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How Does a Celebrity Get a Star on the Walk of Fame?

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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."

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Big Questions
How Do Aerial Skiers Perfect Their Jumps?
Cameron Spencer, Getty Images
Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

If you've ever watched an aerial skier in action, you know that some of the maneuvers these athletes pull off are downright jaw-dropping—and you've probably seen more than a few of these skiers land on their rear ends at some point. The jumps are incredible, but they're also so technical that one seemingly insignificant motion can drop a skier on his or her tail.

Given that the skiers can fly up to 60 feet in the air and come down on a 37-degree grade, it seems like just going out and trying a new trick would be a good way to break your neck. That's why you'll need one unexpected piece of equipment if you want to start training for aerials: a towel.

Instead of perfecting their flips and twists over the snow, aerial skiers try out their new maneuvers on ramps that launch them over huge swimming pools. The U.S. national team has facilities in Park City, Utah and Lake Placid, New York that include specially designed pools to help competitors perfect their next big moves. The pools have highly aerated patches of bubbles in their centers that decrease the surface tension to make the water a bit softer for the skiers' landings.

If you're an aspiring aerial skier, expect to get fairly wet. New skiers have to make a minimum of 200 successful jumps into water before they even get their first crack at the snow, and these jumps have to get a thumbs up from coaches in order for the skier to move on.

This sort of meticulous preparation doesn't end once you hit the big-time, either. American Ashley Caldwell, one of the most decorated athletes in the sport, is competing in her third Olympics in Pyeongchang, but failed to advance past the qualifiers on February 15, as she wasn't able to land either one of the two triple-flipping jumps she attempted. Still, it's this very sort of risk-taking that has brought her to the top of her game, and caused friction with more than one of her past coaches.

"Why win with less when you can win with more?" Caldwell said of her competition mentality. “I don’t want to go out there and show the world my easiest trick. I want to show the world my best trick, me putting everything on the line to be the best.”

You can check out some of Team USA's moves in the video below:

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Is There Really Such Thing As 'Muscle Memory'?
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Is there really such a thing as 'muscle memory'? For example, in the sense of your fingers remembering where the keys of the keyboard are?

C Stuart Hardwick:

Yes and no. There is no literal memory in the muscles, but the thing people call “muscle memory” exists, though the name is a misnomer.

A better name might be “subconscious memory,” as the information is stored in the brain, but is most readily accessible—or only accessible—by non-conscious means.

What “non-conscious” refers to here is the brain’s enormous capacity to train up what might almost be called “subroutines,” that exist outside our conscious experience. I like the term for this that at least one researcher in the field uses: “zombie agency.”

Zombie agents are non-conscious, or sub-conscious (in the literal, not the Freudian sense) that can do essentially everything you can do except make value judgments. So, for example, you don’t consciously know how to control your muscles in order to walk —in all likelihood, you wouldn’t know where to begin—but your zombie agents do, and they’ll take you wherever you want to go, dodging curbs and puppies, and “waking you” when appropriate to decide which babies to stop and kiss.

Zombie agents can be rather startling things. When you suddenly become aware that you’ve driven halfway across town in the direction of the office instead of going to the shoe store Saturday morning, you have zombie agents to thank. You “wake” as if from slumber, and with the frightening realization that you’ve been flying down the highway at prodigious speed while your mind was on other things. You feel as if you’ve been asleep, and in a way you have—but a very funny kind of sleep in which it is only the uppermost layer of abstract reason that is disassociated from the rest of conscious experience. Your zombie agents have been driving to work, responding to traffic, adjusting the radio, noting the check engine light, all the things you think of as “you, driving the car,” except the big one: deciding where to go. That part was on automatic pilot (which is another good way to think of this).

This is at the advanced end of the spectrum. Typing your friend’s phone number using “muscle memory” is at the other, but it’s the same phenomenon.

We didn’t evolve to remember phone numbers, so we aren’t very good at it. In fact, we are so bad at it, we invent all sorts of mnemonic devices (memory aids) to help us [in] relating numbers to words or spacial memory, either of which are closer to the hunting and gathering we are evolved for. The illusion of “muscle memory” arises because we are supremely well adapted to manual manipulation and tool-making. We don’t need to invent a memory aid to help us remember what we do with our hands, we only have to practice.

So the conscious mind says “dial Tabby’s number,” and our fingers—or more correctly, the zombie agent which learned that task—do it. Similarly, after sufficient training, we can do the same thing with tasks like “play a major fifth,” "drive to work,” or “pull an Airbus A380 up for a go-around.”

It feels like muscle memory because the conscious mind—the part you experience as being you—is acting like a coach driver, steering the efforts of a team of zombie agents, all harnesses to collective action. But it isn’t muscle memory, it's just memory—though it may be stored (or at least some of it) in the deeper, motor cortex parts of the brain.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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