STARGAZING 101

Seeing Real Stars on the Walk of Fame

Stars show up for their sidewalk debut on the Walk of Fame.
Stars show up for their sidewalk debut on the Walk of Fame. (By Elizabeth Chang -- The Washington Post)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

WHAT: You go to Los Angeles, you want to see a real live celebrity. You could skulk outside the latest hot spots, haunt the upscale shops on Rodeo Drive or blow your vacation budget at a trendy restaurant. A much easier way to catch a star is to attend an unveiling on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where honorees are guaranteed to make an appearance as long as they are (1) human and (2) not dead.

WHEN: Consult the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's Web site ( http://www.hollywoodchamber.net) or call its Walk of Fame hotline (323-469-8311, Ext. 5). Walk of Fame ceremonies are usually announced a week or so before the event, and unsurprisingly, are often held to coincide with movie or CD releases. (Why such short notice? Because stars' schedules "change a lot," says chamber spokeswoman Ana Martinez.) Ceremonies are usually at 11:30 a.m., and it's best to get there early if you want a decent view.

WHERE: The Walk of Fame runs along Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue, and on Vine Street from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard. Besides the star-studded sidewalk, area attractions include the Kodak Theatre (site of the Academy Awards); Grauman's Chinese Theatre (where stars have left their footprints in concrete); the restored El Capitan movie house; a variety of museums; and Hollywood & Highland, an ugly mall that boasts huge elephant-topped pillars that only true movie buffs will realize are an homage to the 1916 silent film "Intolerance."

THE BACK STORY: The Walk of Fame was established in 1960 as a way of reviving the rundown Hollywood district, and now boasts 2,342 terrazzo and brass stars. Walk of Fame recipients have ranged from the iconic (Judy Garland) to the obscure (silent film star Art Acord) to the canine (Lassie) and the celluloid (Mickey Mouse). In the 1980s, a rule was instituted that stars must show up for unveilings, and the ceremonies became the media-fests we're familiar with today.

Honorees must be nominated; in addition to boasting an artistic legacy of at least five years, they must have contributed to the community with some good works. The nominees, their sponsors or their fans also must agree to foot the $25,000 cost of installing a star.

The Walk of Fame does seem to have helped with Hollywood's revitalization; the area now gets 10 million visitors a year. Not to worry about the sidewalk's end, Martinez says, "We're already doubling up, so we'll never run out of space."

WHAT TO EXPECT: Because "See someone famous" was on the list of things our daughters wanted to do during a recent L.A. vacation, we were thrilled to stumble over some workmen installing a new pink star on the walkway and learn that Halle Berry would receive it the following day.

We arrived an hour early and scored a spot across the sidewalk from the red-carpeted stage, which faced a phalanx of photographers and camera crews and was already surrounded by a crowd, including a man holding up a painting of Berry.

While we wilted in the springtime sun, we chatted up our neighbors, most of whom were tourists who also wanted to see a movie star. Suddenly, there was a frisson of excitement: Samuel L. Jackson, Berry's buddy, had arrived. We took pictures of him, and when one of the stars of "CSI" showed up, we snapped him as well -- even though we aren't sure we would have recognized him if someone else hadn't told us who he was.

Finally, Berry made her appearance in a form-fitting dress, and the crowd went wild. After the obligatory speeches, a tearful Berry, who was just as pretty though a little shorter than we expected, spoke emotionally. We know she was emotional because she kept waving her arms, but could only hear snatches of what she said (you'd think Hollywood, of all places, would have a better PA system).

Then Berry walked down some steps to the sidewalk and disappeared from view. We later learned from photos published in the newspapers that she was lying down next to her star.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Each year, about 20 luminaries are chosen for the walkway. Among the artists whose ceremonies you might catch later this year are Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and Lily Tomlin.

OTHER STAR SIGHTINGS: You can also see stars at a Grauman's footprint ceremony or at the many movie premieres or awards shows around town. For info about upcoming events, check out the Mann Theatres site ( http://www.manntheatres.com/chinese), the Kodak Theatre site ( http://www.kodaktheatre.com) or http://www.seeing-stars.com, devoted to catching glimpses of celebrities. If you want to hunt for celebs beyond scheduled appearances, Robin McClain of the L.A. visitors bureau suggests checking out clubs Sugar or Les Deux in Hollywood; seeing a movie at the Pacific Theaters at the Grove, a trendy mall in the Fairfax District; or dining at Wolfgang Puck's new, cool restaurant, Cut, in the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

-- Elizabeth Chang


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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