How Hollywood Walk Of Fame Stars Get Cleaned
The Los Angeles entertainment industry prefers its stars beautiful and well-preserved. Same goes for the inanimate versions — those more than 2,600 star-shaped, terrazzo and brass plaques embedded in sidewalks all around the heart of old Hollywood.
Since actress Joanne Woodward was memorialized with the first star in 1960, the Hollywood Walk of Fame has become the city's most accessible celebrity tourist attraction. It plays host to an ever-growing list of esteemed artists, from Bud Abbott to Adolph Zukor, with hundreds of better-known celebs dotting the sidewalk of this historic, evolving urban corridor.
As the Walk of Fame comes right up to the Dolby Theatre, its stars take on extra significance leading up to the Academy Awards.
"I firmly believe that there are a lot of tourists that come into Hollywood during Oscars season to figure that out, and to be there to watch it as they can," said Rich Sarian, operations manager of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance. It's a nonprofit that manages the Hollywood Entertainment District's improvement and maintenance activities in the area. He oversees the cleaning of the Walk of Fame, including the stars and the sidewalks.
That includes street sweeping every day, plus power-washing on a biweekly basis "so the curbs are clean and it looks nice," Sarian said. The stars, he added, are cleaned and polished about once a month.
With tourists streaming down the boulevard all day long, it can be difficult for the star cleaners to do their job — especially since tourism doesn't have defined hours. But it does die down, which is why the street cleaning and power-washing are generally done around midnight, when the area is less populated.
Until a few years ago, the organization employed a grizzled ex-TV repairman named John Peterson. He's missing a leg and would take the bus to and from his job, amazingly pulling himself along the sidewalk while diligently cleaning and polishing the stars. Peterson also took a strong hobbyist historian's interest in the celebrities whose plaques he made immaculate.
Since Peterson retired, the job's being done by a rotating crew of paid contractors — probably a lot less colorful, but certainly professional.
Graffiti and gum are among the more difficult and stubborn substances that sully the stars. "I didn't realize how often people were chewing gum still, but it's out there," Sarian said. "It happens all the time."
And when it does, Sarian's workers are there to clean it up.