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Celebrity Culture and the American Dream

by Karen Sternheimer

Celebrity status is fleeting. Nowhere is that more clear than on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. Household names can become where-are-they-now trivia questions in a matter of months.

On a recent visit, I noticed stars of many performers who were once perhaps household names during Hollywood’s Golden Age that are now mostly unknown.

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Getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard isn’t cheap. A 2003 report notes that each star cost $15,000 (paid by the star or a sponsor), with $5,000 of that devoted to cleaning and upkeep.

The price of fame has apparently gone up, it now costs $30,000, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Not just anyone can have a star, though. The article mentions that the Walk of Fame currently excludes reality stars (but “television personalities” can have stars….)

A star’s upkeep doesn’t last forever. Some of the stars are in a state of remarkable disrepair. As you can see below, Spanky McFarland’s name (a child star from Our Gang), is all but obliterated by dirt.

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Actress Ella Raines’ star is also dirty and hard to read.

Perhaps a metaphor for celebrity itself, the stars on Hollywood Boulevard are physical manifestations of fame itself. People who were once considered highly important can be all but forgotten by fans, despite the “eternal” star on the walk of fame.

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The Walk of Fame also has blank stars for names yet to be known. Stars occasionally get vandalized, like the one below. And even the blank ones are already cracked and pockmarked by gum and dirt.

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While having a star on Hollywood Boulevard remains a marker of celebrity status, it also reminds us that even the famous can be forgotten.

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