Chubby tourists take their toll on Walk of Fame

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The Independent US

Like many of the icons who adorn the famous pavement, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is to combat the onset of old age in traditional showbusiness fashion: by getting a very expensive facelift.

The star-studded tourist attraction is to undergo a $4m (£2m) restoration amid reports that it is deteriorating under the feet of the crowds of visitors who trek along the two-and-a-half mile route through the heart of Los Angeles to admire the names of more than 2,300 of Hollywood's best-known celebrities.

In recent years, dozens of the bronze stars that adorn parts of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street have buckled and warped, while many of the pink marble slabs that surround them are starting to crack.

Tourist guides have started to complain that the area looks tatty and unloved, while the city's authorities are worried that a sightseer might trip on the damaged pavement and sue.

Now the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transport Committee has announced the result of a year-long study into the problem. It has concluded that the entire Walk of Fame should be torn up and relaid, with its three-inch-thick concrete pavement replaced by a more sturdy eight-inch version.

"The current condition of the sidewalks has become unsightly and potentially dangerous to the many thousands of pedestrians who frequent the area," notes the report, which blamed the degradation on "the inadequacy of the original Walk's terrazzo design and its inability to resist thermal expansion caused by prolonged exposure to the sun".

The state of the Walk of Fame has sparked widespread local controversy, with a variety of civic organisations seeking to avoid blame (and therefore liability) for its poor condition.

Although the report suggested the Californian sun was causing the damage, other experts have blamed subsidence from a local subway station. The worst-affected area of pavement, at the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars are held, is above one of the busiest stations in Los Angeles.

Last year, a 60ft stretch there was torn up and relaid in advance of the Academy Awards (at a cost of $80,000), to prevent guests from tripping over on bumps hidden under the red carpet.

At the time, the Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, said he believed that the damage had been caused by the Metropolitan Transport Authority's original subway construction. "The MTA has been stalling me for years," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We think there's earth movement with the subway under there." A subterranean stream running through the area may have caused "voids" in grouting when the MTA was building the subway, he claimed.

Whoever's to blame, a restoration committee is now to be founded to raise $4.1m from local businesses and celebrities to pay for the scheme. The work will also be financed by the Hollywood Trust, which each year has responsibility for deciding which 20 or 30 famous people (from roughly 300 contenders) will have their names added to the walk.

The trust is also in a position to assist with the cost of repairs. Each time a new star is added, it levies a "sponsorship fee" from the celebrity or organisation that is being honoured. That fee was recently raised by 40 per cent, to $25,000, to pay for future maintenance.

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