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Star power 

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The price of fame just got a lot higher. Hollywood’s premier attraction, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, once again has raised the price of a star on the storied boulevard, this time a whopping 50 percent, from $10,000 to $15,000.

After a $250-a-year "Adopt a Star" campaign fizzled last year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce imposed the increase, effective in February. The hike ostensibly covers rising costs for the star-unveiling ceremonies, plus cleaning, repair and public-relations bills. The Chamber’s new annual take should come in at around $300,000, up $100,000 from 1998. Just two years ago, a star cost only $7,500.

Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, says ficus trees on the boulevard have lifted up the sidewalks and cracked some star plaques. He admits that only a handful of stars is involved, but says that the committee is looking to the future. "The Walk of Fame is the number-one tourist attraction, and we are cognizant of the need to maintain it," he said.

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But Delmar Watson, whose 1930s-era family film act got a star in April after years of being overlooked, says the new price tag is over the top. "When they first put the stars in, it was an honor. I would hate to think that it was financial," said Watson, who, unlike many actors, paid for half of his family’s star himself.

Critics have long charged that the sidewalk stars are for sale to the highest bidder. A committee of eight representatives from the Chamber and the film, recording, radio and other Hollywood industries selects 20 entertainment figures a year from among 200 nominees. The entertainers are required to show up for the outdoor ceremony — and to pony up the fee, which, for big box-office draws, is often covered by studios or fan clubs.

According to Hollywood activist Jerry Schneiderman, the Walk of Fame has become a blatant moneymaker for the Chamber of Commerce. "They are asking for more money because they can get it," Schneiderman says. "It is sad that the stars are based on who has the most money, but that is pure Hollywood."

—Christine Pelisek

SKYSLASHER

 

With all the cops and security guards, the sophisticated mega-tech gadgets, and the smartly turned-out employees who operate them, you have nothing to fear flying the friendly skies — right? Think again.

OffBeat was scurrying around on a gloomy Saturday afternoon, trying to make it to LAX in time to pick up a relative. Among the items hurriedly stuffed into our pants: wallet, keys, change and one made-in-the-USA "Bali-Song, Benchmade" knife, a flickster with a menacingly sharp, partially serrated 4-inch blade. Just the thing for an onboard slash-and-gash skyjacking.

After a 25-minute search for a parking space, OffBeat ran into the Southwest airline terminal, up the elevator and out at Level C, rushing to Gate 7. As we joined the queue at the metal detector, we never thought about the lethal weapon on our person — until it was time to pass through. PANIC: the knife, the knife. Would those two beefy LAX policemen hovering at the entrance make an arrest? Would they confiscate the thing? OffBeat took the fateful step, handed our bulky key ring to the operator — and stepped through with the knife in our pocket. Not a peep or a beep. "Here are your keys; have a nice day," said the woman working the machine.

Rafael Garcia, assistant manager for Huntleigh, Southwest’s terminal-security contractor, took a "shit happens" attitude toward the security breakdown. "Hmm, hmm, what time was this? One p.m. when you walked through. Did you have the knife with you, yes?" Garcia asked OffBeat. "Hmm, hmm, [sigh] sometimes it happens. Sometimes the equipment fails or something like that."

Something like that — not the most reassuring thought as you board your next flight. Our best advice: Try not to think about it. They aren’t.

—Lovell Estell III

 

Where in the World Is Councilman Nate-O?

 

Picking up our Sunday Los Angeles Times, Offbeat was hardly surprised to read that City Councilman Nate Holden was battling accusations of carpetbaggery again. After all, the Crenshaw-area councilman is facing a tough runoff election June 8 against Madison Shockley, who has renewed old charges that Holden is actually a resident of Marina del Rey.

What did pique OffBeat’s interest were the names of the Baldwin Vista residents who rebutted Schockley’s charges in the Times, trilling about what a fine neighbor Holden made. "A lot of people say Nate doesn’t live here. But he does live here," said one Ron Mayberry, who was described as Holden’s next-door neighbor. Mayberry’s wife, Dolores, chimed in helpfully, "I see him every evening. I see his lights on at night." Could this be the same Ron Mayberry who works in Holden’s office as a field deputy? we wondered. Yes, Holden spokeswoman Dana Sarbeck confirmed.

Sarbeck said the Mayberrys let the Times’ reporter use their bathroom and didn’t know they would be quoted. "I can’t answer for why the Times does what it does," she said. "There were 42 neighbors out there."

So where does Holden really live? Holden filed a homeowner’s tax exemption under oath in 1982 for a Ladera Heights triplex that he currently rents out; the councilman got into a nasty dispute with his tenant earlier this year in small-claims court. (Sarbeck says the councilman was advised to leave the exemption alone when he moved to Baldwin Vista.) While he hasn’t been spotted down at his Marina condo much since his current race began, Holden is known as a regular late-afternoon or evening visitor to the gym there. Joseph Plocich, manager of the Marina City Club Towers lush restaurant, said he hasn’t seen Holden since a party over the Christmas holidays.

Perhaps that is because Holden has long been aware of the dangers of spending time outside the district during tight elections. In a January interview, Holden’s 1995 opponent Stan Sanders remembered Holden’s response after he repeatedly raised the residency issue. "Nate got upset with me about that, and moved back [to the district] until after the election," Sanders said.

—Eric Pape

turbulence over lax

 

Los Angeles has signaled that airport leases just won’t fly without protections for workers. The City Council last week sent back a 23-year proposed lease with United Airlines, ordering additional language requiring contractors and subcontractors to refrain (as required by the city’s living-wage ordinance) from retaliating against workers for union organizing.

Rejection of the lease, which would bring the city $1.6 million in annual rents, followed committee hearings at which unionists and supporting clergy testified about anti-union measures, including arbitrary discipline and layoff threats, by Argenbright Security Inc., which provides pre-boarding screeners, as well as baggage-claim and wheelchair attendants, to United and other airlines. Atlanta-based Argenbright, a national company with gross revenues of close to $400 million, has been the prime focus of a union drive by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Argenbright’s almost 800 employees are paid just over minimum wage, and lack health benefits and sick days. Since the union’s campaign began last June, a number of workers have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board alleging intimidation and harassment.

United’s management offered to sign a "side letter" agreeing to worker-protection issues, but the council said it wasn’t enough. The lease will be taken up at the June 15 meeting of the Airport Commission with instructions to develop worker-protection language that could be used as a model in other city contracts.

—John Seeley

COLUMBINE REDUX

 

In the avalanche of chest-thumping that followed the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, one proposal has been overlooked: California Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. president Herb Williams says the only way to stop schoolyard massacres is "for trained and armed teachers to pull out their concealed Saturday Night Specials and shoot the murder(s) [sic]."

Williams’ quasi-literate suggestion came in a President’s Message to members of the CRPA, an "organization of sportsmen . . . dedicated to preservation of our American heritage." He admits his idea is not an original. Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (the former professional-wrestling performer) made a similar suggestion, but wilted under the heat from namby-pambies. Williams says Ventura’s fallback position — more policing by armed and uniformed security guards — won’t work, because few school districts have the backbone to divert education resources to protecting Miss Grundy. "The fact is that teachers are always present and if armed and trained could always cut short a school massacre," Williams concludes.

Remembering the damage that one of our nuns inflicted, wielding only a three-sided metal ruler, OffBeat shudders to think about a massive rearmament of the teaching profession. But, hey, if that’s the price of security, we’re willing to kick in! What do you say, America?

EDITED BY GALE HOLLAND

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