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Rock Music Walk of Fame Proposed for Sunset

April 26, 1987|STEPHEN BRAUN | Times Staff Writer

Rock promoter Bill Gazzarri is always on the lookout for new gimmicks to drum up business along the Sunset Strip, where he owns a nightclub catering to rock fans.

Often, his concepts don't get off the drawing board.

For years, the cigar-chewing, Panama-hatted promoter has championed the idea of allowing the Sunset Strip rock clubs to open poker parlors.

His gambling proposal was finally raised in West Hollywood's 1986 City Council election, only to die a swift death as most of the candidates scoffed at the notion.

Attracting Attention

But recently, another of Gazzarri's schemes has been attracting more serious attention from West Hollywood government officials and business leaders.

Gazzarri's latest idea is to open a Hollywood Boulevard-style walk of fame for rock stars on Sunset Boulevard.

"It would bring more tourists into the city," Gazzarri rhapsodized. "It would bring in more business for all the restaurants and boutiques. The city can't miss."

While Gazzarri's "rock walk" idea has a long way to go before it has official city backing, it popped up recently as a proposed $1-million appropriation in West Hollywood's five-year capital improvement program.

The fact that the idea was even being considered as a proposed item angered one member of the city's Public Facilities Board, which is trying to set up capital-improvement priorities for the next five years.

'Kind of Ridiculous'

"I think it's kind of ridiculous for the city to benefit a few clubs on Sunset," said James Ward Litz. "I don't see who in West Hollywood would really benefit beyond the nightclubs."

However, some city officials say that the idea is credible enough to warrant consideration from the Public Facilities Board and other city agencies.

City Councilman Alan Viterbi sees merit in the proposal.

"Alan agrees with Bill's concept," said Viterbi's aide, Paul Koretz. "The Sunset Strip is a center for the music industry, and it could be a unique way of recognizing the city's role."

And Deborah Potter, the city's economic development coordinator, said the idea was "potentially valuable" enough to warrant placing it on the proposed capital improvement plan, which must be approved by the City Council.

Makes Wish List

"We think it needs more analysis, but we thought it was worth putting on our wish list," she said.

Potter said that if the City Council ultimately approves the $1-million appropriation, the city funds would be used to tear up existing sidewalks on both sides of Sunset, between Doheny Drive and San Vicente Boulevard, and replace them with sidewalks that could be fitted with "rock walk" designations.

Because the Hollywood Walk of Fame has copyrighted the use of stars to designate its film- and television-industry honorees, Potter said that any "rock walk" would have to use a different symbol. Gazzarri has suggested using record or guitar symbols.

Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which charges its honorees $3,000 when they are awarded a star, Gazzarri's "rock walk" would stay financially afloat by charging honorees a fee to have their names embedded in the sidewalk.

"We figure that we could charge $3,000 or $4,000 each time a new rock star got his record or guitar or whatever in the pavement," Gazzarri said.

No Obligation

The fee would most likely be paid by a record company or agent, Gazzarri added. "Once the sidewalks are redone, the city wouldn't have any more obligations," he said.

But Litz and others are skeptical about the "rock walk's" viability. "If the city has to pay to upgrade the area, one wonders what other costs the city might have to assume," Litz said.

Rick Cole, executive director of the city's nonprofit Marketing Corp., said the "rock walk" is a potential attraction, but raised fears about its novelty and its impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

"It's not exactly a fresh idea," Cole said. "It's somewhat derivative of Hollywood. We want to be sure that whatever we do is first-class and special to West Hollywood."

Indeed, Hollywood's Walk of Fame already has several counterparts, including a "rock walk" in Philadelphia and a Western walk of fame in Newhall, where saddles substitute for stars.

Poor Relations

Cole said that the Sunset Strip nightclubs have had poor relations with neighboring residents over complaints about littering, loitering and parking and traffic congestion.

Gazzarri and Potter minimized those concerns, saying most tourists would visit the "rock walk" during the day rather than at night, the period that produces most neighborhood complaints.

Cole said the "rock walk" was just one of dozens of proposals being considered by the Marketing Corp., ranging from a Shakespeare festival to a laser light show in the sky.

Gazzarri's idea would have to be approved by the Marketing Corp.'s board of directors and eventually, the City Council.

"It's on a long list of ideas that have accumulated over the last few years," Cole said. "We haven't done a serious evaluation of the pros and cons. We hope to give it a serious look in the coming months."

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