There are many indicators that one has “made it big” in the world of show business, but perhaps none more so than the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The famed “celestial” attraction covers 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, plus a short stretch of Marshfield Way.
Obviously a lot of people have achieved that level of success because as of now there are in excess of 2,400 embedded brass stars, spaced 6 feet apart, representing achievers from various segments of the show business industry. Each star weighs about 300 pounds.
And yes, Detroit is well represented, including such luminaries as the Miracles, the Supremes, Anita Baker, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Berry Gordy, Della Reese, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Smokey Robinson, the Spinners, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. (Pretty heavy on Motown Record Corporation and, hence, Detroit.)
JUST BELOW the name of the honoree is an emblem identifying the category the honoree is being recognized in. There are five: 1) A phonograph record representing music, 2) A television representing broadcast television, 3) A classic film camera representing motion pictures, 4) A radio microphone representing broadcast radio, and 5) Comedy/tragedy masks representing theatre/live performances.
In addition, there is a “special” category recognizing contributions by service organizations, corporate entities, etc.
The idea for a Hollywood Walk of Fame, that functions via the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, originated with E.M. Stuart in 1953, at which time he was president of the organization. To his way of thinking — and there was plenty of agreement — the Walk would be one way to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.”
In July of 1978, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles. By then it had long been iconic, known all over the world and a consistent tourist attraction for those visiting the Los Angeles area.
After so many decades, of course, there was a lot of wear and tear on the Walk. Much like Detroit’s Fox Theatre, there was a need for restoration. In 2008 the restoration was begun with a hefty price tag in excess of $4 million.
THE FUNDING came from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, a number of concerned government entities, both city and county, and others. A Friends of Walk of Fame” organization was formed.
From time to time there is a certain amount of controversy regarding a Walk of Fame nominee, and the rules have been bent when the Chamber deemed it necessary.
For example, there is no sports category. Nevertheless, boxing legend Muhammad Ali was granted a star after it was decided that sports is a form of live entertainment. Basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson received a star due to his ownership of the Magic Johnson Theatre chain.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Walk of Fame Selection Committee receives approximately 200 nominations per year.
There is a substantial cost for the creation and installation of the star ($30,000 at present) when a nomination is approved by the Committee. The fee is in most cases paid for by whatever organization submitted the nominee’s name.
The presentation ceremony is free and open to the public.
Among the well over 100 African Americans with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are Harry Belafonte, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, the Nicholas Brothers, Ray Charles, Marian Anderson, Della Reese, Morgan Freeman, Paul Robeson, Cicely Tyson, Jimi Hendrix, the Mills Brothers, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Dee Williams, Eartha Kitt, the Jacksons, Samuel L. Jackson and Nancy Wilson.
Also, Sidney Poitier, Johnny Mathis, Queen Latifah, Nat “King” Cole, James Brown, Forest Whitaker, Patti LaBelle, Sarah Vaughan, Bob Marley, Quincy Jones, Mahalia Jackson, the 5th Dimension, Billy Eckstine, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, Angela Bassett, Tina Turner, Lionel Hampton, B.B. King, Count Basie, Vanessa Williams, Louis Armstrong and Billy Dee Williams.