How to earn a star on the Walk of Fame.

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Nov. 18 2003 5:52 PM

Who Gave Britney a Hollywood Star?

How celebrities get their names on the Walk of Fame.

Another name on the sidewalk
Another name on the sidewalk

Monday a star featuring Britney Spears' name was unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The pop diva thus became the 2,242th entertainer to be so honored. What does it take to get a celebrity's name added to the walk?

Step one is for a sponsor to fill out the required application and mail it to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which runs the Walk of Fame. This task is usually left to the artist's publicity team, though fans are welcome to submit nominations, too—provided they have the written consent of their idols' representatives, that is. The candidate must be accomplished in the field of film, television, radio, theater, or recording, so painters and novelists are generally out luck. (One notable exception is best-selling author Sidney Sheldon, who earned a star for screenplays like The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer before turning to novels.)

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Every June, a five-person committee chaired by Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood, meets to consider the approximately 200 applications that roll in annually. The committee selects around 20 honorees from the batch, including one posthumous recipient per year. The applicants' sponsors must then pony up $15,000 each to pay for the unveiling ceremony—no cash, no star, regardless of the person's artistic achievements. The fee is usually picked up by the celebrity's studio or record label, though fan clubs sometimes pass the hat to raise enough money. Aficionados of 1980s rocker Rick Springfield, for example, have collected $19,607.56 to pay for their hero's enshrinement on the walk. (The committee, alas, has yet to grant the "Jessie's Girl" singer a star.)

The ceremonies are often timed to coincide with a publicity campaign. It was no accident that Spears' star was added the day before the release of her new album, In the Zone. And in January, Nicole Kidman's star was unveiled a few days before the nationwide release of The Hours, as part of Miramax's successful campaign to snag her a Best Actress Oscar.

Publicists lobby to have their clients' stars placed near the most desirable tourist attractions along the walk, as well as close to those of the most recognizable names. There's more cachet in being a few stars down from, say, Clark Gable than winding up adjacent to ex-Entertainment Tonight host Leeza Gibbons.

Visitors are often puzzled to discover that such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola and Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick lack stars, while less celebrated entertainers like Fritz Kreisler and Ferlin Husky made the cut. It all comes down to the willingness of a sponsor to go through the process and shell out the necessary $15,000. Perhaps Coppola feels that The Godfather and Apocalypse Now are legacy enough.

Bonus Explainer: In keeping with its growing reputation as the Hollywood of the North, Toronto now has its own Walk of Fame. There's no entrance fee, but honorees must be Canadian natives or have spent their formative or creative years in the country. This year's inductees include supermodel Linda Evangelista, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, and equestrian great Jim Elder.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for Gizmodo. His first book, Now the Hell Will Start, is out now.

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