Tinseltown is merchandising itself again--this time to save the stars embedded on the sidewalks of Hollywood.
Now, after two years of registering trademarks and logos, signing licensees to market products and selling souvenirs, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has enough money in the bank to tackle the star-shaped sidewalk decor.
Officials won't say how much has been raised thus far, but it is enough to launch the first full restoration of the Walk of Fame since 1960.
"Every broken and damaged star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame will be replaced," Edward Lewis, the chamber's executive vice president, said recently. "We're kicking that off for the new year."
Michael Landon's star, for example, has a piece of terrazzo missing. Ray Milland's emblem is cracked. And the Everly Brothers' star is broken. Some celebrities--such as Wayne Newton and Earl Holliman--even have called the chamber to report that their stars are in bad shape, Lewis noted.
This week a team will survey the damage, walking the entire 2.3-mile stretch of the Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, and "count every star that's broken or chipped," Lewis said. He estimates that 150 to 200 of the 1,857 brass-and-terrazzo stars with names emblazoned on them will need overhauling. He also figures the repairs should cost from $60,000 to $80,000 and should be completed by March.
In the meantime, as tourists here for the holidays meander down the Walk of Fame, gazing at the names, the chamber hopes they'll also buy some chamber-sanctioned memorabilia at tourist shops, because the proceeds will benefit the restoration project.
For example, some area bookstores have stocked copies of the recently published book "The Hollywood Walk of Fame" by Marianne Morino, with more than 1,400 listings and 200 photos.
On sale at other spots are Papel Giftware collector mugs, plates and steins embellished with the Walk of Fame logo and the signatures of 38 stars, including those of Kirk Douglas, Burt Reynolds, George Burns and Julie Andrews.
"The sales have been extremely strong," said director of product development Arlene Slater of Papel, whose company began distributing the plates, steins and mugs in June.
"The mugs go the quickest," confirmed Mika Littman, a saleswoman at the Movie Memorabilia Shop at Universal Studios, which also sells Walk of Fame spoon rests and ceramic gift boxes for $4.50 and silver satin jackets for $75.
And additional related products--while not available yet--are also on the way. "It literally could be hundreds of products--ashtrays, posters, clocks, apparel, footwear, any product that you've ever seen with any kind of logo on it," Lewis said. "We've got some fantastic things in the hopper."
The licensing program began more than two years ago, when the chamber obtained trademark protection for several Hollywood symbols--a move that raised the ire of some local merchants and officials in Hollywood, Fla. The chamber, which now owns the rights to the star design and the five entertainment symbols on the Walk of Fame, as well as the stylized lettering of the Hollywood sign, has since signed licensing agreements with 30 companies. And the first batch of items bearing a star's or a sign's likeness began popping up at local gift shops about a year ago.
However, while some items, such as the mugs and steins, have had some success, others have not been selling as well as expected, Lewis acknowledged. But the chamber hopes that a recent development will give sales an enormous boost: Under an agreement reached more than two months ago, the Curtis Licensing Corp., a division of Indianapolis-based Curtis Publishing Co., will serve as the chamber's exclusive product-licensing agent.
"We're hoping that Curtis can help us take the Walk of Fame to the rest of the nation. They sort of have the Hollywood thought process," Lewis said of the company that has brought Elvis Presley, James Dean, Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, Abbott & Costello and Buddy Holly products to stores throughout the United States.
Under the agreement, Curtis is planning a plethora of Hollywood memorabilia with the chamber-owned graphics. Calling the potential "tremendous," Mark Roesler, president of Curtis Licensing Corp., said he envisions developing a line of apparel, housewares and paper products, as well as candy, beverages and a perfume.
"Hollywood and the charisma of Hollywood--it's a very relevant theme today," Roesler said.
Lewis predicts that the Hollywood novelty products will have a long shelf life because of the celebrities' enduring popularity.
"The Walk of Fame star is the only major accolade that entertainers can share . . . with their fans and the public," Lewis said. "The items reflect an extension of the Walk of Fame. It's like taking Hollywood to the world via the products."