By Stacy Jenel Smith
Clayton Moore and Billy Vera each have one, and Dan Avey is getting one next year. So has Vanna White. But neither Peter O'Toole nor Warren Beatty nor Jane Fonda has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
What? You say that the three screen immortals deserve the honor of a star on the Walk of Fame more than the guy who played The Lone Ranger long ago, the leader of Billy and the Beaters (which had just one Number One hit, in 1987), a radio personality who's relatively unknown outside of L.A., and a game show letter-turner?
Join the club.
Each June, a five-member Hollywood Walk of Fame panel convenes to decide which of 200-300 nominees per year will be recognized with a star. Each member of the panel is said to be an expert in his or her area of show business. Each celebrity under consideration for a star is said to be judged according to criteria including industry awards, career longevity of more than five years, and contributions to the community.
Sounds good, but the fact is, the secretive procedure doesn't quite measure up to the exacting standards of, say, attaining an Academy Award or a degree from Yale.
Behind the Walk of Fame selection process there is enough politicking, complaining, and jockeying for position to fill several prime-time soaps. The $15,000 installation fee is typically picked up by film studios, record companies, networks or production companies, which view the walk like any other paid advertising tool. That's why you shouldn't expect to see a star ceremony without a promotional tie-in attached, whether it's a movie, CD or DVD release, the launch of a concert tour or a TV series or a book or some other product. It makes sense, considering the walk, which was started in 1958, was a publicity ploy to begin with.
"It costs money to put a star in there. It's of no value to the studio - or to anyone, for that matter - if it's not done at an advantageous time," as one Paramount executive put it.
Out of this process has come a sidewalk honor roll of what the L.A. Times called "greats, near-greats and who-was-that's?" The walk is notoriously full of personalities known to Angelenos from local television news and radio - Bill Stout, Stan Chambers, Bob Arthur, Dick Whittinghill and more -- but whose names leave many tourists baffled.
Another sticking point has been that if you're alive, you've got to agree to show up for your star installation ceremony in order to get one. That explains why many big names can't be found on the walk - and why others, including Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, went decades before finally getting their stars.
"It's funny. Some stars don't want any part of it and others want it so much," observed Johnny Grant, beloved "mayor of Hollywood" and the town's chief booster. Grant's been on hand for countless star ceremonies, and recalls such moments as Barbra Streisand getting cold feet about facing the mob awaiting her at her 1976 installation ceremony, having her limo turn around and heading home.
After an hour and a half, when it was clear she'd be a no-show, one TV reporter went down the street to the Hollywood Wax Museum and interviewed Barbra's mannequin there: "Where are you? Why aren't you here?"
Barbra was by hubby James Brolin's side when he got his Walk of Fame star, however.
The recently-announced 2006 Recipients are:
Motion Pictures: Steve Martin, Charlize Theron, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Nathan Lane. TV: Ray Romano, Vanna White, "Deadwood" creator-producer David Milch, "Judge Judy" star Judith Sheindlin, and Robert Osborne. Recording: Record producer Lou Adler, Alejandro Fernandez, Motley Crue and Isaac Hayes. Live Theatre: Shecky Greene and Milt and Bill Larsen Radio: Dan Avey, Mark and Kim and Wink Martindale. Posthumously: Jack Cassidy (live theatre) and producer Leonard Goldenson (TV).
Meanwhile, that other great Hollywood walk-on tourist attraction, the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, is privately owned by the Mann Theatres chain, which details no precise methodology -- voting, panel of experts, point system or nomination process -- by which stars are chosen to join those immortalized with hand and footprints (along with nose, gun, cigar, hoof and other prints) in cement.
The legendary showman Sid Grauman got the idea for his famous attraction, so the story goes, when actress Norma Talmadge unintentionally walked across a wet slab of cement during a tour of the soon-to-open Chinese Theatre back in 1927. Grauman, who is among the figures (along with Howard Hughes) given credit for helping to create the Hollywood premiere spectacle, knew a good publicity stunt when he saw one. He decided which stars' prints belonged in his cement. He included himself. He knew what he was doing.
Marilyn Monroe is said to have had the idea of immortalizing her famous derriere in a cement print and having her "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" co-star Jane Russell augment their block with a print of her famous bust in 1953 - but within the strictures of those more modest times, they settled for the usual hand and footprints.
One can only imagine what might get imprinted by the time the decade is out.