Some of the most popular prints today are those of Michael Jackson (made posthumously last year when his children pressed his sequined glove and dancing shoes into the concrete) and the casts of the Twilight and Harry Potter movies (the latter also made impressions of their wands). On an ordinary day, the plaza is jammed with crowds of tourists posing with a hand or a foot in a favorite celebritys prints.
Here and elsewhere along the boulevard, freelance actors dressed as movie characters Superman, Cinderella, Darth Vader, Spider-Man, Jack Sparrow, Catwoman are available for photos. These characters arent officially sanctioned, and sometimes fight over territory with other street performers. Visitors have complained about aggressive panhandling by the characters. Although they are not supposed to solicit tips, some drop not-so-subtle hints. A Michael Jackson imitator walks through the forecourt, his gloved hand holding a fistful of dollar bills above his hat. Minnie Mouse leans close to a fan and rubs her fingers together in the universal gesture for money.
Amateur entertainers all along the boulevard are trying to make money. Two young men are quasi-boxing on the sidewalk as people watch; then one of them cries, Tips in the bucket people, please, put your tips in the bucket. A man thrusts a CD at me, says its reggae and he wants me to have it. Then he adds, Can you give something for this? How about $5? Catwoman whispers to passersby, Care to join me for a photo?
Tourists squat and place a hand on a favorite entertainers star, most of which have been in place for more than half a century.
The Walk of Fame was created in 1960-61, with 1,558 stars along Hollywood Boulevard between Gower and La Brea and along a short stretch of Vine Street. Since then, almost 1,000 more stars have been added.
Getting ones name on a star is not a gift though entertainers must be nominated, and the sponsor pays $30,000 for the star. Several hundred people are nominated in a typical year; 15 to 25 will get them.
The ceremonies are free and open to the public, but unless the honoree chooses to mingle with the crowd, dont expect to get close to him or her. In August, I went to the unveiling of Diesels star on a whim and barely caught a glimpse of him. But Michelle Rodriguez, one of his Fast and Furious co-stars, took part in the ceremony and worked the crowd afterwards, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Valentino was one of the 1,558 entertainers whose star was part of the original Walk of Fame. He had been dead 34 years when it was installed.
Just months before Valentino died, Paramount moved from Hollywood and Vine to its present location about a mile away on Melrose Avenue. The imposing gates of the new Paramount grounds featured in Sunset Boulevard had an extra filigree of iron added to the top after some of Valentinos fans tried to climb over them. He is rumored to haunt a former apartment building that was converted to Paramount office space and is now called the Valentino Building, but he never lived in the apartment, and its not even clear that he ever set foot inside the new Paramount gates.
Directors like Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith and Alfred Hitchcock once made movies here. Their stars included Mae West, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie. Since Valentino was one of the studios early stars, I signed up for the two-hour tour of Hollywoods last major studio.