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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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Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
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CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

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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What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

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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