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Brian Keith's Fans Lead Push to Get Actor His Due

S.T.A.R., the Society to Advance Recognition for the late thespian, fails to get him a Hollywood star this year, but will try again next.

July 16, 2006|Nicholas K. Geranios | Associated Press Writer

Nothing ticks off Lynn Walker like Wink Martindale's new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She doesn't have anything against the game show host, but can't abide that celebrities of Martindale's stature have a star and actor Brian Keith does not.

Walker is a founder of S.T.A.R. for Brian, a group of fans trying to get a star for the late star of "Family Affair," "The Parent Trap," and many other film and television productions.

"Everybody knows Uncle Bill!" an animated Walker said, referring to Keith's most famous role, in the TV show "Family Affair."

Walker is not some obsessed fan out of a Stephen King novel. She's not consumed by Brian Keith. But like many of her contemporaries, she fell for him during his performance as the father in "The Parent Trap" with Hayley Mills.

"I was 11 in 1961," she explained.

The group was launched in May, after a fan went looking for Keith's star and was stunned to learn he did not have one. The fan posted the news on an Internet discussion group. Walker, along with Amy Morgan, of Norman, Okla.; L.M. Lewis of Chicago and Cheri deFonteny of Los Angeles, were moved to action.

"We all at the same time said, 'This is wrong!' " said Walker, who lives in Ritzville, Wash., a small town 60 miles west of Spokane. "Let's fix this."

S.T.A.R. -- which stands for Society to Advance Recognition for Brian Keith -- made a late effort to get Keith a star this year.

But the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which operates the walk, declined to vote Keith a star. The nomination will be considered again in 2007.

Getting a star is not exactly like winning the Nobel Prize. A person can be nominated by colleagues in the entertainment industry, family or fans. Keith's widow, actress Victoria Young Keith, is honorary chair of S.T.A.R. for Brian.

The Walk of Fame committee reviews more than 200 applications a year.

The criteria for selection include longevity of career, community service and professional achievements.

Walker says there is no question that Keith qualifies on all three.

He began acting as a child in silent movies, served in the Marines in the Pacific in World War II and did quality work until his death in 1997, she said.

Each year, a committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce votes on the nominees, admitting a couple of dozen or so.

The star itself costs $15,000, which must be paid by the star or supporters. Walker says fans can go on her website to donate money for Keith's star.

Ana Martinez-Holler, a spokeswoman for the Hollywood Chamber, says there is no conspiracy against Brian Keith. Lots of performers don't have stars, including huge celebrities like Clint Eastwood.

It's not uncommon for fans to launch campaigns for their favorite stars, she said.

"They are doing it for Weird Al Yankovic," Martinez-Holler said.

But don't even think about deluging the chamber with letters or phone calls for your favorite celebrity, she said.

Such efforts are ignored. Instead, the committee considers only the formal documents required for each application, she said.

Keith was born in 1921 in Bayonne, N.J, the son of vaudevillians Robert Keith and Helena Shipman, a native of Aberdeen, Wash. He appeared at age 3 in a silent film called "Pied Piper Malone."

He spent two years in combat as a tail gunner in the Pacific. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and settled in New York as a stage actor.

Keith appeared in many Broadway productions, and in numerous shows in the early years of television. He was a regular in nine television series.

He also had a lengthy movie career. His most memorable movie roles included Teddy Roosevelt in "The Wind and the Lion" and Mitch Evers in "The Parent Trap." He continued working as a guest star on television shows until his death.

Despondent over health problems and personal and financial losses, Keith committed suicide in 1997.

For "Family Affair," which ran from 1966-71, he was nominated for three Emmys for his role as a bachelor engineer suddenly forced to rear his brother's three orphaned children, Cissy, Buffy and Jody. Sebastian Cabot also starred as Mr. French, his valet.

"Family Affair" has not been shown much in recent years, but a DVD of the first season was released on June 27, with the second season due in November.

Kathy Garver, who played Cissy, and Johnny Whitaker, who played Jody, are the only surviving members of the cast, and both support a star for Keith.

"Brian Keith is a perfect candidate to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," Garver said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. "He was truly an actor's actor and beloved by millions. He was certainly respected and loved by me!"

So how does this guy not have a star, when 2,314 other performers do?

"That's the reaction of everybody," Walker said.

Chuck Connors has a star. So does Kermit the Frog, Farrah Fawcett and David Hasselhoff, Walker said.

"People today are not stars; they are celebrities," Walker said. "This guy was a movie and TV star. He was good at what he did."

She realizes people may think her campaign for Keith is somewhat frivolous.

"In the great scheme of things, a piece of pavement with a colored star is a small deal," Walker said. "But it is a grievous oversight and something I can accomplish.

"I will not be the person who finds a cure for AIDS, but this is something I can do," she said.

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