Wednesday 16 January 2019

City of stars - or spoofers?

Walk of Fame in Hollywood
Walk of Fame in Hollywood
Slap-up: Daniel Kaluuya
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Oscar Week in LA is filled with tantalising snapshots of A-list celebrity life.

There are rumours whizzing around about Botox and filler parties, and reports that certain actresses are hooked on a combination of IV vitamin drips and Valium.

Articles listing the monstrous amount of In-N-Out burgers everyone will pretend to eat at after parties are studied meticulously.

We read all this stuff, but in reality the likelihood of bumping into a genuine A-lister during Oscar week is remote. You won't see Sandra Bullock buying wet wipes in Sephora - no matter how hard you look.

And so, on Hollywood Boulevard, tourists opt for the next best thing and crowd around black terrazzo stars.

Of all the must-see sites in Tinseltown, the Walk of Fame seems to typify everything Hollywood stands for.

The promise of having some kind of contact with legendary stars conceals a good deal of inventive marketing.

The Walk of Fame was thought up by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in the late 1950s.

They believed it would "maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world".

I'm not convinced it does encapsulate the glamour and glory of Hollywood's elite.

Sure, some of the stars have prime locations near the Dolby Theatre, but others aren't so lucky. Lyricist Sammy Cahn's star is outside Hustler's sex shop, while Mae West's is in front of a Bed, Bath and Beyond store (because nothing says Old School Hollywood like a homeware store selling toilet-brush holders).

But the chamber was confident the stars would attract fans and celebrity gawkers. And they have been proved right - more than 10 million people visit it each year.

The first eight stars were unveiled in 1958 and included English actor Ronald Colman, Burt Lancaster and Joanne Woodward.

Nowadays, there are more than 2,500 stars and counting. Most of these stars recognise famous individuals, but there are also a few commemorating events or groups.

One was laid in honour of the Apollo Moon landing, while another was dedicated to a chorus of Victoria Secret's Angels.

To qualify for a star a person must be nominated by anyone - a neighbour, agent, lifelong fan, overbearing and meddling auntie - and the $30,000 cost must be covered.

Some of the tour guides hustling on Hollywood Boulevard claim some C-list celebrities have covered the cost themselves.

That could be nothing but hearsay - but, if you can't trust a TMZ Hollywood tour guide, then who can you trust in this world?

It's also a must that the celebrity attend the event. Apparently, the only person who didn't adhere to that rule was Barbra Streisand (of course it was).

There is always a buzz around the Walk of Fame, but in the run-up to this year's Oscars, things got even mere intense as Academy Fever swept through the city. I saw people lying on the ground beside them, and heard them screech when they spotted someone they recognised.

One person had even brought polished lettering so they could spell out their own name on one of the 500 empty stars.

What's so bizarre about the Walk of Fame is that when you consider it rationally, it's just a name printed in brass, on a street corner.

It's not the celebrities' homes, or an area where they live. It's not an autograph. It's just a name. And the knowledge that at some stage the celebrity looked at it.

But weirdly it allows people to feel they have transcended time and travelled to an alternative universe where they can mingle with the ghosts of Hollywood Past, Present and Yet To Come.

"Yeah, I saw Michael Jackson and Buster Keaton and was over at Jennifer Aniston's star earlier today," tourists list off. "Might try and get to Bruce Willis before dinner."

It reminds me of a lecture I attended several years ago with a Hollywood producer who told us the best way to win over investors and audiences was to "show them the sizzle, but not the steak".

A cracked and worn-down star may not seem like much. But Hollywood is exclusive and if you can't get near the beautiful people on the red carpet proselytising about social equality, hunkering down next to a five-pointed star on the street may be as good as it gets.

Hots and nots: The Hollywood zeitgeist for 2018

Hollywood is supposed to inform 99pc of future flash-in-the-pan trends and zeitgeists.

I have spent the week in LA studying both and can tell you what's going to be big news this year.

▲ IN: Merpeople. Credit: Guillermo del Toro.

▲ IN: Loud 'n Proud Feminism. Hollywood stars used to like to describe themselves as "humanists". Not any more. The sisterhood is very on-brand - people couldn't get enough of it on the red carpet.

▼ OUT: Being loved-up.

▲ IN: Amicable divorce auctions, à la Russell Crowe.

▲ IN: Grown men on electric scooters. Ecologically aware and going places.

▼ OUT: Handbags. They no longer cut it, I'm afraid. Carrying any of the following is now preferable: Dogs, rolled up rugs, dragons, stuffed toys, and giant rosary beads.

*However, plastic bags are IN. Designers are selling them for €700 and up. More dash than cash? Grab a bag for life from Tesco and write Celine on it, tell people it's anti-fashion (which is IN).

▲ IN: PVC hats and plaid. Don't ask me - I don't make the rules.

▼ OUT: Turmeric. Very dusty, and not actually that good for you.

▼ OUT: Stealing Oscars - unless you can get away with it.

▲ IN: Men in decent slap. Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya went for Fenty foundation on the red carpet.

▲ IN: A royal plus one. Ever since Queen Elizabeth sat FROW with Anna Wintour. If you don't have a royal at your disposal, improvise. Give one of your friends a tweed hacking jacket and introduce them as a Viscount.

▼ OUT: Unadorned hair partings. Gluing diamante to your scalp is the way forward.

▲ IN: Ugly sneakers can now be 1,000 times uglier than we had previously thought. Remember when Enda Kenny very briefly went through a sneaker-wearing phase? That's what you're aiming for. Douse them in bleach to make them obnoxiously white.

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