In terms of geography, Hollywood is just as small as a sand grain compared to the rest of America. More specifically, Hollywood, whose area is only 64.6 square kilometres, just makes 5% of the area of Los Angeles, which is in turn only 0.3% of California, which equals 4.31% of the total area of the US.
That aside, Hollywood is by far the world’s most recognised district. This entertainment hub attracts millions and millions of tourists every year. It is the dream destination of anyone wishing to work in show business.
Though it is practically not the birthplace of the American cinema industry, which, by the way, sparked more to the north, precisely in New York, Florida, and New Jersey, Hollywood now hosts the world’s biggest and most notable film studios, including Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, and Paramount Pictures as well as many theatres, primarily the Dolby Theatre where the Oscar annual ceremony is held and many other attractions.
Previously, we made a few stories about the famous Hollywood Sign, the Dolby Theatre, and the old iconic Hollywood Hotel. Today, we are taking you on a tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is another remarkable landmark in the town where thousands of tourists flock every day to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the world’s most eminent stars whose incredible talents and valuable legacies have entertained us and billions of other people worldwide.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Established in early 1960, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is basically a sidewalk, well, two sidewalks, to be precise. It extends from east to west for 2.1 km on Hollywood Boulevard Street and ends at the intersection with La Brea Avenue in addition to a 0.64-km distance running diagonally, north to south, on Vine Street.
Put differently; this monument is the sidewalk of 15 blocks on Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks on Vine Street.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises precisely 2752 stars as of 2023. Placed about 1.8 metres apart, those stars are made of pink terrazzo, edged with brass and embedded in the sidewalk, which is made of black terrazzo.
Each star carries the name of a celebrity, an honouree, who made a contribution to the entertainment industry and inspired more development in the field. The names are written in brass and usually placed on the upper half of the star. The lower half, on the other hand, has a sign that represents the category of entertainment this honouree belongs to, for instance, motion picture, music, theatre, or radio.
There are pretty much no specific rules that manage the location of the stars. But Oscar-winning celebrities, for instance, have their stars placed near the Dolby Theatre, which makes a lot of sense.
It is not entirely known where the inspiration of the Hollywood stars came from, but there are two suggestions. The first is related to the Iconic Hollywood Hotel, which used to stand where what is now the Dolby Theatre. This hotel was the residence of the town’s elite and iconic actors who worked in the film industry. So to make them feel even more unique, the hotel placed stars with their names on the dining room ceiling right above each one’s table.
Another suggestion credits the Sugarman’s Tropics Restaurant for the inspiration of the Hollywood Walk of Fame because the restaurant had celebrity photos put in gold stars in its drinks menu.
Who the actual idea of constructing the Hollywood Walk of Fame came from is also debated. Some say it came from E.M. Stuart. Back in the day, he was the president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which is primarily responsible for developing Hollywood in terms of attracting more businesses, improving the neighbourhood and preserving the town’s culture.
So this E.M. Stuart was said to have originally suggested the construction of the Walk of Fame in 1953 to conserve the glory of Hollywood, which, by then, was already known in the entire world as the capital of entertainment. He also wanted to pay tribute to those who contributed to the tremendous success of the American film industry and the promotion of Hollywood.
Others believe that it was Harry Sugarman, another member of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who proposed the idea of the Walk of Fame.
Aside from who truly suggested the idea, it is clear that it appealed to most, if not all, members of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce as they started acting upon it right away, and the first thing they thought of was the design of the stars.
The first known proposed star design was basically a caricature of a celebrity drawn on a blue star placed on a brown background. Yet, this design was somewhat complicated to execute at the time since drawing a detailed face in brass would have taken so much effort and more money than the chamber could apparently afford. Soon enough, this design was ditched, and more were considered.
After some time studying the proposed designs, the final one was agreed upon in March 1956, which is the shape we have right now, a star made of pink terrazzo, edged with brass and placed on a black terrazzo background.
Once that was done, the chamber had to choose the first honourees. Such a task took around six months, but they finally came up with 1558 celebrities, all of whom belonged to either motion picture, audio recording, radio or television.
When everything about the project was determined, the idea, concept, and design were sent to the Los Angeles City Council, which approved the project and even donated 10 thousand dollars to fund it. The rest of the funding was secured by different parties.
Some were private donors, and many were already working in the film industry, including some celebrities.
But not everyone who contributed to building the Wall did it happily. Some property owners were actually forced to fund the project by paying more taxes, which caused some obstacles.
A project like this Walk of Fame sounds deceptively simple and, therefore, should not take a long time. However, this was not the case with the construction of this new monument, as the embedding of the first 1500 stars took way longer than expected, thanks to some obstacles that popped up.
As we mentioned a paragraph ago, part of the project funding was taken from the town’s property owners, equalling 1.25 million US dollars at the time. That was pretty unfair, so they took their complaint to court and filed a lawsuit against the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Of their bad luck, the case was rejected, and the court decided taking this amount of money from them to develop the city was legal.
Yet, it did not stop there. Another lawsuit filed by Charles Chaplin Jr also delayed the completion of the project. Charles Chaplin was already selected twice to have a star on the Walk of Fame. Still, he was excluded for some reasons, the most notable of which was related to his political views. Ignoring the British actor’s great legacy and contribution to the film industry outraged his son and pushed him to file a lawsuit against the chamber. But unfortunately, he could not get anywhere with it, as it was dismissed in 1960.
As we mentioned, the project’s construction was to begin in 1958, precisely after the first 1500 honourees were selected. But the lawsuits filed against the project delayed its completion.
What the chamber could get done during these two years of conflict was making some prototypes of the stars, probably eight, to see how they would turn out and gradually introduce the project to the public.
When the lawsuits were dismissed, the official grounding of the stars began. The first permanent one, which was completed in March 1960, was dedicated to director Stanley Kramer. Throughout the rest of the year and the following one as well, around 1500 stars were added to the Walk of Fame.
Yet, none, not even a single star, was added during the next eight years. This was hugely caused by the general decline the city was undergoing at the time as many of its residents started to move out to other places, and Hollywood seemed to lose some of its charm.
Only in 1968 were new stars added to the Walk of Fame. To develop this attraction, Johnny Grant, who served as the mayor of Hollywood at the time, demanded the organisation of a ceremony when every new star was to be unveiled. He also required the new honourees to attend the ceremony in a way to draw the international press and the media to the Walk.
This highly contributed to the Walk receiving more credit and becoming more glamorous as more and more tourists flocked to see the celebrity stars. In 1978, the City of Los Angeles appointed the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a historical and cultural monument.
In 1984, the fifth category, live theatre, was added to the list of celebrities that could get stars. So a second row of stars was added on the sidewalk alternating with the already-existing ones. In 1994, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was extended, adding one more block to the west.
Getting a Star
Anyone can indeed nominate any celebrity to get a star on the Walk of Fame. So in 1980, Johnny Grant required a fee of 2500 dollars to be paid by this who nominated a celebrity. Such fees were used to fund the construction of the stars and also to reduce the taxes the property owners were paying. In 2002, this fee increased to 15,000 dollars; in 2012, it reached 30000 dollars. As of 2023, the fee is 75,000 dollars.
That said, not just any celebrity can be nominated. They first have to meet some requirements. First and foremost, the nominee must belong to at least one of the five categories we mentioned before and have at least five years of experience in that category. They also must be active at the time of their nomination, and, above all, they must approve it!
When these requirements are all met, whoever is nominating a celebrity must then fill in the nomination application and submit it to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce then reviews the nominations by looking into the achievements and contributions of the nominees and whether or not they are willing to attend the unveiling ceremony.
This last condition, attending the unveiling ceremony, has, in fact, become mandatory for any celebrity to be granted a star. This is to promote the monument by drawing more attention and publicity to it. Any celebrity who does not make it to the ceremony is immediately excluded, even if their star was already installed.
Once the chamber approves the names to be honoured, they send the final list to the City of Los Angeles, asking for final approval. Once this is given, the installation process begins, and the unveiling ceremony is usually scheduled a few weeks after that.
Despite the huge fee, around 200 celebrities, on average, are nominated every year to have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, only 22 of them are chosen. Those who were not selected are not ignored, though. They are rather moved to the year after so the chamber can review them again, in case they made any achievement such as winning an Oscar or a Golden Globe. But if a celebrity is rejected twice in a row, they are dropped, and to be nominated once again, new fees must be paid.
Thanks, but no Thanks!
Sometimes, it is the celebrities who decline such an honour either by not accepting it in the first place or not attending the ceremony. The great English director Alfred Hitchcock did not attend his star unveiling ceremony, nor did Elvis Presley, John Lennon, The Beatles, and Marlon Brando. The latter not showing up comes as no surprise since he refused to receive his second Oscar in protest against how Hollywood was portraying Native Americans in films.
Breaking the Rules
Besides those who refused such an honour, at least three stars in the Walk are known to have not aligned with the rules regarding belonging to one of the five categories. The first is the one dedicated to the Moon Landing. This event was considered a television contribution, though, since it was broadcasted all over the world.
The second one was dedicated to the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali as he contributed to live performances through his boxing fights. But unlike all the stars that are embedded on the sidewalk, Muhammad Ali’s was installed on the Wall of the Dolby Theatre, becoming the only star with a vertical position. This was done at the request of Ali himself. Since he held the name of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him; Ali did not want anyone to step on it.
Another star that does not seem to fit the requirements is that of the American basketball player Magic Johnson. He was added to the motion picture category only because he owned the film theatre chain, the Magic Johnson Theatre.
That said, stars are awarded not only to real celebrities but also to some remarkable fictional characters. For instance, Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of Hollywood’s most famous and most visited tourist attractions, besides the Dolby Theatre, Universal Studios, and the Hollywood Sign. It is not only a tribute to the great people who entertained us for over a century and inspired new technologies in motion picture, television, and theatre. But it also encourages young artists or anyone who aspires to work in the entertainment industry to keep going and do their best. Maybe, one day, they will also get their stars installed in the Walk.