our boundaries are not the same as the city's geographical boundaries," Mazer said. "All of San Fernando Valley is in the city of Los Angeles, but the mail goes out of Van Nuys with a Van Nuys postmark."
'Are You Kidding?'
If you live in Woodland Hills, for instance, and want your mail to be marked as such, you must get a hand stamp at the post office there, just as in Hollywood. Processed mail from Woodland Hills will say Van Nuys.
"Are you kidding?" a longtime Woodland Hills resident asked when told about his postmark. "You mean my letters say Van Nuys? That's ridiculous. Of course we wouldn't know because we don't get our own letters. It was sneaky to do that and not tell us. What's happened to our individuality?"
Mail sent from Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, Venice and most South Bay cities is processed at the Inglewood center, located in Marina del Rey. Its postmark is not Inglewood, but Marina del Rey.
Most of the mail from the cities of the San Gabriel Valley is postmarked Alhambra, except for the middle portion between the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. That area gets a Pasadena postmark.
"Ninety-five percent of Orange County mail comes out of Santa Ana," Mazer explained, "with the exception of, say, Buena Park, Seal Beach, areas at the top of Orange County that are processed out of Long Beach. Mail from the bottom third of Los Angeles County goes out of Long Beach, too."
Slow Progress at First
Interested in preserving Hollywood as a city, as well as its traditions, Williams joined Hollywood Heritage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Hollywood. Shortly thereafter, he began his postmark campaign.