Elvis' star hasn't set it needs work Deterioration: The King's bronze star in Hollywood's Walk of Fame is looking rather shabby. Hollywood boosters are all shook up.

December 15, 1996|By David Bloom | David Bloom,LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

Elvis Presley hasn't weathered well.

Millions of visitors' feet and years of subway construction have left the King's bronze commemorative star and those reserved for the hundreds of other music, television, film and radio celebrities along Hollywood's Walk of Fame in battered, sometimes shattered condition.

Some community activists say they're all shook up over neglectful city, transit and Hollywood officials who have consigned the singer's star -- the most visited of them all -- to the Heartbreak Hotel.

"It's disintegrating. It's a mess," said Chris Shabel, a member of the Hollywood Project Area Committee. "This is a great attraction, and they don't take care of it."

In fact, Presley's star looks as though it should be returned to sender. It tilts up on one end because of settling. The terrazzo surrounding the star is badly cracked and gouged, and the metal framing around the star is missing.

"It's cracking to pieces. It's looking pretty bad," said Jerry Schneiderman, whose building's basement at 6777 Hollywood Blvd., just east of Highland Avenue, lies under part of the Presley star.

Contributing to the sorry state of Presley's star, Schneiderman says, is settling caused by construction for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Hollywood-Highland subway station.

The MTA plans eventually to replace or repair any stars damaged when construction is finished, but one agency spokesman disagrees that subway work has damaged the King's star.

"Some people in Hollywood say the crack happened when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson," said MTA senior public affairs officer Stephen Sawyer.

Fans seeking mementos from their visit to the star haven't helped. Some have chipped away at a hole in the terrazzo. Years of footsteps also have contributed wear and tear, officials said.

Hollywood Chamber of Commerce officials say the problem is bigger than just Presley's star, which was installed sometime between 1958 and 1960, with about 1,700 others added when the Walk of Fame was first created.

The Walk of Fame, created with an initial $1.25 million tax infusion from Hollywood merchants, draws about 9 million visitors a year.

And while chamber officials say they don't want to be cruel to Presley or other stars along the Walk of Fame, they have only a small amount of money to repair the tourist attractions.

After inquiries this week from the Los Angeles Daily News, chamber chairman Johnny Grant said he has ordered the terrazzo company that installs new stars to fix the Presley star as soon as possible. "It's the No. 1 attraction in Hollywood, and we want to keep it that way," said Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood, who also is chairman of the Hollywood Historic Trust, which tries to preserve notable structures and attractions in the area.

Part of the problem is that star maintenance falls in a jurisdictional gray area. The chamber oversees the star application process and owns the copyright on the Walk of Fame, while the city owns the sidewalk the stars are cemented in, Grant said.

Both profit from the walk's continued attraction to tourists, but both have held off major repairs in part because of continuing subway construction work, which has left large stretches of Hollywood sidewalks in bad shape.

Two years ago, the transit agency tried to avoid some problems by removing and storing more than 200 stars, including those of Charlie Chaplin, Milton Berle, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ingrid Bergman, said chamber publicity director Ana Martinez-Holler.

The agency plans to replace those stars and repair any others damaged by its work when construction is done, said Sawyer. But that could take as long as three more years.

"We don't want to step in and do it while construction is still going on," Sawyer said.

In the meantime, fixing the sidewalks "really is the city's responsibility," Grant said. "But it doesn't look like they're going to do it," he said.

City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the district, did not return calls.

Grant said the chamber raises a little money for that work every time it unveils a new star, such as the recent one for actor Jack Nicholson, but most of the $7,500 sponsorship fee goes for the installation and unveiling ceremony.

"We estimate it would cost $450,000 to bring all the stars up to the level we would like," said Grant. "If we could raise another $1 million, we could do maintenance off the interest. We would like to add a little more luster to the Walk of Fame."

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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