11 months ago
She fell into her unique job quite by chance, but this year she celebrates her thirtieth year of doing what she loves.
As the vice president of media relations for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Ana Martinez’s biggest responsibility is producing one of Tinseltown’s most enduring traditions: the star ceremonies on the world-renowned Walk of Fame.
Martinez, who is of Mexican and Peruvian descent, hails from a small suburb East of Los Angeles. Her hometown may be only approximately 25 miles from Hollywood, but the municipality of Baldwin Hills, with just 30,000 residents, seems worlds away from the area that’s considered the epicenter of the entertainment universe.
Here she talks about her daily duties, who she’d like to see get a star, who’s not interested in being honored, and the biggest misconception about the Walk of Fame.
How exactly did you end up in this position at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce?
I was in school at [California State Polytechnic University] and had thoughts of being a teacher, but then I got an internship at a local TV station and that’s when I got the bug to work in entertainment. When that ended, I got a job as a Page at CBS. After that, I saw a listing for a receptionist at the Chamber. While I was working as the receptionist there, I helped out the publicist and when she left six months later I asked for the job. I got it and that’s how all of this started.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Well, it’s never the same two days in a row. That’s one of the things I love about it. Every day I’m planning the next star ceremony, that’s ninety percent of the job, but I’m also in charge of putting flowers on the walk when someone with a star passes away. That’s kind of a sad part of the job.
Have you ever had a ceremony go totally awry?
When [singer] Shakira got her star, for some reason she just ran over to the fan area and one guy jumped right over the fence. I grabbed him and had to hold him until security showed up. Some of the press took that opportunity to rush Shakira. It was mayhem at the time, but everyone was ok in the end.
Have you ever had a request from a star that was so outrageous that you had to put your foot down?
Yes, but it actually was pretty funny. There was a mariachi singer that was getting his star. He wanted to have two bands at the ceremony, but I told him that there just wasn’t room to do that. So, during the ceremony, I hear music coming down the street and it’s a double-decker bus with one of his bands on it! I had to laugh at the effort and ingenuity of that one.
Has anything ever gone horribly wrong with the creation of the actual star?
A few times things have gone badly. The first one that comes to mind is when, because of a problem with the star manufacturer, [actor] George Kennedy’s star wasn’t installed by the morning of his ceremony. His son yelled at me because the whole family had flown in from the East Coast. That was awful.
The other time something went wrong was when Julia Louis-Dreyfus got her star. I found out on the way to the ceremony that they’d spelled her name wrong. They spelled it ‘Luis’ instead of ‘Louis,’ but thankfully she thought it was hilarious. She even sent out a really funny tweet about it.
Who would you like to see get a star?
I’d like to see Gwen Stefani get one. I think she’s so talented. I’d love to see George Clooney and Julia Roberts as well, but they both say they’re not interested. I don’t know why people aren’t interested. That’s baffling to me.
Is there any star who would make you tongue-tied?
No. I think that’s why I can do my job. I was never into the celebrity thing.
What specific lessons about business have you learned from this job?
It’s important to treat people well, no matter who they are. You need to help people when you can, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Plus, find people who you can exchange ideas and information with on a regular basis.
What has this job taught you about succeeding in life?
You should have patience in everything you do. I do lose my patience, sometimes, but I don’t go off on people. I remained calm and focused, even if I’m mad, and that works well.
And, that you have to speak up when you need to. Speaking up was really hard for me in the beginning because I was the shiest kid you ever met. I would stand behind my mom so much that my grandpa called me her little fart!
Do you have a goal for the rest of your career?
Just to keep on going and I think that I need to write a book about all of this. I have great photos and a lot of anecdotal stuff that would make for a great read for sure.
Is anything specifically that you want people to know about the Walk of Fame?
Yes, and I constantly have to explain this – you cannot just buy a star. We don’t sit around saying, ’Hey, everyone can have a star!’ I call this information ‘Walk of Fame 101’ because I’m constantly repeating it. There’s a voting process with a specially selected committee. Some people are chosen and some are not. We only take about 24 people per year out of about 200 to 300 nominations. No one is a slam-dunk.
Along those same lines, I feel like I have to repeat the criteria for selection a lot. That criteria is: longevity in the field of entertainment – five years or more – awards or nominations, and the person has to do philanthropic work. This information is in all of our material but people constantly ask about it.
Also, I’d like people to know that the Walk of Fame is a historical landmark and I would very much like it if people didn’t damage any stars. I know that people have their personal political views about President Trump, and feelings about other stars, but please, it would be great if people could refrain from vandalizing his star or any other stars.
What’s your best sales pitch to get someone from a far-off country to visit the Walk of Fame?
I like to say that this is the only award that fans can truly share with the celebrity. You can’t share the Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe or any of those. Those statues are all at someone’s house. Here you can come to the ceremony, or sit next to the award and take your photo with it. That’s pretty unique.
If you were to receive a star on the Walk of Fame, what would you say in your speech?
I’d probably cry and say something like, ‘This kid from a small town is so grateful to be a part of Hollywood’s history. I’ve been very lucky.’
For more information about the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and to watch live-streamed star installation ceremonies, visit this site.