Hollywood walk of fame has more staying power than any celebrity

Actors come and go, radio presenters live or die by their ratings and musicians top the charts only to be dropped, hostages to the vagaries of fickle public opinion.

But some stars are destined to be remembered forever, their successes immortalised in terrazzo and brass on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – a draw for visitors from across the world that has more staying power than any individual celebrity.

Launched in 1958, the walk has more than 2,600 stars, each a tribute to the contribution of a public figure in the fields of motion picture, television, recording, radio or live theatre.

“The criteria for getting a star are longevity in the field of entertainment – five years or more -awards nominations and very important to us is that they do philanthropic work,” said Ana Martinez, who arranges the ceremonies.
These often coincide with the release of a movie as it is the celebrity who chooses the date, and a $40,000 fee is paid by the honoree’s entourage – $15,000 to cover the event and the rest for maintenance.

Despite the large fee, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which runs the show, received more than 300 applications last year, but generally accepts around 30.

Martinez, who has been working for the Walk of Fame for more than 30 years, tries to stage around 24 ceremonies a year, beamed live from the walk’s website, but says the number has been going up.

Among the most photographed sidewalk stars are those honouring Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, Harrison Ford and Donald Trump, who may well also hold the dubious distinction of having the most vandalised star, although there is no official tally.

Trump, now the US president, got a star in 2007 for his work as a reality TV celebrity.

Nearly 50 years after its launch, the 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) stretch smack in the middle of Hollywood now attracts an estimated 10 million tourists a year, who come to soak up the glamour.

“It’s very special to be here, to be here in person to see the stars of the singers I love and I listen to often and of the actors that I grew up with,” Brazilian tourist Daniela Oliveira said.

Not all the honourees are actors and musicians, of course. The late film critic Roger Ebert has one, as do hockey announcer Bob Miller, LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Winnie the Pooh.

Other stars often go to groups – fictional or otherwise – such as the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, The Muppets and The Simpsons, while Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and Godzilla have their own.

EM Stuart, erstwhile president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, is credited with coming up with the idea in 1953 for an attraction that would “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour.”

The walk’s initial costs came to $1.25 million and the first stars honoured the likes of Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Burt Lancaster and Joanne Woodward.

The selection process for honourees sparked controversy, however, when it emerged that Charlie Chaplin had been turned down for a star and his son sued unsuccessfully for damages amounting to $400,000. Chaplin finally got his star in 1972, five years before his death.

The walk was designed to accommodate 2,518 stars, and by the 1990s, most of the space had gone, prompting the dedication of a second row.

Now there are hundreds of blank stars – leaving hope for newcomers to the entertainment industry pining after the Hollywood dream.