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Chamber Wishes on a Lot of Stars to Help Hollywood Walk of Fame

August 28, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is looking to some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities for help on an ambitious plan to dig up, rebuild and expand the landmark Walk of Fame that has been worn down by millions of tourists over the last quarter-century.

The chamber wants to sell pins, tie clips, posters, T-shirts and other souvenirs bearing replicas of the sidewalk stars to raise funds to repair or replace more than 200 of the 1,830 brass-and-terrazzo emblems. Chamber officials say they need to raise $300,000 to $500,000.

Source of Inspiration

The marketing idea was born last year when chamber President Bill Welsh saw some tourists posing for pictures with the stars of their favorite celebrities, "and something clicked in my head to make (the walk) more accessible to the public. We decided that (the stars) could be marketed."

In January, the chamber received permission from 170 celebrities whose names are embedded in the walk to sell the products to pay for the repair work.

"Two days after we sent the letters, we got a (positive) response from Kirk Douglas. A day later, Charlton Heston," Welsh said. "Then one from Frank Sinatra's attorney and Liz Taylor's manager. . . . Nobody we know has the right to use 170 star names."

About 20 companies are interested in selling the products, some of which are already on the market. They range in price from $3.95 for a pin that looks like the Hollywood sign to $65 for a satin jacket with a celebrity star on the back. Although business has been slow, chamber Vice President Edward N. Lewis said the organization expects sales to take off next year, during Hollywood's 100th anniversary celebration. Most of the products will be sold in Southern California, he said.

Repairs on the stars will begin as early as this fall, when the money comes in, Lewis said. About 25 of those in the worst condition will be replaced, he said, and another 200 will be repaired, he said.

Some of the most damaged stars include those of actors Ray Milland and Earl Holliman, which are missing the brass disks identifying the category of show business they represent.

Replacing each star is an expensive process that costs about $2,000 for labor and materials, Lewis said. The terrazzo runs about $9 a square foot.

When a new star is dedicated, the honoree must attend the ceremony and pay the chamber the $3,500 cost of installing the star and staging the festivities. "The chamber makes no money on the installation of new stars," Lewis said. It decided on the marketing program to raise funds for repairs instead of asking the celebrities themselves to help pay for the work, he said.

The first priority is to rebuild and repair the walk, Lewis said. The proposed extension, covering one block from Sycamore Avenue to La Brea Avenue, is probably 15 to 20 years away, he said.

From 12 to 18 new stars are dedicated on the walk every year, he said, and at that rate there are enough blank stars to last at least 30 years. The extension would allow for an additional 20 years.

Some of the stars are on driveways and have been worn down by traffic. Some have been vandalized, while still others have become covered with gum or with tar as streets are repaved, Lewis said.

City assessment fees from businesses along the walk currently go to pay a contractor to wash it each night. Lewis said the chamber would like its own outside contractor to clean and repair the walk, which would cost about $100,000 a year.

Installation of the first 1,558 stars of the walk started in 1960 and ended a year later. The walk runs along Hollywood Boulevard between Gower Street and Sycamore Avenue and on Vine Street between Yucca Street and Sunset Boulevard.

Lewis said the next star, for singer and actress Tina Turner, will be unveiled at 12:30 p.m. today in front of Capitol Records on Vine Street. He said he expects about 2,500 people to attend. A record crowd of 5,000 turned out for Michael Jackson's ceremony in 1984.

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