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Walk Of Fame Rolls Over Chuck Berry

October 19, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

OK, you make the call!

You're on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Four pop artists are vying for a few spots in this year's Walk of Fame selections: Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Tina Turner and the Fifth Dimension.

Who gets left out?

Amazing as it may seem, the answer is . . . rock legend Chuck Berry.

"We feel it's a terrible snub," MCA Records publicity exec Andy McKaie said last week. McKaie was part of the MCA team that officially nominated Berry. "That Chuck Berry has been refused a star, after all of his memorable accomplishments, is just ridiculous. When we first proposed the idea, we were astounded that he didn't already have one."

Ah, but Hollywood magic works in mysterious ways. According to Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Publicity Director Kathy Shepard, a secret five-member committee, chaired by Honorary Mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant, votes on all applications for the Walk of Fame. The criteria for selection includes "longevity in the entertainment industry" and "contributions made to the show business community."

But when 18 new honorees were chosen last June, including TV star Barbara Eden ("I Dream of Jeannie"), actor Dudley Moore and comedian Eddie Murphy, as well as the three above-mentioned pop figures, Berry's name was nowhere to be seen.

"There are so many people trying to get in to the Walk of Fame now that there's quite a backlog," explained Grant. "It's often taken two or three years for lots of big names to get in. That's why we've upped the number of honorees, because we're trying to catch up."

Fine. But how could the committee make room for the Fifth Dimension, whose biggest hit was the medley "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from "Hair," and not Berry, who is perhaps the most influential guitarist and songwriter in rock history, as well as a unanimous selection to the newly created Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

"That's just the way the voting went," Grant said. "Maybe some of the people on the committee knew them better than Chuck Berry. It's just that their names were submitted ahead of him. I have no doubt Chuck will make it someday, maybe even next year. I'm certainly on his side."

However, MCA staffers--who had submitted Berry's name as a way to help publicize the label's recent acquisition of the Chess Records catalogue, which features Berry's best-known recordings, remain unhappy about the rejection. "The man has been overlooked for 30 years and he should get his due now, not in another few years," said McKaie. "If he can't qualify for the Walk of Fame, you have to wonder who can."

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