Friday Guest Mock: Hollywood Walk of Fame is Paid PR

2011 June 10
by mockers

Okay, this one comes from Dan Bloom in Taiwan.  This is not your traditional guest mock by any means – but I really appreciated it as unintentionally innovative comedy…and I laughed my ass off.  I think Dan has created a whole new genre of mocking: “The mockable investigative report.”  We could tackle things that everyone already knows is fake but we go along with anyway – like professional wrestling, the Easter Bunny and John Travolta’s hair. I hope you can see the genius that I saw in it.  Here’s Dan:


For over 50 years, the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been handing out stars to stars, from Joanne Woodward in 1960 — she was the first so-called (sic) :honoree” — to Charlie Chaplin and Dennis Hopper and Bill Maher and Penelope Cruz. It’s a time-honored tradition, makes for great photo opps, fits nicely into marketing campaigns and PR efforts, and it’s fun. Who doesn’t love to read a good news story, with accompanying photo, about the lastest “winner” of a Hollywood Walk of Fame star? It’s as American as apple pie now.

But one enterprising entertainment reporter in Los Angeles, Barbara Munker, working for the German News Agency (dpa) overseas but based in California, has had the guts to tell the truth about the Walk of Fame stars, and her story was published overseas last year. But not one newwspaper in North America dared run her article. Go figure. What Munker did in her 1000-word story was tell the truth — that each stars on the Walk of Fame is a paid publicity gimmick in which the studios work hand in hand with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to create another layer of the Hollywood myth. And this myth this time?

That the stars who get a star on the Walk of Fame were ”awarded” the honor for their work in films, and they are “honorees” merely picking up the awards that handed out every two weeks for a total of 24 to 30 such PR events each year. Not one newspaper in North America has ever printed the backstory to the Walk of Fame, even though they all have had access to Munker’s myth-busting article for over a year now. Why the silence? I once asked Roger Ebert — American’s favorite film critic and mine, too — and he told me that everyone knows the Walk of Fame stars are paid publicity gimmicks and it’s no big deal. Ebert told me a more important media wake-up call would be about the annual multi-million dollar ad campaigns by studios to win Oscar awards. That needs to be stopped, he said.

”The Walk of Fame thing? Who cares?” he told me.

[DISCLOSURE: I just learned this week, in the course of writing this article, that my Facebook pal Roger Ebert, above, was, according to the Walk of Fame website, “inducted to the Walk of Fame on June 23, 2005.” Roger, who paid for your star? Fess up! And why did you go along with the charade, if charade it is? Maybe it’s not a charade. If so, enlighten me.]

Well, Barbara Munker cared enough to write her English-language article for the Deutsche Press-Agentur (dpa) headlined “Hollywood Walk of Fame celebrates 50 years.” It was published in newspapers worldwide, except in North America, in May 9, 2010. From Russell Crowe to James Cameron, the “honors” keep coming and coming. Even producers can get a star now. One of these days you will that some savvy hollywood PR maven has been so ”honored” on the star-studded sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard.

Yes, getting a star is an honor of sorts, let’s be clear, newspaper and online news sites editors: each star is bought and paid for by the studios or the stars themselves, and ordered up 12 months in advance to gently and gingerly co-incide with the release of a new movie or retrospective. And paid for to the tune of $30,000 each. Does the general public in America know this? They do not know this. The movie-going public has been led to believe by cooperating news agencies that work hand in hand with the Hollywood studios and PR mavens that each new star is an award which the awardee was awarded by a committee of judges who awards such the bi-monthly –and soon to be weekly? — awards. But the the awards are not awards, and the public needs to know this. Or maybe the public doesn’t need to know this. The less they know the better, some feel. I feel it’s good to know the truth. The truth is, as Munker reported last year, a bit cloudier.

“It all began 50 years ago with the award of the first star on the famous street. For five decades the names of Hollywood’s most prominent people have been eternalized in the star-studded sidewalk. [In 2009] the honor went to James Cameron, director of the blockbusters ‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’. His ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, who in 2010 became the first woman to win the best director Oscar award, hasn’t yet been honored. All she has to do is call, said Ana Martinez of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. For more than 20 years Martinez, whose nickname is Stargirl, has been in charge of arranging the star award ceremonies.”

The dpa story goes on: “A call alone, of course, is not all it takes, Martinez said. Every year in June a five-member committee meets to select about two dozen recipients out of a pool of about 300 recommendations. The actors, actresses and other prominent Hollywood personalities who are selected receive their star in the following year. Anyone can nominate his or her favorite candidate, said Martinez. Usually, fans or film studios do the nominating. What’s required is that the person selected agrees and that US$25,000 is paid to the chamber. [The fee is now $30,000.] Film studios hope the appearance of their stars at a Walk of Fame ceremony coincides with the release of a film they are in. Then the fee is only a drop in the film’s advertising bucket.”

The Walk of Fame was undergoing a $4-million refurbishment in 2010 to remove footprints and scuffs, Munker reported, adding that there’s more to come: “More than 300 stars are still blank, but they will get an owner in the coming years.”

When I recently asked a well-read, middle-aged woman in Seattle if she was aware that the Walk of Fame “awards” were paid publicity gimmicks coinciding with new film releases, she replied: “No, I didn’t know that. I never heard of that before. I hesitate to believe you, as I remember the “good old days” — when stars really were stars — and I shudder to think that all my “heroes” and “heroines” were paying upfront money to get ”noticed” on the Walk of Fame. But it makes sense that this has “morphed” into a marketing operation. Still, as a lifelong movie fan, I find it hard to believe, that these events are PR gimmicks and paid for by the studios. I just don’t want to believe it. I guess I’m just an eternal Polyanna, and I (sic) wnt to believe that Hollywood wouldn’t pull the wool over our eyes this way.”

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is not the only game in town now. It has spawned copycats. Nashville copied the idea six years ago and now runs the Music City Walk of Fame there for country music stars. They also get a star, and the accomodating news media report the “awards” in the same way it reports the Hollywood Walk of Fame “awards” — along with sales-magnet wire service photos that go worldwide on the very day the “award” ceremony is held.

Here’s the Nashville lowdown: “The cost of a Walk of Fame ceremony is $7,500. If selected, the fee is due eight weeks prior to the induction ceremony. The money will be used to pay for the creation and installation of the star, as well as maintenance of the Walk of Fame and as a contribution to the Music City charitable foundation. It is understood that the cost of installing a star in the Music City Walk of Fame, upon approval, is $7,500. A $50 processing fee must accompany the nomination form.”

So what’s next? A Rock and Roll Walk of Fame with sidewalk stars paid for by music labels? A Musuem of Modern Art Walk of Fame “honoring” famous artists with stars outside the building in Manhattan? And a Sports Walk of Fame on some sidewalk somewhere “honoring” sportsmen and sportswomen with stars paid for by their endorsement sponsors or teams? It could get out of hand.

I want to make it clear here that I love movies, and I love Hollywood and I love the Walk of Fame there. What I am pointing out here is how the news media mis-reports and disinforms the public by reporting and photographing (sic) Walki of Fame ceremonies as if they were real honors and awards, when in fact, they are all arranged way in advance as part of future marketing campaigns and that the stars themselves ”pretend’ that are being given an ”award” by the Walk of Fame committee of judges when in fact,they know very well that the entire ”event” — and photo opp — is merely a time-honored publicity gimmick that serves a purpose and is fun to boot!

So my beef here is not with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce or the studios, but with the American news media which refuses to print the truth about the sidewalk stars. When I asked a top editor at the New York Times, who is an associate editor for standards [in reporting], about this issue, he replied: “This issue does not come up very often at the Times. When it does, I think our readers understand that it’s a publicity stunt.”

When I asked the same question to a top editor at the Associated Press, he told me: ”You’ve made an interesting point about how the media reports the Walk of Fame ceremonies. If your facts are correct, you’re exactly right that we should add that context [that the star ceremony is a publicity stunt]. I’ll pass along to the AP’s entertainment editor.”

When I asked a well-educated psychiatrist working in Chicago if he was aware that the Walk of Fame stars are paid publicity stunts, he said: “No, i didn’t know (sic) thjs, but I am not surprised and it is certainly believable. The (sic) nly surprise to me is that they don’t pay more than $30,000!”

Ever the analytical shrink, he added: “Here we probably have to distinguish between (sic) te ethical and moral issues. Ethical would be the professional standards in the film industry, which probably aren’t too high, so it may be ethical for their profession. But for the ethics of journalists, you are right, news outlets should be upfront with readers as that German news agency was. Should the news media have looked into this long ago? Morals would be our own personal beliefs, and if the movie stars can live with that and sleep well, that is up to them. So, to me, the ethical challenge here is for American reporters and journalists: are they living up to their ethical standards? Do the ethical standards need to be raised for Hollywood and can journalists help get that done?”

When I asked a veteran book publisher in Manhattan if he was aware that the Walk of Fame stars were paid for in advance and part of savvy movie marketing campaigns, he said he knew (sic)., sure. Everyone knows this, he told, adding: “It’s become a part of the American social psyche, so it’s accepted and no one cares.  If you want to think about something annoying, think about this: In America, when someone wins an election for a political position, they are given a budget and can hire anyone they want to work for them. The higher the position, the more positions they are required to fill. They can hire family, friends, and have probably had pets on their payrolls — totally unqualified people (and animals) who change everytime a politician leaves office or is voted out. Billions of dollars exist to fund this unmonitored system of American politics. If something should piss you off, this should be it — not stars on a sidewalk in Los Angeles that people step on each and every day.”

Let me give Ana Martinez at the Hollywood Walk of Fame the last word. (sic) when I queried her about all this, she politely told me by email: “It is a special honor, and nominees are voted on in an annual meeting. See for more info. Recipients at times do tie in the star dedication to projects they want to promote, and sometimes they are done at a time that is best for their schedule. Career anniveraries and birthdays as well.”

So should the media step up to the plate and report each Walk of Fame ceremony for the paid PR stunt that it is? Or should we just let the media continue fawning over our culture of celebrities, without any footnotes or caveats to readers?

Would love to hear responses, pro and con.

##Dan Bloom, a 1971 graduate of Tufts, is a freelance writer based in Taiwan

If you made it this far and you’d like to contribute a Friday Guest Mock please send it to mockable[at]  If it’s funny and won’t get us sued, we’ll most likely feature it at the site.  And don’t forget to include the address to your blog or website, so we can link back at ya.  Thanks! – metten



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