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Twinkle in Store for Sidewalks in Anaheim

The city's Walk of Stars, like Hollywood's, will pay tribute to local notables. But there's controversy over whom to pick.

April 26, 2006|Juliet Chung | Times Staff Writer

Look out, Hollywood.

Anaheim, in yet another attempt to set itself apart, will answer Tinseltown's glitzy Walk of Fame with its own sidewalk salute to celebrity, expected to debut in time for the city's 150th anniversary next year.

The nominees for the Anaheim/Orange County Walk of Stars form an eclectic group.

Some are heavy hitters who shaped the county, such as singing cowboy and former Angel owner Gene Autry, and Walt Disney, whose Magic Kingdom rose from the Anaheim orange groves.

Others made the list with only the most flimsy connections: Author John Steinbeck is said to have written "Tortilla Flat" while living in Laguna Beach for a few months. (Some Steinbeck scholars say he was actually working on "To a God Unknown.")

"Orange County, internationally, has now become a brand. It conjures up a certain lifestyle, an image," said county resident Gerald Ishibashi, who brought the idea to Anaheim on behalf of the Motion Picture Hall of Fame Foundation, which will oversee the strip.

"We're going to honor those visionaries who contributed to making Anaheim and Orange County an international player."

So far, Hollywood is reacting with a yawn.

"Nothing will ever steal the thunder from the Hollywood walk," said honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant, who apparently isn't losing sleep over the competition. "We have the people right here; we have the biggies."

But Anaheim is nothing if not persistent. This is the city that unsuccessfully sued its own baseball team when it ditched the name Anaheim Angels in favor of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

And during a publicity stunt in 2002, it awarded keys to the city to homegrown rock band No Doubt -- despite the group's well-known lyrics ridiculing the city's most famous landmark, Disneyland.

Anaheim's latest bid for attention is intended to enhance tourism, said Mayor Curt Pringle.

"Orange County has had a very long history, and oftentimes it was seen as just a suburb of Los Angeles," Pringle said. "Today, it's a lot different, and Orange County's identity is something we're very proud of."

Approved by the Anaheim City Council last month, the first stars are slated for installation near Disneyland on the west side of Harbor Boulevard. The walk could eventually wind its way toward Angel Stadium, two miles away.

Nominees will be inducted if they accept and if they or their sponsors foot the $15,000 tab, the same price as a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, said Carolyn Yellis, a member of Anaheim's anniversary commission who helped craft the list.

Names will be water-blasted onto 3-foot-square slabs of polished red Indian granite. Each slab will weigh about 180 pounds.

When the Walk of Stars is inaugurated, it will join similar celeb attractions in Las Vegas and Palm Springs, also managed by the Motion Picture Hall of Fame Foundation. Closer to home, Huntington Beach offers a Surfing Walk of Fame and Santa Clarita, a Walk of Western Stars.

Nominees, drawn largely from the worlds of entertainment, sports and civics, must have lived or worked in Orange County and brought prominence to it. They were approved by the anniversary commission and City Council, Yellis said.

Yorba Linda native Richard Nixon is a nominee, though politicians, for the most part, were cut from the list.

"We could have included a bazillion politicians, but we decided to go the route of movie stars -- people that visitors from other regions would recognize," said Yellis, who sought suggestions from family and friends with deep Orange County roots.

Of course, the second-guessing has already started -- and the fact that three nominees are related to anniversary commissioners who made or approved the selections has raised eyebrows.

"It's a very shallow list. There are major, major names missing," said Esther Cramer, who sits on the Orange County Historical Commission.

She said important figures such as the Bixby family, a major early county landowner, and Samuel Kraemer, who built part of downtown Anaheim in the 1920s, should have been nominated.

Not to be outdone by Anaheim's civic chest-thumping, Newport Beach Mayor Don Webb was quick to point out that Anaheim had to reach beyond its city limits to find nominees.

"I would just ask that they put an asterisk saying, 'This is really somebody that was a Newport Beach person,' " Webb said after learning that contenders included John Wayne, who lived in and was buried in Newport Beach, and Josh Schwartz, creator of Fox's soapy "The O.C.," which is set in Newport.

(Newport is no stranger to self-promotion. It swooned when the tanned and beautiful cast of "The O.C." came to town, promising to enshrine the stars' concrete handprints. That has yet to happen.)

Irvine Mayor Beth Krom said she welcomed the Anaheim-situated walk as a chance to showcase Orange County's strengths, something she finds lacking in the Fox drama and in Bravo's new reality show "The Real Housewives of Orange County," filmed in Coto de Caza.

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