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When thinking of architecture, a sidewalk may not come to mind. But when that sidewalk is the foundation of Hollywood, that sidewalk IS architecture. Hollywood is where dreams come true, and the stars that line the Hollywood Walk of Fame exemplify the dreams of young men and women who took a leap of faith and said “I’m gonna be a star!” And not only did they “make it,” those stars shaped this city, perhaps built this city, and THAT is architecture.
The stars have been a hit since 1958, when E. M. Stuart, former president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, came up with the idea. In 1953, he proposed the concept of honoring celebrities on the sidewalk and created a committee to further the proposal. The idea may have stemmed from the historic Hollywood Hotel, once located at Hollywood and Highland, as the lore goes. The hotel, which was demolished in 1956, had stars painted on the ceiling with the names of celebrities. An initial proposal had caricatures of celebrities drawn on the sidewalk surrounded by brown and blue tiles. That idea was scrapped – the chamber thought the celebrities may not like the drawings created of themselves. The coral terrazzo surrounded by black terrazzo and emblazoned with a brass plaque identifies each celebrity. And the star was born, an instantly recognizable design now famous around the world.
The first eight stars were unveiled near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue for Olive Borden, Ronald Colman, Louise Fazenda, Preston Foster, Burt Lancaster, Edward Sedgwick, Ernest Torrence and Joanne Woodward. Originally a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce promotion, the Walk of Fame was intended to give the public a place to share in the celebrity status of Hollywood’s most famous stars. Sixty-five years later, the Walk of Fame still gives fans that experience.
“This is the only award that can be shared with the fans,” said Ana Martinez, vice president of media relations for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and producer of more than 900 celebrity star ceremonies. “They can like the Oscar, the Emmy, the Grammy, but they are sitting on someone’s mantle or wherever they want to put it. This is the one where you can touch your favorite celebrity’s star. You can lay next to it, you can sit next to it, you can touch it, that is what’s so interesting about the Walk of Fame.”
Fast forward to today, when 2,760 stars exist. The Walk of Fame was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 194 in 1978. The walk was expanded in the 1990s along Hollywood Boulevard from Sycamore to La Brea Avenue, but its boundaries have otherwise remained the same. The chamber added a second row of stars in front of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the 1990s, and later in front of the Hollywood and Highland complex and the El Capitan Theatre in the 2000s. Martinez said it ensures the Walk of Fame will never run out of space for new stars.
“You will see, here and there, where there is a second row,” she said. “We were running out of space in some areas and thought it was a good way to add more.”
Ultimately, the Walk of Fame complemented the architecture of the boulevard. From Musso and Frank, which has operated in the same location since 1919, to the opulent Egyptian and Chinese theatres, which opened in 1922 and 1927, respectively, the Walk of Fame introduces visitors to many architectural gems along Tinseltown’s most famous street. The Chinese Theatre in particular, with its exotic revival architectural style and forecourt featuring hand and footprints of many Hollywood stars, makes a perfect companion to the walk. And just like those famous movie palaces, the Walk of Fame is an example of the lasting impact of movies, entertainment and the industries behind them, capturing the spirit of Hollywood and the hopes and ambitions of those who dream to be a star.
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