this is how you get a star on the hollywood walk of fame
For starters, you need a spare $40,000.
For a stretch of sidewalk cloaked in such history and grandeur, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a bit underwhelming. Flocks of Spidermen, in various states of disarray, photobomb selfies then demand you tip them for the privilege. Wannabe musicians clamber over the hallowed names of The Beatles and The Backstreet Boys, doling out mixtapes under the misapprehension that people still listen to CDs. There is a lot of gum.
And still. Every year we have a new slew of celebrities tweeting their ecstasy at the prospect of being immortalised in the ground, or RuPaul heralding it as a “absolutely the most important moment in my professional career”. When The Big Day of the star ceremony arrives -- mainly just a long speech by the recipient and some of their famous mates -- it’s streamed worldwide on www.walkoffame.com/[insertfamousnamehere], with people flocking from the ends of the earth for the spectacle, apparently. Of the the Backstreet Boys’ 2012 event, star ceremony producer Ana Martinez proclaimed, “We had a huge crowd of enthusiastic fans that flew in from Spain, Brazil, Albania and many from the United States, right here at 7072 Hollywood Boulevard!” Clearly, there’s appeal in the process for both fans and famous people alike. But why? And how do they choose who to accept on the Walk? Who decided to put Farrah Fawcett by a hair salon?
It’s easy to imagine the star-selection process as some sort of Hollywood myth -- a bunch of perfectly coiffed, caviar-nibbling heads converge at the Chateau Marmont and make like Oprah: You get a star! You get a star! Everybody gets a star!
It’s easy to imagine the star-selection process as some sort of Hollywood myth -- a bunch of perfectly coiffed, caviar-nibbling heads converge at the Chateau Marmont and make like Oprah: You get a star! You get a star! Everybody gets a star! Unfortunately, like everything else in Hollywood, it’s not as glamorous when you whip away the red curtain. The process to get namechecked is as follows: someone has to nominate you, the Star -- be it a record label, film studio or particularly fervent fan group. There is a form to fill out, on which they must write your biography (no more than five pages), qualifications and “contributions to the community and civic-orientated contributions”. (Don’t worry, the last bit’s a little lenient. Trump’s got a star.)
Secondly, you must agree to accept the nomination in advance, lest you do like Bruce Springsteen did and just not show up to your own ceremony. Then a committee comprised of Walk of Famers mine through the approximate 300 applications they receive each year, settling on an average of 24 lucky recipients. Their criteria: “Longevity in the field of entertainment, awards and nominations, and charitable contributions,” says Ana, who alongside her star ceremony producer role has the highly coveted title of ‘Star Girl’. “And of course they have to be well known and popular.”
Finally, you must pay $40,000. You personally, or a film studio, or your record label, or some very rich fans. Of this, $15,000 goes towards the ceremony and $25,000 to the upkeep of the stars. Because unfortunately, not all celebs are as attentive as Reese Witherspoon, who recently popped by her namesake to finesse it a little. The stars are made of terrazzo, a relatively delicate marble chip material popularised in Venetian times. The Walk is 60 years old and reportedly attracts around 10 million people a year, so there are cracks to be repaired and dickpics to be scrubbed off. Still, despite the not-insignificant $25,000 they receive per star, in 2016 The Hollywood Reporter found that around one fifth of stars are in a state of disrepair. Perhaps they could’ve saved some money on Trump’s and let the update be:
It’s in the interest of the city to keep the walk looking pretty. While it may be veiled in old Hollywood glamour (an early press release stated that it was designed to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world“), ultimately it’s a tourist attraction. As the the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce -- which runs it -- acknowledges three sentences into their comprehensive history, “The Hollywood Walk of Fame is undoubtedly one of the most successful marketing ideas ever produced.”
Part of the appeal, Ana maintains, is that it’s the only that can truly be shared by fans and stars alike. While Grammys and Oscars are lugged home with celebs to take pride of place next to the toilet, the stars are truly for the people. “The fan can take a photo with the star, they can lay on the star, they can pose different ways with the star.” That’s right -- for the small price of your dignity, you too can have the privilege of awkwardly squatting by a crumpled Starbucks cup for a selfie of you and #bae to slap on the ‘gram.
But while money makes the stars go round, when you’re marshalling the most famous people in the world into one straight line, you’re bound to get a few good stories. In 2002, Muhammad Ali became the only person to get his star set into a wall not the footpath -- he refused to be stomped on by “people who have no respect for me”. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus received one in 2010, she had to pose next to a star labelling her Julia Luis Dreyfus. “The misspelling was so perfectly apt, a great metaphor for show business,” she said at the time. “Right when you think you've made it, you get knocked down. It's an ideal metaphor for how this business works.”
A count we did of the 34 2018 honourees shows 22 white people to 12 people of colour, and 20 men to 14 women. Minnie inclusive.
Unfortunately that’s not the only way the walk’s a metaphor for the industry. In 2011, the last time there was a comprehensive analysis of the stars, CNN reported that of the 2,354 stars on the walk at the time, only 5.1% were held by black people, 3.4% by Hispanics and 0.4% by Asians. Even cartoons can’t escape the concrete patriarchy. While Mickey got his star way back in 1978, Minnie only received hers this year. We asked Ana if there’s been more of push for diversity of late. “You know what, I'm going to tell you, since 1960 when the Walk of Fame began, we've always been diverse. We had Latinos, we had Asians, we had African Americans on the Walk on Fame,” Ana says. “We are equal opportunity star givers." A count we did of the 34 2018 honourees shows 22 white people to 12 people of colour, and 20 men to 14 women. Minnie inclusive.
Then there’s what to do with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Bill Cosby in the wake of their sexual assault allegations. If Ridley Scott can reshoot an entire film without Spacey, could it be time to dig them out of the Walk? “Um, we vote on their entertainment work... Nothing's been -- well we've discussed things, but nothing has been decided as [to whether] we're going to remove stars. So far we're not, it's a cultural, historic landmark, so it's highly doubtful they'll be removed.”
Unless, of course, people take matters into their own hands. In 2016, someone took to Trump’s star with a pick axe. “The guy had to pay restitution,” Ana says. Then, in 2017, a woman went viral after she tweeted a picture of her next to Trump’s reinstated star alongside the caption, “Stopped to clean @realDonaldTrump Hollywood Star. Nothing but respect for MY President. #RaisedRight”. And while she garnered gratitude from none other than POTUS-offspring and walking nepotism advert Eric Trump, she was also ridiculed in the most 2017 way possible -- with a meme. “Nothing but respect for MY president,” a few hundred people tweeted alongside for their President of choice -- from Shrek to Britney Spears to newly minted clean water ambassador, Pitbull.
Unsurprisingly, the original tweeter, Makenna Greenwald, wasn’t thrilled. “I think we should have more respect from both sides of the aisle, and I was blown away by how much disrespect I got for a simple act of cleaning up our president, who is the highest office in the land,” Greenwald told Fox and Friends, perhaps with the hope that Trump would be tuning in and give her her own special gold star for her civic duties. “He should be respected,” she continued, “whether it’s his Hollywood star or talking about him in public.”
While it’s a bit presumptuous to assume we need to have to have the remotest bit of respect for someone who employs such a liberal use of bigotry and exclamation marks, Makenna’s makeover (and subsequent televised defense of it) demonstrates why the Walk’s still relevant. Not necessarily because it’s a marker of having Made It™, nor because it’s a particular riveting part of town to visit on your holiday (you’re better off making the most of the $1 tacos down by Echo Park). It’s that, as ‘Julia Luis Dreyfus’ knows all too well, it’s quite the apt metaphor for the industry -- whether in its lack of diversity, the inescapable presence of predators, the manifestation of public frustration via well placed dickpics, or the fact that some beings transcend stardom altogether. After all, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Prince don’t have one.