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Hasta la Vista to an Unauthorized Homage?

Anonymous artist's 'Arnaldo' star has fans and detractors. Some see a Schwarzenegger connection.

October 18, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

One Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk star might not be enough for bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

An unauthorized star honoring "Arnaldo" that is embedded in the sidewalk just outside the boulevard's Walk of Fame is prompting debate between those who want it jack-hammered up and others who want it preserved by the city.

The stylized mosaic-tile tribute has been cemented at the northeast corner of Hollywood and Gower Street for more than a year. But only since Schwarzenegger's election has it become an issue.

Some say it's tacky and demeaning. Others claim it's an acknowledgment of the Latino voters who supported Schwarzenegger in the Oct. 7 recall election.

The Hollywood Project Area Committee, a local watchdog group, is urging the city to approve the star and "adopt" it by overseeing the replacement of several pieces of marble that have been chipped from it. Without city approval, modifications to public sidewalks are not allowed.

The committee is also urging the governor-elect to stop by and "dedicate" the star the next time he's in town. That could be Nov. 30 -- when Walk of Fame leaders are trying to get Schwarzenegger to serve as grand marshal of their Hollywood Christmas Parade.

"It's the coolest thing -- it's really pretty. It shouldn't be destroyed," said committee member Miki Jackson, a health consultant. "We have no idea who put it there. It's a wonderful piece of Hollywood folk art. It's a little, bitty Hollywood piece like the Watts Towers."

Another committee member -- teacher and activist John Walsh -- said no one seems to know who created the "Arnaldo" star, which sits in a square space cut in the concrete with a saw. A second handmade star, with the name "Lil' Mike," is embedded next to "Arnaldo."

"If the city gives the artists amnesty, I think they'll emerge," he said. "We consider it a tribute to the new governor, considering the vote he got from Hispanics."

Walk of Fame Chairman Johnny Grant inspected "Arnaldo" and the other star Friday and discovered that nearby merchants favor keeping them in the sidewalk.

"I have a sense of humor. I'd leave them in a while," said Grant, who said he is still waiting to hear whether Schwarzenegger will accept the invitation to lead the Hollywood holiday parade.

But getting the city to maintain the "Arnaldo" star may be tough, Grant warned. "It's taken me three years to get a meeting set up to discuss the repair of portions of the Walk of Fame" where ground subsidence may be causing terrazzo to crack. That meeting is set for Monday.

"Arnaldo," meantime, continued to get mixed reviews from passersby.

"I think it should go. It's kind of shabby. Arnold's got a good star down the street," said Stuart Brown, an 18-year-old waiter. Schwarzenegger's official Walk of Fame star is in front of the Hollywood Guinness Museum, about 12 blocks west of the "Arnaldo" star.

Tourist Chika Noguchi, a dancer from Tokyo, paused to snap a photo of the unauthorized tribute. "I like it, I love the style. It should stay," she said.

Then she flipped open her Japanese-English dictionary and turned to the "G" section. The word she was searching for wasn't there, however.

"What is a 'governor'? " she asked.

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