Skip to main content

Behind the scenes of the Hollywood Walk of Fame

By Zohreen Adamjee , CNN
December 10, 2011 -- Updated 1846 GMT (0246 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ana Martinez is the curator-in-chief for the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • So far Martinez has produced 586 star ceremonies
  • On Monday she will be at the helm for the unveiling of Steve Guttenberg's star

Editor's note: This series will profile those who capitalize on our obsession with celebrity, while always standing just outside of the spotlight.

(CNN) -- When the 2,455th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is laid on Monday for actor Steve Guttenberg, Ana Martinez will once again be working behind the scenes as curator-in-chief to the iconic attraction.

The Walk of Fame is one of showbiz's most visible landmarks,and Martinez has been its inconspicuous producer for almost half the attraction's 51 years, making sure the constellation of stars is perfectly aligned on the Hollywood sidewalks.

For 24 years, she has been the person deciding where celebrities will receive their coveted symbol of fame in the heart of Tinseltown. When a star is unveiled to the international press corps, Martinez is the field marshal orchestrating every detail of one of showbiz's alpha moments.

"If there was one phrase to describe Ana, it would be mistress of ceremonies," said Sam Smith, the former chairman of the board for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. "She truly is a master of the ceremonies."

Martinez has produced 586 star ceremonies. On Monday, Martinez will be at the ready with clipboard and iPhone in hand, negotiating over an obstacle course that typically numbers 22 film crews with 39 people, 22 still photographers, eight wire photographers, three newspaper reporters, two radio reporters, two photographers from the Chamber of Commerce and sometimes a celebrity's personal photographer.

Ana Martinez orchestrates where the media will be positioned before a ceremony.
Ana Martinez orchestrates where the media will be positioned before a ceremony.

"She is a gatekeeper of the integrity of the Walk of Fame. At the same time she's responsible for promoting the Walk of Fame all around the world," said Smith.

A star is awarded after a lengthy process in which hundreds of nomination applications are sent to the Hollywood chamber, and then its Walk of Fame committee selects the winners, with the approval of the chamber's board of directors. The names also are submitted to the city of Los Angeles' Board of Public Works Department. The chamber requires a $30,000 "sponsorship fee," often paid by a studio, recording label or even a group of fans, chamber officials said.

Martinez also coordinates when her boss, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and various political figures speak in honor of the star.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa recognizes the importance of the walk as a civic landmark. He said it is "a powerful magnet which brings people from around the world to Los Angeles."

"Ana Martinez and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce have played a vital role cementing L.A.'s reputation as the creativity capital of the world," Villaraigosa said in a written statement to CNN.

It's clear that Martinez loves what she does.

Martinez, who is 5 feet 4 inches with shoulder-length brown hair, declined to give her age, but said she started her career at the chamber as a receptionist in her early 20s after a brief stint at CBS. She assisted the then-publicist in handling the Walk of Fame. The publicist left the chamber six months later and even though Martinez was the obvious person to fill the role, management initially hesitated.

"The other staff and management said I was too nice, too shy," Martinez said. But Martinez eventually evolved in a way many stars do. "I had to create a different persona for the (star) ceremonies," she said. "I have to control everything."

With her staple head-to-toe black regalia to her dark shades -- green or gray depending on how bright it is outside -- she definitely controls the event.

When singer Shakira received her star in November, fans turned out in full force. The emotional followers swelled to nearly a thousand and nearly spilled over barricades when they saw their idol. Martinez said she welcomes fans because it also is a big day for them, but she keeps a close eye on security.

Martinez walks in front of the fans who sometimes reach into the thousands.
Martinez walks in front of the fans who sometimes reach into the thousands.

When one enthusiastic Shakira fan jumped over a barrier to meet his idol, the no-nonsense show-runner sprang into action. "I grabbed his wrist, pushed him back and our security girl carried him out," Martinez said.

Then of course, there is the celebrity. Martinez often already knows each family member and friend of the star by name before they arrive. She keeps a close eye on her iPhone, looking to see if the stars are on schedule in order to greet them and their entourages and lead them through the ceremony.

After the celebrity gives his or her speech, Martinez quickly directs them to the star, which is then unveiled. The media, who are packed in a tightly sectioned-off sidewalk space around the star, attempt to get a shot of the celebrity. Martinez decides in advance where each media organization will be positioned.

Martinez streamlines the production and cues the stars and their entourages on which cameras they should direct their gaze to and for how long. Within a few hours, thousands of the images Martinez orchestrates from the ceremony permeate the Internet.

Though Martinez's career involves cementing names on the Walk, she knows the faces in Hollywood often change as quickly as the styles on the city's storefront displays. But she has been a constant in the city, a meaningful achievement in Hollywood's transient culture, where broken dreams predominate.

She has also watched Hollywood drastically change from a seedier era when prostitutes and adult bookstores reigned on the streets.

"We don't have that any more," said Martinez. "Hollywood has changed, even the Walk of Fame has changed."

She credits former star and honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant for the redevelopment. "The MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] money was going to go to another state -- he went and talked to the attorney general and convinced them to keep the money in Hollywood. That's why you have (the) Hollywood and Highland (Center)."

As Hollywood evolved, so did the number of stars on the Walk of Fame.

Martinez said the walk she and Grant oversaw brought tourists to Hollywood. "Every day it's mobbed with people. In the summer it's booming. They want to be near the Walk of Fame, and what is now the hub of Hollywood."

In her time at the chamber, Martinez has become a sort of encyclopedia for the Walk of Fame. She can rattle off where every star is, who was late to the ceremony and which awards of the 300-pound marble monuments caused controversy.

Marlon Brando's Walk of Fame moment was one of those. Martinez said Grant dealt with the outcry.

Martinez stands behind Cate Blanchett and facilitates questions and answers from the media.
Martinez stands behind Cate Blanchett and facilitates questions and answers from the media.

"Marlon Brando allegedly said some anti-Semitic comments and they called Johnny Grant. ... He says, 'If we move the star for every person that might have said something, there would be no Walk of Fame,' " she said, remembering Grant's no-nonsense business attitude.

Even in a moment of panic, Martinez is the consummate businesswoman.

Smith said he sees the resemblance between Martinez and her mentor.

"You get how serious she is just from her tone of voice," Smith said. "And people don't cross it. When he used to run the ceremonies, people didn't mess with Johnny either."

Martinez doesn't just promote the celebrities, she promotes an entire tourist attraction that is recognized around the globe.

The walk "brings a lot of people to the community," she said. She recalled an earthquake that shook Los Angeles many years ago and how the tourists didn't budge. "Nothing fazed, them. They want to be where their celebrity has stood," Martinez said.

Not every part of the star construction has always gone so smoothly, however. Just hours before Julia Louis-Dreyfus' star ceremony took place, a CNN producer walking by noticed the star's name was missing the hyphen and the "o" in "Louis."

"I was really upset. I pride myself on everything going perfect," said Martinez. She now has the star installers text a picture of the lettering before they cement it into the star, she said.

Martinez directs which cameras singer-songwriter Shakira should look to.
Martinez directs which cameras singer-songwriter Shakira should look to.

Even though it was one of the roughest days of her career, Martinez focuses on the positive: "It turned out to be the best thing ever."

"We had so much publicity we might do it again," she joked.

There were no hard feelings over that celebrity snafu. Actress Dreyfus called it her "Seinfeld moment."

There are several stars Martinez hopes to add to the walk. She said she is saving a spot in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater for Clint Eastwood. Including him in the Walk of Fame would be additionally meaningful, she said, because not even her mentor was able to get him.

"That's the one Johnny Grant always wanted," Martinez said. "It will be an accomplished goal."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT