Hollywood's Paid-For Walk of Fame Publicity Gimmick celebrates 50 years As Bill Maher "gets" a star he bought and paid for as a PR stunt for his new TV program
May 9, 2010
By Barbara Munker, reporter
dpa, GERMAN NEWS AGENCY, US news media would NEVER print this
LOS ANGELES -- Visibly moved, movie star Dennis Hopper stood next to his gleaming star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It was the end of March and Hopper, who has cancer, appeared frail. The star of the 1969 Oscar-nominated movie Easy Rider didn't have to come to the unveiling of the 2,403rd star on the famous sidewalk in the heart of Hollywood.
But he was there as was best actor Oscar recipient Russell Crowe a few weeks later when the next unveiling ceremony took place. There's plenty of room for more along the 4-kilometer-long Hollywood Boulevard.
It all began 50 years ago with the award of the first star on the famous street. For five decades the names of Hollywood's most prominent people have been eternalized in the star-studded sidewalk.
Last December the honour went to James Cameron, director of the blockbusters Avatar and Titanic. His ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, who in March became the first woman to win the best director Oscar award, hasn't yet been honored.
All she has to do is call, said Ana Martinez of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. For more than 20 years Martinez, whose nickname is Stargirl, has been in charge of arranging the star award ceremonies.
A call alone, of course, is not all it takes, Martinez recently told the German Press Agency dpa. Every year in June a five-member committee meets to select about two dozen recipients out of a pool of about 300 recommendations. The actors, actresses and other prominent Hollywood personalities who are selected receive their star in the following year.
Anyone can nominate his or her favorite candidate, said Martinez. Usually, fans or film studios do the nominating. What's required is that the person selected agrees and that US$25,000 is paid to the chamber. Film studios hope the appearance of their stars at a Walk of Fame ceremony coincides with the release of a film they are in. Then the fee is only a drop in the film's advertising bucket.
Fans sometimes get into the act and do what they can to come up with the nomination fee. The Liza Minnelli fan club, for example, scratched the money together by holding flea markets and parties in the 1990s, Martinez said.
About 10 million people from all over the world annually stroll over the stars on the boulevard, according to the chamber. They walk on black terrazzo slabs inset with pink-colored stone in the shape of a five-pointed star adorned with the name of the Hollywood personality in gleaming brass and an emblem indicating the category represented. The Walk of Fame is currently undergoing a US$4-million refurbishment to remove footprints and scuffs.
More than 300 stars are still blank, but they will get an owner in the coming years. An appropriate place is usually sought out for the stars, but it doesn't always work out for the best. For example, a hairstyling salon was chosen in 1995 for Farrah Fawcett, known for her long, blonde, wavy hair. But the business soon closed. Stars who are in a relationship also have been placed next to one another along the Walk of Fame. But nothing can be done when they break up, as was the case with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.
The first star set into the walk went to Joanne Woodward in 1960 after making the film The Long Hot Summer with her husband Paul Newman. A group of influential Hollywood moguls, including Walt Disney and Cecil B DeMille, chose the first 500 recipients. Not everything went swimmingly. For example, Charlie Chaplin, who in the '40s and '50s was pressured by the U.S. government because of his liberal political leanings, was refused a star until 1972. He was honored only after his son complained.
Kirk Douglas was lucky that his star turned up again after mysteriously disappearing. Martinez recalls that it was found in a drug dealer's yard. Gregory Peck's stolen star was never recovered and had to be remade. Country singer and actor Gene Autry, who died in 1998, has five stars on the Walk of Fame, one in each of the five categories -- film, television, music, theatre and radio.
There are still a few big names -- Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Kate Winslet and Julia Roberts among them -- who aren't on the Walk of Fame. Some of the stars who don't have a place simply aren't interested in one, said Martinez, naming Clint Eastwood as an example. But the Stargirl said the Oscar winner should do it because people want to see him there.