Of any tourist attraction in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame probably attracts more tourists than any other attraction in our city. Not surprisingly, tourism is the largest industry in Los Angeles County and the Hollywood Walk of Fame has played a major role in creating that.
According to a 2003 report by the market research firm NPO Plog Research, the Walk of Fame attracts about 10 million visitors annually. That’s more than Sunset Strip, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (which is also located on the western end of the Walk), the Queen Mary, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
More than 2600 five pointed brass stars are embedded in terrazzo blocks lining 15 blocks of Hollywood Blvd, and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood California. The walk runs from Gower Street on the East to LaBrea Street on the West. It is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self financing Hollywood Historic Trust.
Below the inscription, in the lower half of the star field, a round inlaid brass emblem indicates the category of the honoree’s contributions. The emblems symbolize five categories within the entertainment industry: a film camera represents motion pictures, an old television represents broadcast TV, old style phonograph record players represent music, and old style microphones represent radio. The comedy/tragedy mask represents theatre and live performances. This category was added in 1984. The largest percentage of stars, 47%, are in the motion picture category.
Some special stars exist in categories outside these such as one for former LA mayor Tom Bradley, one representing Victoria’s Secret, and one for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Four identical circular moons each bearing the names of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins are placed on each corner of the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
The concept for the Walk of Fame was thought up by E.M. Stuart, the president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1953. By 1955 the basic concept and design had been agreed on and plans were submitted to the city.
By 1957, 1,558 honorees were selected by committees representing the four major branches of the entertainment industry at that time: motion pictures, television, audio recording, and radio. The committees met at the Brown Derby restaurant, and included such prominent names as Cecil B. DeMille, Samuel Goldwyn, Jesse L. Lasky, Walt Disney, Hal Roach, Mack Sennett, and Walter Lantz.
Construction of the Walk began in 1958. Joanne Woodward’s star was one of eight prototype stars installed temporarily on the northwest corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave in August 1958 to generate publicity. The other seven names were Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Louise Fazenda, Preston Foster, Burt Lancaster, Edward Sedgwick, and Ernest Torrence.
Official groundbreaking took place on February 8, 1960. The first permanent star, that of director Stanley Kramer was placed on the east end of the new Walk, near Hollywood and Gower.
In July 1978 the City of Los Angeles designated the Hollywood Walk of Fame a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. In 1980 a fee of $2,500, payable by the person or entity nominating the recipient, to fund the Walk of Fame’s upkeep and minimize further taxpayer burden was implemented. Today that fee has increased to $40,000.
Corporate sponsors also help fund the Hollywood Walk of Fame through the Friends of Walk of Fame program. Absolut Vodka became the first Friend with a donation of $1 million, followed by L’Oréal.
All living honorees have been required since 1968 to personally attend their star’s unveiling, and approximately 40 have declined the honor due to this condition
Star locations are not random. The stars considered the most legendary are located in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Oscar winners’ stars are usually placed near the Dolby Theatre, site of the annual Academy Awards presentations. Other, rather interesting reasons play in as well. For example Roger Moore’s star is located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard in recognition of his seven James Bond 007 films.
While some recipients may request specific locations, the decision rests with the Chamber. Jay Leno, for example, requested a spot near the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. because he was twice picked up at that location by police for vagrancy shortly after his arrival in Hollywood.
It should also be noted that the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are not the only attraction. Every inch of Hollywood Boulevard from Gower to LaBrea is packed with hot Hollywood Tourist Attractions. In my personal opinion, the central point of the Walk of Fame would be at the world’s most famous intersection: Hollywood and Vine. This is the only point where the stars continue off of the Blvd and up the crossing street: Vine. But the area near the intersection of Hollywood and Highland is so much more densely packed with attractions and tourists that it is referred to as the Times Square of the West Coast.
If you are visiting Los Angeles, don’t leave without stopping by to see the Walk of Fame. You won’t forgive yourself if you do!