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getting set

When they slip you a slab at the Chinese, ordinary cement won't do

September 28, 1997|Mary Melton

The handprints and footprints in the forecourt of Mann's Chinese Theatre--from the first, Norma Talmadge's in 1927, to Michael Douglas' two weeks ago--are like a mammoth's petrified tracks. They give archeological evidence of a unique species: the star.

Tom Daugherty, 42, provides the squishy medium for celebrity preservation. As Mann Theatre's director of engineering, he heads a five-person crew that oversees a slab's birth: a mixer, two finishers and a laborer to haul four 90-pound sacks of concrete.

Two or three days before the ceremony, they pour a 4-inch base of regular concrete with aggregate, topped off 20 minutes before the show with a 2-inch mixture of sand and cement tinted with powdered color (Jim Carrey chose green) but minus the rocks. "If you put your foot in regular concrete, the rocks would poke through," explains Daugherty. Afterward, the slab is roped off, security guards are posted and 72 hours later the new impression is ready for a tourist's trouncing. Thus far, 191 imprints have been set, and 77 blank slabs remain. Daugherty estimates each weighs about 700 pounds, confounding the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy and Ethel confiscated John Wayne's.

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