ESSAYS, ARTICLES, & REVIEWS
THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME
OR HOW TO BE A STAR FOR $4,800
(published the April 1992 issue of Film Threat magazine)
I frequently question my motives for living in Hollywood: the rent's high, the area is run-down and dirty, there are homeless people everywhere panhandling me wherever I go, police helicopters circle overhead constantly, and on Friday and Saturday nights the police actually cordon off the entire area allowing no traffic in or out. Why do I live here? I want to be famous, just like everybody else.
For fifteen years I have been treading my weary way around Hollywood, back and forth over the stars embedded in the sidewalk that are collectively known as The Walk Of Fame. The stars stretch for over a mile on Hollywood Boulevard, from Sycamore to Gower and four blocks on Vine from Sunset to Yucca. There are approximately 1970 of these coral terrazzo stars, outlined in brass on a charcoal terrazzo background, bearing the names of personalities from movies, TV, radio and records.
Who are these people and how did they get this immortal privilege? I've always wondered about this since, for example, Humberto Luna, the local L.A. disc jockey, has a star and Francis Coppola, winner of five Academy Awards, does not. A few other notables who do not have stars are: Lon Chaney, Jr., Howard Hughes and David O. Selznick, producer of "Gone With The Wind" (although his father, Lewis J. Selznick, an early film distributor, does have one).
The order form from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, sponsors of The Walk Of Fame, states, "In order to be selected to receive a star on the famous Walk, a person must have their sponsor complete and return a nomination form with the biography and photo of the nominee. If the nominator is a fan, there must be a guarantee that the fee of $4,800 will be paid and that the celebrity is in accordance with the nomination." It seems that if you made an appearance in a movie (preferably a silent movie), did a guest shot on a radio show, or were involved in any way with a recording, and happen to have $4,800, you too can have a star on The Walk Of Fame.
The Walk Of Fame is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles. People from all over the world, particularly Asia, come to Hollywood to saunter along the Walk, squat down and photograph the stars. Since most of these people are using cameras that will not focus closer than five feet, and they themselves are for the most part no taller than five feet, one must assume that there are thousands upon thousands of out of focus photographs of these stars all over the Pacific rim.
The terrazzo surface of the Walk gets very slick with any moisture at all. On a rainy day it is not uncommon to see poor unsuspecting souls slipping and falling down among the stars.
I set about traversing the entire length and breadth of the Walk, noting all of the names that I was unfamiliar with, as well as any oddities or irregularities. Before I even got to Hollywood Boulevard I had three full pages with two columns each of unknown names. As I already knew, and also never understood, there are many people with more than one star. Gene Autry, former cowboy star, owner of a lot of land, sports teams, as well as TV and radio stations, has five stars.
All four corners of Hollywood and Vine have the same names in a large box and a circle. They are: Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. and Michael Collins, 7/20/69, Apollo XI [Roman numerals] with a little TV insignia. Apparently Hollywood wanted to express its great appreciation for an evening of unique television broadcasting.
As I stood jotting this information down, a short, pot-bellied fellow of sixty-five named Louie, with a thick New Jersey accent, sidled up and asked what I was doing. When I explained he remarked . . .
"I'll tell ya who doesn't have a star that oughta . . ."
". . . Who?"
"Vivian Vance, that's who. You know who she is?"
"Ethel from 'I Love Lucy'."
"That's right. She ain't got no star. And William Frawley who played Fred's got one. That ain't fair."
He's wrong, Vivian Vance does have a star.
Louie went on to tell me that he had driven a cab in Beverly Hills for the past thirty years.
"Ya know who I picked up once?"
"Carroll O'Connor, that's who. And I give him a great idea for a TV show. He and his Dad run a bar. Now this was fifteen, sixteen years ago. Who shoulda played his Dad?"
"I don't know. Who?"
"James Cagney, that's who. They're both Irish, see. But does he do it? No. So where am I? Nowhere. That shanty-town bum."
Louie obviously wants to be famous, too.
Here are a few of the oddities and irregularities:
—Michael Jackson has two stars and The Jacksons have one, and Janet has one as well.
—Only nine people do not have a movie camera, a TV, a microphone or a record insignia, but instead have a happy face/sad face which I would believe indicates a stage career, but you judge for yourself: George Carlin, George Burns (whereas his vaudeville, radio, movie and TV partner, Gracie Allen, has a TV), Gene Autry, The Fourstep Brothers, Joel Gray, Gene Barry, Jim Nabors and James Nederlander.
—Both of the directors of "King Kong" have their names misspelled. Ernest B. Schoedsack (who always used the middle initial B.) hasn't got the B. and his last name is spelled "Schoedsach"; Merian C. Cooper's name is spelled "Meriam" and in fact there was a silent screen actress named Miriam Cooper, but if it's supposed to be her then it's still spelled wrong.
—There are three stars for people named Pee-Wee: Pee-Wee Hunt, Pee-Wee King and Pee-Wee Herman.
—One sports team has a star, The Harlem Globtrotters.
—Father and son actors Tex Ritter and John Ritter have their stars next to one another.
—Two inventors have stars: Thomas A. Edison and Mark Serrurier, inventor of the moviola.
—The only stars that state the actor's name and the character they became famous playing are: Clayton Moore The Lone Ranger; Freeman Gosden Amos and Charles Correll Andy (since there are no quotation marks one might easily construe that Amos and Andy were their last names).
—The only name that contains a small case letter is the 'e' in Dom DeLuise's name.
—The only company that has a star is Hannah Barbera.
—The only novelist with a star who never worked in the movies, but had a number of his books filmed, is Harold Robbins. (Sidney Sheldon, also a best-selling novelist with a star, was an Academy Award winning screenwriter long before he wrote any novels).
—Faye Emerson's name is misspelled ("Fay Emerson").
—Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is only listed as "Roscoe Arbuckle," whereas Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is only listed as "Rochester."
—Director H. Bruce Humberstone who always used the first initial H. is only listed as "Bruce Humberstone."
—Three of the four Warner Brothers, Harry, Jack, and Sam, have stars, but brother Albert does not. Jesse Lasky and Adolph Zukor from Paramount have stars (as well as Y. Frank Freeman who was head of production there for a while, and the joke at the time was, “I don’t know, Y. Frank Freeman?”), as do Louis B. Mayer from M-G-M, Carl Laemmle from Universal, and William Fox, Darryl Zanuck and Joseph Schenck from 20th Century-Fox, however Samuel Goldwyn, Harry Cohn (and his brother Joe), and Howard Hughes do not.
—Nat "King" Cole has two stars, one with the quotations around King, one without.
—Only three animals have stars, all dogs: Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, and Goodheart.
—Four cartoon characters have stars: Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, and Woody Woodpecker.
—Mauritz Stiller (who directed many Greta Garbo pictures) used to be misspelled “Maurice Diller,” then it was fixed with letters that don't match the others.
—Ignace Paderewski only has the name "Paderewski" (but perhaps he was like Cantinflas or Madonna).
—Robert Goulet, co-star of the Broadway show "Camelot" (not the movie) and best-selling singer, has a movie camera.
—Ronald Reagan, B-movie actor, former Governor of California, and former President of the United States, has a TV (is that for his lively televised press conferences as President?).
—Charles Boyer has two stars: one with a movie camera and one with a TV five stars away from one another.
—Basil Rathbone, character actor in many great films and star of the Sherlock Holmes film series, has three stars.
—Robert Shaw, co-star of "A Man For All Seasons" and "Jaws," as well as being a playwright, has a record.
—The musical groups with stars are: The Jacksons, Crosby Stills & Nash (not Young), Sons Of The Pioneers, The Spinners, Bee Gees (no "The"), Beach Boys (no "The"), The Monkees, The Mills Bros., Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band, The Steve Miller Band, and The Original 5th Dimension (not to be confused with The Unoriginal 5th Dimension, I presume).
Here is a list of the people with stars who have silly names:
Melachrino, Blanche Thebom, Ted Weems, Tommy Riggs & Betty Lou, Phil Spitalny, Joseph Szigeti, Little Jack Little, Renata Tebaldi, Schumann-Heink, Smilin' Ed McConnell, Zino Francescatti, Mabel Taliaferro, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Feodor Chaliapin, Spade Cooley, Louise Glaum, Tichi Wilkerson-Kassel, Beniamino Gigli, Amelita Galli Curci, Kirsten Flagstad, Aileen Pringle, Oscar Micheaux, Ferlin Husky, Licia Albanese, Toby Wing, Viola Dana, Harry Von Zell, Graham McNamee, Abbe Lane (cousin to Abbey Road), Jetta Goudal, Rusty Hamer, Constance Binney, Carmen Cavallero, Jessica Dragonette, Art Acord, John Bunny, Lottie Lehman, Meiklejohn, Heine Conklin, Ralph Staub, Blue Barron, Robert Casadesus, Pinky Lee, House Peters, Smiley Burnette and, of course, Parkyakarkus.
The list of people that I didn't recognize is hundreds of names long. I looked them all up in Leslie Halliwell's "Filmgoer's Companion" and about a third of them were listed.
Here are a few interesting ones:
—Lina Basquette: Silent screen actress, former child star who had six husbands.
—Susan Peters: Leading lady of the forties; badly injured in an accident and continued her career from a wheelchair.
—James A. Fitzpatrick - Documentary filmmaker, who from 1925 produced and narrated innumerable travel shorts ("Fitzpatrick Traveltalks"), which generally concluded with "And so we leave . . ."
—Jane Froman: (who has three stars) Former band singer, whose heroic resumption of her career following an air crash was portrayed by Susan Hayward in "With A Song In My Heart."
—Tom Brown: Child star of the thirties; the "boy next door" type. Re-emerged in the sixties as one of the villagers in the TV series "Gunsmoke."
—Gilda Gray: Polish dancer who went to America and is credited with inventing the "Shimmy."
—Cass Daley: (who has two stars) Comedienne whose shouted songs and acrobatic contortions were a feature of several musicals of the forties.
—Kathlyn Williams: (whose name is misspelled, "ee" instead of "y") Leading lady of silent films; one of the first serial queens, on screen from 1911.
—Houdini (AKA Harry Houdini): made a number of silent movies between 1918 and his death in 1926.
—Olive Borden: Silent screen actress whose real name was Sybil Tinkle.
—Marie Doro: Played the role of Oliver Twist in the 1916 version.
—Texas Guinan: Entertainer of the twenties whose catchphrase was "Hello, sucker!" Betty Hutton played her in "Incendiary Blonde."
—Betty Bayne: Whose real name was Pearl Von Name.
—Lila Lee: Whose real name was Augusta Apple, mother to novelist and playwright James Kirkwood ("A Chorus Line").
—Helen Gahagan: Star of one single movie, the 1935 version of "She," and also married to Melvyn Douglas.
So, I want to be famous and I wouldn't mind having a star on The Walk Of Fame. Hell, I've made two movies, so why shouldn't I? I've got a list here of over four hundred people who may not have deserved it anymore than me. What did they have that I don't have?