A young Hollywood set and costume designer who has been in California for three months after attending art school at Yale. Tod looks "doltish" but is quite intelligent and knowledgeable. Nonetheless, he seems to prefer socializing with the marginal people of Hollywood rather than more successful or mainstream filmmakers. Most of the novel focuses on Tod's outsider perspective, and it is through the lens of his social and aesthetic value system that we see the grotesque picture of Hollywood. Though disillusioned by his experience, Tod continues to paint and hopes to portray the anger and frustration of the Hollywood downtrodden in a large canvas called "The Burning of Los Angeles."
A large, broad man who has recently moved to Hollywood after working as a hotel bookkeeper in Iowa. Homer has had virtually no excitement in his life and he likes it that way. His days consist mainly of eating, sleeping, and sitting until he meets Faye Greener and unhappily falls in love. Homer's meekness makes him a doormat for Faye and others. His pent up anger and sexual frustration are embodied in his overly large hands, which fidget constantly as though they have an agenda of their own.
A seventeen-year-old aspiring actress. Faye was raised by her father Harry, her mother having left them when Faye was a child. As Harry has worked off and on as a vaudeville comedian, Faye has grown up in the world of acting and entertainment and has always wanted to be an actress. Though she is only seventeen, she can carry herself like a worldly, sexual woman. Faye likes to be looked at and admired, but her fantasy world of Hollywood plot lines and her own successful career need no audience to make her self-sufficiently satisfied.
Faye's father, a vaudeville clown and comedic actor who has never been truly successful. Harry began his stage career in New York, then moved to Hollywood with Faye in hopes of finding film work. Harry has never found the work he hoped for and has been selling homemade silver polish door-to-door to support himself. Nonetheless, he still keeps up his clown act all the time, in part to disarm potential customers.
A tall, skinny cowboy from Arizona. Earle never has much money and rarely even has a home, spending his days in Hollywood standing out front of Hodge's saddlery store staring at the billboard across the street. Earle is handsome in a geometrically pleasing way, but has a violent streak that appears without much provocation. He dates Faye for part of the novel.
Earle's Mexican companion and would-be roommate—if they ever had a house. Miguel keeps gamecocks and is quite proud of them. Much to Earle's dismay, Miguel and Faye are powerfully attracted to each other, an attraction that expresses itself in Miguel's sensual singing and their dancing. Like Earle and many other characters, Miguel can quickly turn violent.
A book-keeping dwarf and one of Tod's friends. Abe is scornful and belligerent, perhaps in an attempt to compensate up for his tiny size. He can be caring, as when he finds Tod an apartment or nurtures his hurt gamecock. Abe can also be very ruthless and violent, however, and he is one of the only men in the novel who is scornful of Faye's acting.
A successful Hollywood screenwriter and another of Tod's friends. Claude plays along with the masquerades of Hollywood, keeping a house that is a replica of a Southern mansion and acting the part of a Southern gentleman himself. Despite his pretense, Claude maintains some distance from the craziness of Hollywood and can trade witty quips with Tod.
Claude's wife, a minor character.
A woman who only appears in the scenes at the Estees' party. Joan tries to be playful and flirtatious but comes off as shrill and menacing. She seems to enjoy expensive, elaborate illusions, as well as the novelty of pornography.
The owner of a well-maintained call-house. Mrs. Jenning's establishment is respected because she oversees the transactions with class and care, meeting with the men first and then sending the girls out with a chauffeur. Mrs. Jenning reportedly prefers discussing matters of high culture rather than popular culture. She was a silent film star who decided to end her career in the movie industry when talking films became popular.
A woman who lives in Homer Simpson's neighborhood and has been in California for six years. Mrs. Loomis is trying to turn her eight-year-old son, Adore, into a child star. She is a member of the raw-foodist sect, one of the many gimmicky religions in Hollywood.
A young boy whose mother has been trying to turn him into a child star. Adore, despite his mother's efforts, seems only to have become a child monster. He performs when ordered to, but spends the rest of his time making bratty faces.
A friend of Faye's and a call-girl at Mrs. Jenning's.
The janitor at the San Bernardino apartments. Mrs. Johnson's hobby is bossing grieving people into giving expensive funerals and letting her organize them.
One of Earle's friends and a fellow cowboy who sits outside Hodge's each day.
One of Calvin's and Earle's friends who is also part of the Hollywood cowboy community.
A woman who only appears in the novel as part of a brief flashback, a near sexual encounter she and Homer Simpson had at the Iowa hotel where he worked as a bookkeeper. Miss Martin is an alcoholic who stays at the hotel but is unable to pay her rent.