The long goodbye for Hollywood Park

By Bill Dwyre

The Hollywood Park family will soon be homeless.

Richard Warren recalls the heyday when celebrities such as Cary Grant, Lucille Ball and Fred Astaire would linger in the box seats. Warren started working at Hollywood Park in 1948.

With the track’s final day, Dec. 22, looming, he has become, for the thousands who know him, a sort of symbol of past joy and current sadness.

“People stop to talk,” Warren says,  “and none of them — I really mean none of them — still believe they are going to tear this place down for real estate. We’ve all been told that, but nobody seems to believe it.”

But then, he talks about his frequent sighting of “eight or 10 people, walking around, looking at everything, and one of them has a clipboard.” That means, he says, they are taking inventory of the metal and copper that needs to be stripped before the wrecking ball.

It is a Thursday, a couple of hours before post time.

“This is our slowest day,” Warren says, keynoting the obvious. The slowest day used to be Wednesday, but they don’t even race on Wednesdays anymore, so Thursday inherited the label.

There is little to do, leaving much time to take a longing look around and longing looks back.

The track is as always. Sun sparkles off the lakes in the infield and giant airplanes drift overhead en route to LAX.

“We used to have 30,000 people on a Wednesday,” Warren says, “and then we could get it up to around 60,000 on Saturdays. People were everywhere, zipping around, talking, trying to get into these seats. The job’s a lot easier now.”

It takes a little coaxing, but Warren’s personal memory bank opens.