The Truth About The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

When Tracy Morgan was bestowed with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018, he joked about what it meant to him. "When I was a poor kid growing up in the projects in Brooklyn I never dreamed of having a star on the Walk of Fame, but now I'm here, I have to tell you I feel pretty comfortable," Morgan said, per ABC 7.

Ana Martinez, the producer for the Walk of Fame ceremonies, spoke about the happy day. "Funny man Tracy Morgan surely had all the fans on the Boulevard laughing at his fun comments the day of his star ceremony," she began. "A happy day for all as he was there in good spirits after his life altering situation a few years back," she added, referring to a near-death car accident he lived through in 2014. "We are proud to add this popular actor on our historic Walk of Fame," she said.

According to the official website, the idea for the Walk of Fame began in the 1950s, allegedly credited to business man E. M. Stuart who wanted to spruce up the deteriorating historic district. He hoped that the walk would help to "maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world." The once-iconic intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street had become undesirable, and the city of Los Angeles was hoping that the walk would function as a tourist attraction after World War II, according to the Los Angeles Times. Since then, it's become a major scene in LA, with over 2,700 stars and some wild stories.

What are the categories?

When the Hollywood Walk of Fame was first created, there were four categories: motion pictures, television, recording, and radio, according to the website's history. But since then, the categories have expanded to include live performances, sports entertainment, and special categories. The symbol for movies is the film camera, for TV it's the broadcast receiver, like a pair of antennas, for music it's a phonograph record, for radio it's a microphone, and the performances category uses the masks of comedy and tragedy.  

The stars are made of brass and terrazzo, a pink composite material made of different marble chips, according to Vogue, usually marble, quartz, granite, and glass poured together with a binder. In addition to the 2,700+ stars that have been bestowed, there are also around 500 blank stars on the walk, left for upcoming honorees, according to the Los Angeles Times. With so many stars and so much space needed to accommodate them, it only makes sense that the walk spans over 2.4 miles so tourists can get their fill of the numerous categories.

Gene Autry, who was nicknamed the "Singing Cowboy," is the only person to have all five stars after he made a name for himself as an actor and a performer. Comedian and singer Bob Hope has four stars for TV, radio, film, and live performances. What does Hope think of these categories? When he hosted the Oscars in 1953, he said: "Television. That's where movies go when they die" (via Los Angeles Times).

How the Walk of Fame keeps growing

The Hollywood Walk of Fame continues to grow and fans can expect a monthly addition of two stars for any of the following: movies, TV, radio, recording, live performance, and sports entertainment. According to the official website, stars must be nominated and the nomination package includes a photo of the star, a brief biography, their qualifications, how they contribute to the community, and a letter of agreement from their management team. Nominations can come from fans, but management has to ultimately okay it.

The nominations have to be approved by the Walk of Fame Committee, which looks at the star's professional achievements. They also expect the star to have made an impact within their category for more than five years and they want a guarantee that the star will show up for the ceremony.

In 2022, the list of winners is impressive. For movies, Francis Ford Coppola won as well as Macaulay Culkin, Willem Dafoe, and Salma Hayek. Jason Momoa made the cut, among others, and Carrie Fisher is receiving a posthumous star. For TV, Ricky Gervais, Peter Krause, Bob Odenkirk, and Holly Robinson-Peete won, among others. For recordings, Avril Lavigne won as did Martha Reeves, and the Black Eyed Peas. DJ Khaled made the list and so did George E. Clinton Jr. and Ashanti Douglas. Rapper Ermias "Nipsey Hussle" Asghedom is being honored posthumously. For live performance, Patti LuPone, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., and Angelica Vale are all being honored and in radio, British radio personality Richard Blade won. Plus, Michael Strahan won for sports entertainment.

How much does it cost to get a star?

It's not cheap to get one of the coveted pink and brass stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Back in 2006, the East Bay Times reported that a star cost $15,000 which was often covered by a studio or the star's sponsors. However, the price has skyrocketed in recent years. While the fee can vary, it now costs closer to $55,000 to get a star. The money goes towards the cost of the star itself, plus repair and upkeep of the entire walk. It also covers the costs of the ceremony, which is open to the public, but requires security and barricades. The money, as Variety notes, is gifted to the Hollywood Historic Trust, who is responsible for preserving the popular tourist spot.

Money alone, however, is not enough to land someone a star. "You cannot just buy a star. People don't understand that there's a process. They feel like if they have money, it can be bought, and that's not the way it works," media contact Ana Martinez told Variety.

For celebrities who have not been honored on the iconic walkway, Martinez stressed that the process is laborious and they can only give so many stars per year. "I wish I could just give everyone a star, but it doesn't work like that," she added. "People think we're ignoring these people [who are publicly nominated,] but it's just difficult. There's just too much competition." So it's no easy feat to get one's name in brass.

The unusual stars

While the Hollywood Walk of Fame covers the typical areas of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, there are some outliers when it comes to honorees. One of the more curious commemorations came in 2007, when the Victoria's Secret Angels were honored with a star, per the Los Angeles Times. While some felt that the observance was a strange one, it also brought huge crowds to the walk because 27 Angles showed up to receive the tribune, per Reuters.

Supermodel Heidi Klum addressed the crowd. "I want to say thank you so much for all the Angels because this is a huge deal to us, to have a star here in Hollywood where all the stars have a star — singers, actors," she said and later added, "Now for us to have a star here, right in front of the Kodak Theater is huge for us, it is a huge honor."

The Los Angeles Times was honored with a star in 2010. The Walk of Fame also honored the Apollo landing in 1993 with four stars except, fittingly, they are circular in shape to represent the moon, the Los Angeles Times notes. The circles included the names of Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins.

Absolut Vodka became a "friend" of the Walk of Fame in 2008 after the brand purchased a square in the style of a star. It was set back from the iconic stars but certainly showed that corporate marketing can get you pretty much anything.

Why Muhammad Ali's star is different

Boxing icon Muhammad Ali was honored with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 2002 for live performance, considering his athletic ability, and so his star featured the comedy and drama masks, according to ABC News. But Ali's star boasts the one exception on the Walk of Fame: his star was placed on the wall of the Dolby Theater.

Even the ceremony was unique. Ali's star was propped up on an easel instead of being presented to the star on the ground, USA Today notes. Ali "did not want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on," the outlet reports, so accommodations were made so that his star could be visited without being walked on.

Ali converted to Islam in 1964, changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad after seeing a comic of a slave owner beating his slave and instructing him to pray to Jesus, The Washington Post notes. The impression left on Ali was that Christianity was the tool of the oppressor. "I liked that cartoon," Ali wrote in a letter. "It did something to me. And it made sense." When Ali converted, he made a public declaration of his faith. "I believe in Allah and in peace," he began. "I don't try to move into white neighborhoods. I don't want to marry a white woman. I was baptized when I was 12, but I didn't know what I was doing ... I'm free to be what I want." The placement of his star was deeply symbolic for his faith.

Daniel Craig wanted to get walked all over

Daniel Craig joined the ranks of iconic James Bond actors in October 2021 when he was honored with a star, fittingly in front of 7007 on Hollywood Boulevard, according to the BBC. Craig's star was placed near Sir Roger Moore, who played Bond in seven different films, taking the reins after Sean Connery, per EW. In fact, Moore holds the record among Bond actors for the most film credits and was followed by Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan, who took over the role of 007 until it finally landed with Craig.

But Craig got worn out playing the spy, a role that demands physical rigor and long stretches of time to film. "I've always tried to be honest about my feelings," Craig said, per USA Today. "When I started doing Bond (in 2006's 'Casino Royale'), I threw myself into it and was as physical as I possibly could be. I felt like that was really important – that's who I wanted my Bond to be." But Craig said that by "Spectre," he was physically exhausted and didn't like being away from his family for a year.

While Craig was done with Bond, he was charmed by being honored with a star on the Walk of Fame. "I never thought I would hear myself say this, but it's an absolute honor to be walked all over in Hollywood," he said at the ceremony, which marked him as the 2,704th star on the iconic walk.

Famous Walk of Fame slip-ups

Even the Hollywood Walk of Fame makes mistakes. When "Seinfeld's" Julia Louis-Dreyfus was honored with her star, the craftsmen misspelled her name as "Luis Dreyfus," missing the "o" and the hyphen. The slip-up was actually spotted by a CNN correspondent who saw the star before the ceremony and called Ana Martinez, the producer of the ceremonies, who jumped to fix it before the unveiling. They did manage to correct the spelling, but the terrazzo was a different color than the original pink.

Louis-Dreyfus was apparently really entertained by the mistake. "The misspelling was so perfectly apt, a great metaphor for show business," she said, according to AOL. "Right when you think you've made it, you get knocked down." In fact, Martinez later reported that Louis-Dreyfus asked to keep the mistake intact, but it had already been repaired by the time the ceremony began.

In 1993, actor Dick Van Dyke's star was also botched, with his last name appearing as: "Vandyke." Per Mental Floss, German opera singer Lotte Lehmann's name was also misspelled, but unlike the others, it was left uncorrected and still reads as "Lottie." Another unfixed spelling error was Merian C. Cooper's star. The screenwriter and director was most famous for producing the 1933 hit "King Kong," and he was honored with a star on February 8, 1960. The only problem was his name was spelled "Meriam" and never got fixed.

Controversy on the Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame isn't without its contentious moments. Comedic actor Charlie Chaplin had a heck of a time getting a star. He was eligible, thanks to his global fame in the 1950s, but because of his leftist politics and the fact that he was born in Britain, he was blacklisted by the committee. As the Los Angeles Times points out, Chaplain didn't address potential communist sympathies to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In 1952, after leaving on a trip, Chaplain was denied entry into the United States until 1972. He was awarded his long-overdue star in 1972.

When Donald Trump was honored with a star on January 16, 2007, he was simply a New York real estate mogul famous for his reality TV show "The Apprentice." The emblem on his star was the TV antennae for his work on starring in and producing his reality show. He was joined by wife Melania Trump, his sons Barron and Donald Trump Jr., according to Politico.

Years later, when Trump became president, his star was targeted as a controversial spot on the Walk of Fame and many petitioned to have it removed. However, no matter what the celebrity does, the stars are permanent fixtures. Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said, "We have never removed a star." Trump's controversial star is neighbors with another contentious star, belonging to actor Kevin Spacey, who was disgraced following sexual abuse allegations.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Mourning and grieving on the Walk of Fame

For fans who want to mourn a star, the Hollywood Walk of Fame offers a site for the grieving to gather. When Hollywood icon Betty White died at age 99 in December 2021, fans flocked to her star to place flowers and stuffed animals, Fox 11 reports. One fan left a card that read: "Farewell, Betty. A grand life lived."

The same thing happened in 2001, when George Harrison of the Beatles died, per Lodi News-Sentinel. Fans gathered around his star on the Walk of Fame to leave flowers and candles. One woman reported that she left "a note of blessing" on his star for Harrison's family. "I just wanted to say thank you," she explained. "He's going to be greatly missed."

When actor and comedian Robin Williams died in 2014, people flocked to his star and left flowers and candles. In fact, the outpouring was so intense that his star was sectioned off with guard rails, the Los Angeles Daily News reported, since people were eager to commemorate the beloved comedian. A woman who had once been Williams' neighbor stopped at his star to leave flowers and said, "It's just so sad when depression takes someone like that," adding that he was "really quiet and private" (via Los Angeles Times). So the iconic strip also functions as a meeting place for those who need to grieve stars that meant something to them.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Celebs who refused a star

While this might come as a surprise, not every celebrity wants a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Musician and legend Prince, who died in April 2016, was offered a star twice but refused both times. The producer of ceremonies for the Walk of Fame, Ana Martinez, told The Wrap why the "Purple Rain" star turned down the honor. "He was on my wish list," she said. "But he felt that it wasn't the right time." Though Prince could be honored with a star posthumously. When Prince died, some fans wrote his name by hand on one of the blank stars in order to commemorate him, Today notes.

Bruce Springsteen broke one of the big rules of a nomination for the Walk of Fame: he didn't show up to his ceremony. Because of this, the committee had to change one of their policies and now a celebrity can't actually get a star unless they show up for the big day. "We call it the 'Springsteen policy,'" Martinez told Today. Denzel Washington and George Clooney have also been nominated but never committed to a specific date for the ceremony. The same goes for Al Pacino.

Others, like Julia Roberts and Clint Eastwood, have expressed no interest in getting a star. Speaking of Eastwood, Martinez said, "There's one spot left in front of the Chinese Theater if he wants it." Other celebrities, like Brad Pitt, Beyonce, Angelina Jolie, and Christopher Walken have shockingly never even been nominated.

Vandalized and stolen stars

The Hollywood Walk of Fame has also become a spot for vandalism and several stars have been destroyed or damaged for various reasons. In 2005, the star honoring Hollywood icon and actor Gregory Peck was stolen, The Guardian reported. Someone went in with a cement saw and ran off with the whole thing.

Donald Trump's star became a frequent target for vandalism and negative attention during his presidency. One artist built a small wall around his star, a later publication by The Guardian notes, in protest of Trump's plan to build a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States. Another person took a pickaxe to Trump's star and was subsequently arrested. Former President Ronald Reagan's star also attracted negative attention. In David Bowie's music video for "Day-In Day-Out," director Julien Temple featured a shot of someone peeing on Reagan's star. He had to cut it before MTV would air the music video.

Bill Cosby's star was also the subject of attention in 2014, with people writing "rapist" on the terrazzo in reaction to his sexual assault convictions. Despite these dark histories of certain celebrities, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce refuses to ever remove a star once it has been placed on the walk. "Once a star has been added to the Walk," they said, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame." So despite sordid pasts, the stars, at least the terrazzo ones, have staying power.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).