Planting stars on the street in Hollywood

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tourists collected around a yellow caution tape encircling a 3-foot-by-3-foot square of wet terrazzo in front of Mann's Chinese theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

"Oooh, Sharon Stone," a young man from France cooed. "Oui, belle."

Cameras flashed. Video cameras rolled. Onlookers clasped their hands at their chests, breathlessly.

And the center of attention?

Not the cool actress. It was Alvaro Limon of La Puente. Mild-mannered terrazzo worker with Westar Flooring Inc. The star maker.

He sat back on his heels at the base of the half-finished star, the 2,057th on the Walk of Fame, and waited for the concrete to take to the strip of brass bearing Ms. Stone's name.

Mr. Limon has "probably been in more photos than the stars themselves," said one onlooker, laughing at the spectacle from the sidelines. "They're too obsessed."

But then Hollywood and its Walk of Fame were founded on fan obsession with anything celebrity -- even if it is just a slab of sidewalk encrusted with a Spam-colored star.

The idea came to Harry Sugarman, businessman and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce member, in the mid-1950s, at a time when the advent of television was casting a pall on the glitz of movie making, the bread and butter of Hollywood.

With $1.25 million collected from Hollywood Boulevard property owners and a lot of ripping and repairing of sidewalks, the strip for stars was born.

The first stars were awarded in 1958 and honored eight #i celebrities, including Joanne Woodward and Burt Lancaster.

These days, the chamber estimates 9.1 million people visit the 2.5-mile Walk of Fame annually, dropping an unknown sum of tourist dollars at businesses along the way.

With the addition of 158 more stars -- 148 of them blank -- along a new extension of the walk in 1993, there's enough terrazzo to accommodate the nouveau famous beyond the year 2007. When they run out of room, the chamber probably will extend the walk again.

"People are really into this stuff," said Johnny Grant, honorary mayor of Hollywood and chairman of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee.

What's the appeal?

"I have no idea," Mr. Grant said. "Maybe they live vicariously through somebody else. These folks will really tune in on somebody, and they will spend money like you've never seen."

Pick your own

Anyone can nominate an entertainer -- be it a person, group, animal or fictional character -- for a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

To obtain an official Walk of Fame nomination application, send a legal-size, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Walk of Fame Committee, care of Hollywood Historic Trust, 7018 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. 90028. Nomination deadline for 1997 recipients is May 31, 1996.

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