In other cities, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce would not be considered a flashy gig. But in Hollywood, it's a dramatically different story and one unique to Los Angeles. Ana Martinez, vice president of media relations for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, produces one of Tinseltown's most enduring traditions: the Walk of Fame ceremony.
A committee selects the honorees, and Martinez decides where each of the iconic black-and-coral, colored terrazzo–and-brass stars will go. In her 25 years with the chamber, she has organized more than 600 sidewalk ceremonies — which now have so many fans they're streamed live.
The mother of two girls, ages 11 and 17, let the older one skip high school for what Martinez describes as an only-in-L.A. history lesson: watching James Franco unveil his star (No. 2,492), located on choice real estate in front of Disney's El Capitan Theatre. Surprised at how excited her daughter and a friend became, she says, “I don't get giddy with celebrities. I never have.”
She's seen a lot but considers one ceremony especially memorable. In 1994 Sophia Loren was awarded the 2,000th star as part of a big Hollywood anniversary celebration. But to the chagrin of photographers, the supremely cool Italian legend posed only briefly, saying “Basta!” before heading to a waiting car.
Rather than posed shots with honorees, Martinez's cluttered Hollywood Boulevard office is full of informal photos — souvenirs given to her by members of the Hollywood photo corps. In one, she sits on the stage popping a mega-sized bubble-gum bubble as former honorary mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant makes an introduction.
Martinez is wistful and a bit sad when talking about the Walk of Fame's famously enthusiastic longtime emcee Grant, who died five years ago. The two colleagues held to an unfailing ritual of eating lunch together at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, in the same booth at the same time, every day. (His picture hangs over the spot.) Although Martinez doesn't carry on the tradition, she continues to oversee the events with equanimity and a studied poise, directing the honoree's poses and wrangling the 30 or so photographers and news crews that show up to cover each Walk of Fame ceremony.
A graduate of Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park, Martinez's journey to Star Girl (her nickname) followed an internship in communications at KNBC-4 during the 1984 Summer Olympics and a stint as a network page at CBS Studios on Beverly Boulevard. (“I wore a uniform, like a flight attendant,” she recalls.) But Martinez was laid off, so she answered an ad for receptionist at the chamber.
All these years later, she still cries at every ceremony along with the honorees, who almost invariably choke up.
How does she explain the enduring appeal of the Walk of Fame, dreamed up in the 1950s as a civic promotion? “It's a permanent tribute and the only award a celebrity can share with their fans.”
Martinez delights in one particular star the public will never see. It's in her living room, emblazoned with her name — a gift from her boyfriend, who got special permission to reproduce the trademarked tribute. Says Star Girl, “It's beautiful — it was the best gift ever.”