Friday, March 16, 2012
Willie’s Shoe Service: Shoemaker to the stars
Willie’s Shoe Service on Melrose was opened in 1956 by Willebaldo “Willie” Rivera. Set across from Paramount Studios and the Western Costume Company, the shoemakers were soon busy creating handmade shoes and leather goods for the industry. Previously Willie had worked for Western Costume, the famous Hollywood wardrobe house, and his job was to make sample shoes from scratch from designer's drawings. After a wardrobe malfunctiuon which left Fred Astaire with a burst pair of shoes Willie came to the rescue and repaired them. Astaire was so impressed he insisted Rivera make his shoes from then on. Willie created the sandals worn by Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 classic film "The Ten Commandments" and the boots worn by the Starship Enterprise crew in the 1979 movie "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" as well as several pairs of bright red clown shoes for Ronald McDonald. Willie’s Shoe Service was relocated to north of Melrose Boulevard in 1982 and Raul Ojeda joined the firm in 2006. By continuing to blend the traditional art of bespoke shoemaking with the tastes and needs of modern life Willie’s Shoe Service has become a trusted supplier for custom shoe and repair needs for the Hollywood set. Cost means shoes are rarely made from scratch for the stars and to save money many are standard models modified to suit individual feet Raul Ojeda is a master of the craft and has made shoes for cast members of popular TV series "Mad Men," and "Glee." For a recent episode of the TV series "Modern Family", shoe designer, Raul Ojeda (Willie's Shoe Service ) crafted a pair of shoes covered in red sequins for actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. His character, Mitchell, shows off the shoes for a "Wizard of Oz"-themed birthday party he throws for his partner, Cam. The one time shoe shine boy now makes shoes for celebs like Steve Carell and Sally Field. His latest project has been to make shoes for cast members of upcoming films, "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" and "Lincoln."