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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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Do 'Close Door' Buttons in Elevators Actually Do Anything?
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When you’re running late for work, one small comfort is finding an empty elevator waiting for you at your office building. You scurry inside, and since no one else is waiting to enter, you jab the 'close door' button. The doors comply, the elevator starts moving, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

This is a familiar scenario for many, but it’s also a big fat lie. That’s because most of the door-close buttons in U.S. elevators don’t actually work. In fact, they’re programmed that way.

But before you get ready to send off a strongly worded email to your office building’s elevator manufacturer, you may want to hear why this is the case. When the Americans With Disabilities Act was first passed in 1990, certain requirements for elevators were outlined, such as the installation of raised buttons, braille signs, and audible signals.

The act ensured that someone with a disability would have enough time to get inside, stipulating that elevator doors must remain fully open for at least three seconds and thereby preventing the button from cutting that time short. Some elevator manufacturers took it one step further by deactivating the button entirely.

Since the life span of an elevator is about 25 years and the Disabilities Act has been around for 28 years, it’s safe to assume that most of the elevators in operation today do not have a functioning 'close door' button, The New York Times reports. Only firefighters are able to close elevator doors manually through the use of a key.

It's important to note that there are exceptions to this rule, though. As the New York Daily News noted, New York City elevators are required by law to have working 'close door' buttons, even though some operate on a long delay (so long, in fact, that it calls the button's usefulness into question).

However, you’re in luck if you’re taking a lift (which, of course, is British for “elevator”). 'Close door' buttons are fully functional in most elevators in the UK, according to The Telegraph. A spokesman for the Lift and Escalator Industry Association told the newspaper that not all elevators have the button, but when they’re present, they do work. Again, the time it takes for the doors to shut after pressing the button varies from lift to lift.

While U.S. elevator manufacturers have a seemingly good reason for disabling the 'close door' button, some may question the point of propagating the myth and installing a button that serves no purpose in the first place. In response, some would argue that placebo buttons serve an important psychological function in society.

"Perceived control is very important," Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer told The New York Times. "It diminishes stress and promotes well-being."

That’s right: By believing that you’re in control of your fate—or at least how quickly you can make it up to the sixth floor—you’re better off. It doesn’t end with elevators, either. Buttons placed at city crosswalks are often disabled, and the thermostats in many office buildings are rigged so that the temperature can’t be altered (even if the numbers appear to change).

Some might swear up and down that elevator 'close door' buttons work, but this, too, could be your brain deceiving you. As author David McRaney wrote in an essay: “If you happen to find yourself pressing a nonfunctional close-door button, and later the doors close, you’ll probably never notice because a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain once you see what you believe is a response to your action. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pressing the button in the future.”

According to The New Yorker, these buttons are designed to alleviate some of the subconscious anxiety that comes from stepping inside a tiny box that's hoisted up some 20 or 40 or 80 floors by a cable: “Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command."

So now you know: Next time you’re running late to work, take comfort in the fact that those few extra seconds you would’ve saved by pressing a functioning 'close door' button aren’t worth all that much in the long run.

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’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

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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