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If you're anybody, you're on a wall

June 24, 2008|Steven Ivory | Special to The Times

If you live in Southern California, you've seen them: 8-by-10 celebrity glossies staring at you from the hallowed walls of hardware stores, beauty salons, liquor stores, car dealerships and seemingly every hamburger stand in L.A.

The concept of the celebrity photo collection in a place of business -- routinely consisting of the rare A-list star but mostly an assortment of sitcom/music/sports B-listers, politicians and public officials (at Richard Riordan's Original Pantry downtown, Police Chief William J. Bratton is the wall's big cheese) and an amazing number of Who-Are-These-People -- is one of the more curious ornaments of L.A. pop culture.

Some of these photos, Magic Marker-autographed with fervent quips like "Thank you for the best donuts in town!" and "You got a lotta sole" (as in shoe repair), have had longer careers on retail walls than the celebrities themselves have had in real life.

The tradition has no doubt been around as long as Hollywood and the film industry itself: Imagine the 1920s and sepia-tone head shots of silent film stars Charlie Chan and Mary Pickford at the local pharmacy or farmer's vegetable stand.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, June 26, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Celebrity photos: An article in Tuesday's Calendar section about celebrity photos on the walls of businesses said the tradition has been around since the time of silent film star Charlie Chan. It should have said Charlie Chaplin.

How the photos actually end up on the walls often involves a delicate dance between merchant and celebrity. "She'd come in and I wouldn't charge her," Jake Rafail says of Farrah Fawcett, whose autographed photo has overlooked the cash register at Rafail's Hamburger Haven in West Hollywood ever since she gave it to him in 1990.

"After coming in awhile, she said, 'Look, if you continue feeding me for free, you won't make any money.' I told her, 'Don't worry, you've more than paid, because people see you here and they come back.' " Hence, for merchants, one reason for the photos: Stars come to my store. For the celebrity: Yes, I'm a star and I was there.

Nevertheless, if you figure Michael Jackson has never popped into Hollyway Cleaners in West Hollywood on a Saturday afternoon with a bundle of sequined dry cleaning -- even though his photo hangs there among those of Sally Struthers and Jerry Seinfeld -- you'd be right. Most glossies end up on walls through customers associated with a famous person who gets them to autograph a head shot.

Still, you'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many people are proactive about getting their mugs on a wall. According to Edward Perales, sales and service associate at the Encino Post Office, celebrities actually request to have their picture up. "All we ask is that they submit their photo framed," he says. On the wall are such celebrities as Tommy Lasorda, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, Tom Petty and James Earl Jones.

With more than 200 images on its "wall of fame," Pink's, the legendary Hollywood hot dog stand on La Brea at Melrose, just might be the Mecca of the celebrity 8-by-10.

No charity postings here; the who's-who lining Pink's walls actually patronize the place -- among them, Aretha Franklin, Bill Cosby, the cast of "Grey's Anatomy" (signed: "Pink's, the prescription for happiness"), Ellen DeGeneres ("When I think of buns, I think of you!") and Martha Stewart, who has a hot dog named in her honor.

"The people on our wall eat here," says the cheerful Gloria Pink, who runs the family business with husband Richard Pink and her sister-in-law Beverly Pink-Wolfe. "Martha Stewart insisted on being in line, like the rest of our customers. It was a peak hour, and she waited about 30 minutes. I think it was fun for her."

And don't stay away too long, because unlike other retail spots, where a celebrity picture can stay up for an eternity gathering dust, at Pink's the scarcity of wall space means lesser lights who no longer frequent the place get booted for the images of newer, more famous converts.

Which aptly illustrates that, like most everything else in Hollywood, having your picture up on a wall can be about who you are and where you go. And what you have done lately.

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