For those who don’t live in Hollywood, there are a couple landmarks that are immediately identifiable: the Hollywood sign and Hollywood Boulevard, with its star-shaped parade of famous names known as the Walk of Fame. First constructed in 1958, the Walk is run through the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and the process of getting a star on it is actually more complicated than you might think.
To start, a celebrity must be nominated, and an application must be sent to the selection committee, which is made of one chairman and five committee members each of whom represents a different area of the industry. According to Ana Martinez, producer and vice president of media relations at the Walk of Fame, these departments are TV, Recording, Motion Pictures, Live Performance, and Radio. Each application is good for two attempts; if they still don’t get in, Martinez says they “can reapply over and over again.”
The criteria for selection are: Who is popular? Whose star will be the big tourist draw? Celebrities must also have been in the industry for five years or more (which Martinez termed “longevity”). Other considerations: Charitable contributions and awards (so it is an honor just to be nominated!).
The fee is around $30,000 for what is called a “star sponsorship,” which covers the physical marker itself, a replica plaque to take home, and the ceremony’s various bells and whistles: security (personnel and barricades), publicity, photography, staging, recording. Although the celebrities could probably pay (a drop of water in a vast ocean, as they say), their stars are “sponsored” by studios, fan clubs, record labels, or other outside parties with a stake in that celebrity doing well. (These are also the people who nominate a celebrity for a star in the first place.)
The most prominent spots are at the W Hotel, Roosevelt Hotel, and Hollywood and Highland, according to Martinez. “Those, to me, are good for bigger stars as they have more space," she says. "Every spot is good and I try to tie the person’s bio to that location. Near family members, locations that they may have worked with or with their favorite star. Celebrities are fans too.”
Jane Lynch is the most recent celebrity to get a star in a ceremony held on September 4. Currently, there are 2505 celebrities with markers on the Walk (the 2500th star was Jennifer Lopez). Next year’s class is Orlando Bloom, Ray Dolby, Sally Field, Jack Harris, Jessica Lange, Matthew McConaughey, Liam Neeson, Paul Mazursky and Tom Sherak, Dabney Coleman, Kaley Cuoco, Claire Danes, Giancarlo Esposito, Deidre Hall, Cheryl Hines, Don Mischer, Tavis Smiley, Katy Perry, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Rick Springfield and—posthumously—Phil Hartman and Tupac Shakur.
However, Martinez says that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone on that list will enjoy ceremonies next year. Apparently you have five years to arrange for a ceremony, or the offer expires. (Denzel Washington was selected and approved at some point, Martinez said, but never set a date.) And there have been major missteps that have delayed some stars' proper place in the line of their peers over the years. There’s the old tale of how Charlie Chaplin didn’t get a star until 1972, mostly because during the Red Scare he refused to testify before Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Chaplin’s son sued the Chamber for $400,000 in damages for excluding his dad, but lost.)
But if you ask why Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and Julia Roberts aren't there (the three most often-cited "why the heck aren't they on there?" stars), it's because they turned it down. In Eastwood’s case, there has been a space reserved for him for years. "I will try a little longer" to get Eastwood, Martinez says, "but may have to move on to someone else. I have my eyes set on someone as we speak.”
The chamber’s office is located on the Walk of Fame. Half of the $30,000 star sponsorship goes toward the ceremony and the other half goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust, which keeps up with restoration efforts. After all, if there’s one sin in Hollywood, it’s aging. And after being stepped on for years, the Walk's cracks are beginning to show. Martinez adds, “She is 52 and in need of a facelift, and these ceremonies help with those bills."