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Bird's-eye view of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, complete with tour bus and tourists.
Bird's-eye view of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, complete with tour bus and tourists.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Field review by the editors.

Hollywood, California

The Hollywood Walk of Fame has been criticized for its aggressive street performers and sometimes sketchy neighborhood, but it's free -- and it attracts an estimated ten million celebrity-bedeviled visitors every year. The attraction stretches for over a mile along Hollywood Boulevard. If you spend 15 seconds viewing each Walk of Fame star, you'll need twelve hours to see them all.

Pee wee Herman was awarded his Star in 1988.
Pee wee Herman was awarded his Star in 1988.

And, as the attraction points out, it's "the only Hollywood award shared equally with the fans." The rich and famous get no preferential access: they have to visit their Walk of Fame stars the same way as everyone else.

The Walk of Fame was conceived in the 1950s as a way to lure tourists into downtown Hollywood. It has become, like the Hollywood Sign, an icon of the city, and has inspired dozens of copycat Walks of Fame in the U.S. alone, including the TV and Movie Animal Walk of Fame in Burbank, California; the Fargo Walk of Fame in Fargo, North Dakota; and the deceptively named (and wildly optimistic) Hollywood Walk of Fame in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Ana Martinez, who has worked for the Walk of Fame since 1987, produces its presentation ceremonies and decides where each new star should be placed. She told us that she tries to place them in proximity to family groups and entertainment co-stars, but it can be difficult if the stars are honored at different times, because the spots around the first one may all be taken. The positions are fixed, like the stars in the heavens. No stars are ever relocated.

1958: Construction begins on the Walk of Fame at the northwest corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave.
1958: Construction begins on the Walk of Fame at the northwest corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave.

According to Ana, a common misperception is that someone can just buy a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On the contrary, a star has to be officially nominated (anyone can do it except the star); then approved by a committee, a board of directors, and the city; and then agree to appear in person at their Walk of Fame dedication. Only around one in every 20 nominations gets this far. And then someone (not the celebrity) has to put up the money for the ceremony, as well for as the creation, installation, and maintenance of the star in perpetuity (currently $75,000). Ana said that fans sometimes go to great lengths to raise the cash. Liza Minelli zealots had bake sales. Dean Stockwell was a tree-hugger as well as an actor, so his faithful raised money by recycling newspapers.

Joanne Woodward's star was among the first completed.
Joanne Woodward's star was among the first completed.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame star is also a victim of its own success; it's become such a part of the culture that everyone assumes that their favorite star merits walk-on enshrinement. "One group wrote the name 'Jesus' on a star and put it at their church in West Hollywood," said Ana. "My mind boggles that they didn't think that was a trademark infringement."

Some bona-fide stars are missing from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, either because they didn't want to be part of it, or because they refused to attend the presentation ceremony (it's required), or because their survivors have shown no interest. Among them are Clint Eastwood, Jane Fonda, Mel Gibson, Whitney Houston, Prince, Robert Redford, Bruce Springsteen, and Cher (although Cher gets a star nod as half of Sonny & Cher).

"The only Hollywood award shared equally with the fans."

The Apollo 11 astronauts are on the Walk of Fame because their moon landing was the most-watched television show of all time. Muhammad Ali is a Walk of Fame star champ because his boxing matches were judged to be "live performances;" his is also the only star mounted vertically into a wall, because, as Ana explained, Ali "did not want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on." Donald Trump is on the Walk of Fame -- not because of his role on The Apprentice or his 2016 leaked recording praising his own stardom ("When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."), but because he produced the Miss Universe pageant.

Even though CCTV cameras scan the Walk of Fame to thwart vandals, Gregory Peck's star was sawed out of the ground and stolen in 2005, although no one can understand why (A new Peck star was quickly put in its place). Trump's star has been destroyed twice and defaced multiple times. The Walk of Fame's official position is that it is a "Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument" (designated in 1978), so every star must be maintained and no star can be removed -- not even of someone infamous such as band leader Spade Cooley, who beat his estranged wife to death shortly after his star was placed in 1961.

Fame is also often fleeting, so the Hollywood Walk of Fame's refusal to winnow its honorees preserves -- in terrazzo and brass -- those who would otherwise be long forgotten, from Renee Adoree to Harry von Zell. Lack of new work is no barrier to lasting popularity; according to Ana, two of the most visited stars on the Walk of Fame have been dead for decades: Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Ana told us that the Hollywood Walk of Fame adds, on average, 20 to 25 new stars every year. At that rate it will ennoble its 3,000th inductee sometime in 2034. Future VIPs who want a shot at that extra-special star #3,000 should start work on their entertainment careers now.

Roadside Presidents
Roadside Presidents App for iPhone. Find this attraction and more: museums, birthplaces, graves of the Chief Execs, first ladies, pets, assassins and wannabes. Prez bios and oddball trivia. Available on the App Store.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA
Those in the know tell us that the most star-studded way to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame is to start at the Egyptian Theatre - between Las Palmas and Highland Aves - and walk east. Sidewalk space next to Graumans theater is for show-biz royalty.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Hollywood Wax MuseumHollywood Wax Museum, Hollywood, CA - < 1 mi.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not HollywoodRipley's Believe It Or Not Hollywood, Hollywood, CA - < 1 mi.
Hollywood MuseumHollywood Museum, Hollywood, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Cascades Park, Monterey Park, CA - 12 mi.

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