Hollywood's Walk of Fame is paved with the stars of stars — the giants of the entertainment industry: Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Cecil B. DeMille.
But I had noticed that different kinds of personalities — Donald Trump, Judge Judy, Vanna White — are also getting stars on the Walk of Fame. It occurred to me that if they could get stars on the Walk of Fame, maybe I could get one, too.
I mean, giants of entertainment just don't seem quite as gigantic as they used to. And many of the more than 2,300 names on the Walk of Fame aren't all that famous. Who are Mark and Kim? Or Louise Glaum? Or Fred Niblo?
So, it seemed worth a shot to apply for my own star. But they said you have to show professional achievement over a period of at least five years, have a sponsor to nominate you, and cough up $25,000.
Also, you must demonstrate some "qualifications." They said you have to contribute to the community, such as participating in an anti-drug campaign or raising money for the library. I'm a little weak in that department.
If I was to have any chance at a star, I had to stop by and pay my respects to the godfather of Hollywood's Walk of Fame and honorary mayor of Hollywood, Walk of Fame Chairman Johnny Grant. He's the one you see kneeling next to the stars at all of the unveiling ceremonies. Johnny surprised me by saying I might have a chance if I could make some contribution to the community.
I was cautiously optimistic but still had my doubts. I mean, a lot of today's superstars like Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood don't even have stars.
I sought advice from some of the stars with stars, like game show goliath Wink Martindale — his real name! — who hosted 19 game shows and received his star last year. He said if you want a star, it's important to take Grant to lunch.
"Don't make it a lunch at a coffee shop. Go to one of the nice restaurants, spend a few bucks," he said. "I did whatever it took and look how it turned out," Wink said, pointing to his star.
Erik Estrada received his star in April. Best known for his role of Ponch in "CHiPs," he just starred in a reality show called "Armed and Famous," where he recently foiled a backhoe theft in Muncie, Ind. He's a spokesman for a real estate firm that paid his $25,000 star fee.
Would CBS spring for mine? Maybe I could slip it in on my CBS expense account.
"Listen, if I can do anything for you," Estrada said, signing autographs on the Walk of Fame, "like lobbying or writing a letter." But Estrada said it's important to add some community service.
I wanted some advice from an actor of Hollywood's Golden Age, one who received her star nearly half a century ago. She made her first film in 1943 — in dog years she's 450 years old. Lassie has had an amazing career. She was very encouraging, barking "yes" when I asked if she'd put me in touch with her people to help me get a star.
I decided to go for it. I didn't have the community service thing nailed down, but I'm working on it, scraping gum off Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and hoping that the next time I'm kneeling down on this famous walk, it'll be next to Johnny Grant at the unveiling of a star ... mine.
But then suddenly, the stars seemed to align. They recently released the 2008 star recipients, some pretty big names: George Harrison, Cate Blanchett, Christina Aguilera, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Susan St. James, and — wait a second — Bill Geist?
Well, I don't know if Lassie put in a good word for me or what, but my name was on the list! They sent me a confirmation letter to prove it. As Johnny Grant said: we're fresh out of Clark Gables.