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Cement Mixer to the Stars

In the Heart of Hollywood, a Different Kind of Blockbuster

January 26, 2003|LESLEE KOMAIKO

Every self-respecting entertainment junkie has heard of "the industry" in Hollywood, but welcome to the hard-hat version. That would be the Cemex Hollywood plant, which churns out about 800 yards of concrete a day right in the heart of Tinseltown. You might almost say that the 50-plus-year-old operation, taken over by Monterrey, Mexico-based Cemex a couple of years ago, built this burg.

The four-story gigantica looming over La Brea Avenue just south of Santa Monica Boulevard could be an outsized Erector set or, in its eerily lit nighttime incarnation, the site of a Fritz Lang film. Pink's Famous Chili Dogs and Mole-Richardson, the premier entertainment lighting house, are just down the street; Hollywood High School and Grauman's Chinese Theatre aren't far away.

Many neighbors and politicos reportedly would prefer something else at this location, something more, well, Hollywood. But like personal trainers, Botox and the Humvee, Cemex fills a need in this town.

"We have a big pour going on at Cedars-Sinai," says Greg Fisher, the assistant plant manager, who has been at the Hollywood location for 11 years. "We did [Universal] CityWalk. We just did the majority of concrete at the Grove. We did the downtown jail, most of Metrolink. Remember that sinkhole on Hollywood Boulevard in front of Barnsdall Park? We filled that with about 3,000 yards of sand slurry. Anything big going on, we had a piece of it."

Then there are the name-dropping opportunities. "We also do a lot of celebrity work," says Fisher, who at one time maintained a Thomas Guide with markers for each big-name job ("my own star map"). "Mary Tyler Moore did a big remodel," he recalls. "Bob Newhart was a big remodel. Steve Martin, I think he was there on the job. He's a cool guy. He wanted to get in there and help."

Despite the location, Fisher insists that this is no glamour gig. "We have 14 or 15 plants, and this is probably the hardest one to work. The distance to the freeway, the traffic; it can take a driver 10 minutes just to pull out onto La Brea in the afternoon." (No small delay when you consider that cement has a life of about 90 minutes once it is put in a truck.) And don't even start on driving the Hollywood Hills.

"Running a 65,000-pound truck up there can be pretty challenging," Fisher says. "But as far as getting fresh concrete, they need us."

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