A new star’s unveiling is a study in the perfectly orchestrated photo op, and the wizard behind the curtain is Ana Martinez, who has produced more than 600 Walk of Fame ceremonies over the last 25 years. Martinez’s official position is vice president of media relations for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, but her duties go far beyond publicity.
Nicknamed “Stargirl,” Martinez produces the brief ritual and helps determine the annual honorees and the location of their stars. Each new star and attendant ceremony requires a $30,000 sponsorship fee that covers event production, the fabricating of the iconic, artisan-made plaque and perpetual maintenance, overseen by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. (In 2005, Gregory Peck’s star was cut out with a saw — but quickly replaced, notes Martinez.)
A Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony is a career highlight. For 52 years, celebs have had their names laid in brass and terrazzo on the city’s sidewalks in front of enthusiastic fans and an ever-growing media corps. The Walk of Fame, with its stars now numbering 2,481, is the district’s unequaled vehicle for civic self-promotion and an internationally recognized brand.
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Even with economic issues, the Walk of Fame ceremonies — roughly two a month — have remained a constant. And so has their popularity with visitors and fans, she adds.
Once an honoree is scheduled (also Martinez’s realm), it’s her job to oversee the choreographed ceremony while dealing with all that closing a section of Hollywood sidewalks entails. Honorees are known to choke up, but it’s the money shot — celeb positioned over the plaque — that everyone wants.
“There’s not a lot of room on the sidewalk, so the staging is very narrow,” explains Martinez, who likes to have 16 or more TV crews present. (Which made an extremely tight fit for the Muppets and their puppeteers, she recalls of Kermit the Frog’s day). “It’s a little crazy for me, but it’s more exciting to have that many media.”
Martinez tries to tie in a WOF star’s placement to the honoree in some way. Country rockers Rascal Flatts, who often entertain the military, earned a spot in front of the Supply Sergeant military surplus store. However, Hollywood’s evolving fortunes have altered some locations. Farrah Fawcett’s star was carefully placed by Martinez in front of a hair salon; it’s now a Scientology building.
Although the stars seem a permanent fixture, an ongoing $4 million renovation project will replace many older, damaged plaques. A smartphone app is in the works, to assist fans in locating each star, while providing biographical information and links.
Martinez relishes her role on the historic boulevard, where fans pay tribute to their fallen stars: Witness the annual tributes at John Lennon’s star or Patrick Swayze’s, where a French fan club memorializes him with a wreath every year.
But there’s one holdout. Martinez keeps open a prime spot in front of the Chinese for Clint Eastwood, who she hopes will one day say yes — rounding out Hollywood’s granite galaxy.