If you’re one of the more than 40 million yearly visitors to Los Angeles, chances are you’ve taken a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star-lined street commemorates achievements in five categories: radio, television, motion pictures, recording, and live performance. The process to get a star on the Walk of Fame is not as simple as just being famous. Anyone can nominate an entertainer, but the entertainer must then be selected by the Walk of Fame committee. If selected, a $40,000 fee must be paid by those who nominated the entertainer, and the entertainer must agree to accept the star on the day of its unveiling.
All of this protocol exists to receive a star, but there's very little infrastructure, other than video cameras, to protect the inlaid stars from being defaced by the public. What happens to a star when a celebrity becomes embroiled in controversy? The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has provided a clear statement that once a star has been dedicated, it becomes a historic landmark and cannot be removed, no matter how controversial the recipient of the star may be. Still, acts of vandalism persist. Here are 25 times that a star was vandalized or defaced.
Cited as an influence by the likes of Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett, Imogene Coca won an Emmy in 1951 for her work on the sketch comedy show "Your Show of Shows,” opposite Sid Caesar. On February 8, 1960, she was honored with a star on the Walk of Fame. In November of 2018, her star was one of five to be vandalized with black spray paint in an apparent random act of vandalism.
Kirk Douglas was inducted into the Walk of Fame in 1960, the year he played Spartacus in Stanley Kubrick's eponymous film. In 2000, his star was stolen during a construction project, along with actor Jimmy Stewart's. Douglas’ star was eventually restored, but the family legacy endures: Michael Douglas was inducted on Nov. 6, 2018, and father Kirk (now 101 years old) was there to witness it.
"It’s a Wonderful Life”—until someone steals your star from the Walk of Fame, that is. James "Jimmy” Stewart was inducted into the Walk of Fame in 1960 for his performances in "Vertigo,” "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and "It’s a Wonderful Life.” During a 2000 construction project, Stewart’s star was temporarily removed. It was then stolen by a construction worker, along with the star of Kirk Douglas. The stars were later recovered and restored.
Gene Autry is the only person to receive five stars on the Walk of Fame, with one in each category. He received his first four stars in 1960 and the fifth in 1984. In 2000, one of his stars was stolen during a sidewalk construction project. The star was reportedly found in Iowa but has never been located.
Gregory Peck of "To Kill A Mockingbird” fame received his star on the Walk of Fame in 1960. In November of 2005, Peck's star was cut out of the ground and stolen—the first-ever instance. Using a concrete saw, the thief cut the pink five-pointed star directly out of the black terrazzo background. The star has never been recovered.
Most famous for his work on "The Tonight Show” and for hosting NBC’s "Star Search,” Ed McMahon received his star on the Walk of Fame in 1986. Shortly after his death in 2009, his star was found smeared with a black substance and covered in newspapers, making it one star that was temporarily hard to search for.
Before he was the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan received a 1960 Walk of Fame star for his performances in "Kings Row” and "The Killers.” In 1981, animal rights activists surrounded his star in protest of President Reagan's environmental policies. A protest does not equal vandalism, of course, but the 1987 video for David Bowie’s "Day-In Day-Out” did originally contain footage of the star being defaced.
Sharon Stone, perhaps most famous for that scene in "Basic Instinct,” won a Golden Globe and a star on the Walk of Fame in 1995 for her performance in "Casino.” In 2009, a vandal wrote "Old Fur Hag” across her star—evidently in response to Stone wearing fur.
In April 2004, the actresses who got their start on "Full House” shared an induction to the Walk of Fame. The twins’ star was defaced in the same incident as Sharon Stone’s in 2009. The phrase "fur hags” was also written across their star.
Inducted into the recording category on the Walk of Fame in 1979, the Queen of Soul’s star remained untouched until 2009. Within days of the vandalism of Sharon Stone and the Olsen twins' stars, Aretha Franklin’s star also had "Fur Hag” scrawled on it. The year before, PETA had targeted Franklin for wearing fur.
On Dec. 4, 2014, the "Happy” singer received a star in the recording category on the Walk of Fame. On Nov. 20, 2018, Williams' star was spray painted black, along with several others. It remains unclear if this vandalism was intentionally meant for Williams’ star or if it was just a random act of destruction.
The star of this TV personality, stand-up comedian, and actress was one of five to be found spray painted black. DeGeneres received her star on Sept. 4, 2012, the 10-year anniversary of "The Ellen Show.” Chances are, she won't let something like that stop her from dancing.
The Playboy mogul received his star in the television category in 1980. Following his death in September 2017, a memorial of flowers and cards sprang up on Hefner’s star. One mourner took it too far, vandalizing the star by drawing a blue crown over Hefner’s name with a "pastel-like crayon.” But vandalism is still vandalism, even if it's fairly easy to clean up.
The King of Pop received his star on the Walk of Fame in 1984. That year, a different Michael Jackson (a Los Angeles radio host) received his star in the radio category. On June 13, 2018, Paris Jackson, the superstar singer's daughter, was spotted cleaning graffiti from her late father’s star. It turned out, however, the star wasn’t her father’s—it was the other Michael Jackson’s. The vandal likely intended to vandalize the star Paris thought she was restoring.
In perhaps the most chill-inducing tale of Walk of Fame vandalism, master magician Harry Houdini’s star was found mysteriously cracked on the night of Halloween in 2000. The date marked the 25th anniversary of the unveiling of Houdini’s star (Halloween of 1975), and the 74th anniversary of Houdini’s death on Halloween in 1926. Coincidence—or magic?
The "Usual Suspects” actor received his star in 1999. Although the star was not the focal point of vandalism, it became a point of protest following allegations of sexual assault. Demonstrators and survivors of sexual assault met on Spacey's star in November of 2017 to protest Hollywood's predatory culture. As a matter of policy, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce does not remove stars from the Walk of Fame, which is why the stars of many controversial figures remain intact.
In perhaps the fastest "induction to vandalism” turnaround, crooner Michael Bublé was inducted to the Walk of Fame on Nov. 16, 2018. Just four days later, his star was vandalized. Bublé’s star was part of the possibly random spray painting that also targeted the stars of Ellen DeGeneres, Imogene Coca, Pharrell Williams, and Jennifer Lopez.
The fifth and final star to be vandalized in black spray paint Nov. 20, 2018, was that of Jennifer Lopez. Lopez’s star is in the recording category, even though she is also a television and film actress. Her star was the 2,500th star to be added to the walk, and her induction ceremony in June of 2013 highlighted this fact.
Though all four Beatles now have stars, Lennon was the first to receive one, albeit posthumously, in 1988. Ringo Starr would be inducted in 2008, George Harrison in 2009 (also posthumously), and Paul McCartney in 2012. John Lennon is also the only Beatle to have his star vandalized. On October 9th, 2013, a tour guide spotted quotes, drawings, and scribbles written in different colored markers on his star. The intention was most likely not malicious, but it was disrespectful.
Mariah Carey was inducted to the Walk of Fame in August of 2015. On New Year’s Eve 2017, during a performance on "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” it was revealed that she was lip-syncing, and she stopped her performance. In early 2018, Carey’s star on the Walk was vandalized when someone carved a question mark after her name, seemingly with the intention to question her place as a recording star.
One of the more perplexing acts of vandalism involved reggae icon Bob Marley, inducted to the Walk of Fame posthumously in 2001. A spiritual Rastafarian who eschewed violence, Marley’s songs included messages about peaceful social change. That made it all the stranger that in October 2017, a vandal used a sledgehammer to destroy the musician's star.
Bill Cosby was inducted to the Walk of Fame in 1977, well before he was sentenced to prison for sexual assault. Cosby’s star has been vandalized in reference to his alleged crimes twice: in 2014 with a black marker, and in 2018 with spray paint. When pressed about having the star removed, the president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce replied, "Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
The star of Donald Trump has been vandalized so frequently that the current U.S. president holds the top two spots. Trump earned his star in 2007 for his reality show "The Apprentice.” In July of 2016, street artist Plastic Jesus built a miniature border wall around the star, complete with tiny barbed wire. The following September, the star was vandalized with graffiti, which was then crossed out. After the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape was released in October 2016, his star was crushed with a sledgehammer. In response to the constant attacks, the star was protected with plywood through the 2016 election. The plywood itself was vandalized nevertheless.
Donald Trump’s damaged star was replaced after the 2016 election. In December of 2016, protesters laid down surrounding the star, holding signs. Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, the star was vandalized with message-bearing stickers. In May 2017, someone placed a golden toilet inscribed with the message “Take a Trump” on the president’s star. The following month, stickers were again used to deface it. In July 2018, someone destroyed the star with a pickaxe. In August 2018, the West Hollywood City Council called on The City of Los Angeles and The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove the star. It remained in place, and in September 2018, a street artist placed the star behind bars.