Stars Everywhere

On Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame runs past Grauman’s Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, the Kodak Theater (where the Academy Awards cermonies are held each year), the El Capitan Theater (which opened with the premiere of Citizen Kane and is where all the big Disney films premiere today), a giant Tower Records storeVirgin Megastore, and an upscale mall, plus dozens of souvenir shops and kiosks hawking Hollywood tours. If the weather is reasonably clear, the fabled Hollywood sign is visible up in the hills.

Stars on the Walk of Fame are arranged in no particular order, although some are in particular spots. For example, Roger Moore, who played James Bond in the movies, has a star at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard. A couple of visiting Midwesterners are amused by some of the juxtapositions: for example, the star for Sean Puffy Combs (one of the newer ones) is next to the star for Harriet Nelson, TV star of the 50s, wife of Ozzie, mother of Ricky. If Harriet Nelson is largely forgotten today, she’s not the only one. Receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame confers only a particular kind of immortality and not the real thing. For every star a visitor knows, there will be two or three requiring a moment to place, and some that most people couldn’t place at all. For what it’s worth, the next star, to be awarded in August, will go to country stars Brooks and Dunn; the first star, awarded in 1960, went to actress Joanne Woodward.

The Walk of Fame is actually more than 3 1/2 miles long, running not only on Hollywood Boulevard, but also on Vine Street. The corner of Hollywood and Vine is another famous Los Angeles spot, the location of the Capitol Records building. It’s considered to be one of the most architecturally unique buildings in Los Angeles, and is certainly ripe for the museum/restoration treatment received by the headquarters of legendary labels Motown and Stax. Capitol is no longer headquartered there, although the label’s famous recording studios remain. On the day when the Midwesterners are there, the label’s name on its famous facade is not visible, replaced by a banner promoting the new Coldplay album.

As the Midwesterners stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, they are quick to notice that some of the stars honor radio people in addition to stars of the movies, television, music, and theater. The world being what it is, the radio stars tend to come from the pre-television era. Take for instance the Greek dialect comedian Parkyakarkus. If he’s remembered at all, it’s probably for dropping dead in the middle of a 1958 Friars Club roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, or possibly as the father of comedians Albert Brooks and Bob “Super Dave Osborne” Einstein, but not for his years on Eddie Cantor’s radio show. (For that matter, who remembers Eddie Cantor?) Some radio people of more enduring stardom and/or more recent vintage have received stars, including Alan Freed, Casey Kasem, Edward R. Murrow, Gary Owens, Rick Dees, and Vin Scully. There’s a distinct bias in favor of longtime L.A. jocks, although some of them hosted nationally syndicated shows: Charlie Tuna, the Real Don Steele, Lohman & Barkley, Mark & Brian, and Robert W. Morgan. The most recent addition is Ryan Seacrest, but he’s far more famous as a TV host than for his gigs hosting American Top 40 and an L.A. morning show. It’s a pretty good bet that his might be the last radio star ever awarded. (Or maybe not; see comment below.)

Tuning the radio dial in a new city isn’t very interesting anymore given the sameness of formats from coast to coast, but even so, the L.A. radio dial seems remarkably dull. West-coast progressive rock pioneer KLOS is still playing classic rock, but it’s an especially risk-averse version of the format. When “Once Bitten Twice Shy” by Great White is the most adventuresome record a listener hears over several hours, the station can be said to have cornered the market on blandness. KLOS has been home to Mark & Brian for over 20 years, and its afternoon guy, Uncle Joe Benson, is probably the most famous graduate of the broadcasting program where the Midwesterners got their degrees, although he wasn’t on the air the day they were there.

Coming tomorrow: Further adventures bright as the sun on that California coast.

“Celluloid Heroes”/The Kinks (buy it, on a comprehensive CD/DVD collection of the Kinks’ post-60s work, here)

2 thoughts on “Stars Everywhere

  1. i couldn’t be a bigger fan of your blog….thank you for all you do, first of all. you and i have so much in common.

    a few minor corrections on today’s post. it is a virgin megastore in the hollywood/highland complex – tower records went belly up a couple years ago.

    and believe it or not, radio stars on the walk of fame are scheduled already for bill handel (mornings on kfi, the big l.a. talk station) and harry shearer (his syndicated radio show).

    keep up the great work. long live the 70s rock and pop and soul.

  2. Pingback: Double the Stars | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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