“In the sphere of Los Angeles politics, there are boundless passionate expressions when it comes to Donald Trump. The former president has been characterized as a maverick, a totalitarian, and a ‘clear and present threat to national stability’ by the city’s political leadership. However, when confronted with the seemingly modest task of erasing Trump’s prominent presence on the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame, the translation of words into definitive action becomes a curiously elusive endeavor. All indicators suggest that the city’s governing echelons harbor a desire to see Trump’s star expunged, ideally before the impending presidential election. Political aides and insiders within the city’s administrative sphere discreetly confirm this sentiment through confidential disclosures and off-the-record dialogues.
Yet, they grapple with an astonishing reticence when it comes to addressing the matter openly—an unsettling reflection of the inherent dysfunction within Los Angeles’ political landscape. On the rare instances when they do broach the subject, it typically involves endeavors to rationalize their inactivity.
“Without hesitation, City Council member Bob Blumenfield conveyed his support for the elimination of any taxpayer-funded exhibit endorsing Mr. Trump in a message to an activist in March 2022, as a response to an ongoing campaign against Trump’s star. However, he qualified his stance by citing the preoccupation with numerous other critical issues demanding his attention. When queried about the star during the summer, Rick Chavez Zbur, the California state assembly member whose jurisdiction encompasses the Walk of Fame, cryptically advised a gathering of Democratic party activists to ‘stay tuned.’
When pressed for clarification regarding his statement, Zbur’s office initially conveyed his unavailability for comment due to a demanding schedule. Subsequently, it was stated that his purview primarily concerned state-level policy matters, thus deferring to local authorities on matters of local significance.
Elected officials of similar disposition have adopted analogous circumspection, gingerly navigating the wishes of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce—a body overseeing the Walk of Fame for over six decades. They underscore the bureaucratic complexities entailed in the removal of a star, emphasizing that no star, regardless of its contentious nature, has been expunged previously. Their hesitation appears baffling in a city where Trump garnered scarcely a quarter of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. Prior to his foray into politics, he was predominantly regarded not as a venerated entertainer but as a subject of jest and gossip.
“They find themselves immobilized when it comes to decision-making,” remarked a prominent business luminary in Hollywood, who, like numerous others interviewed for this account, chose anonymity to avert potential discord with colleagues or associates on this contentious matter.
This paralysis leaves activists like Andrew Rudick, an indefatigable advocate, astounded. Rudick consistently confronts public officials regarding the Trump star during ceremonies honoring new inductees on the Walk of Fame.
“One would think this ought to be a straightforward endeavor,” Rudick opined.”This person endeavored to undermine the very bedrock of the United States, yet we continue to pay tribute to him… How can we, as citizens, have confidence in the city council to confront more substantial challenges if they stumble at this juncture?”
Trump’s star, earned following his tenure hosting several seasons of the television reality show ‘The Apprentice,’ has endured repeated acts of defacement or vandalism in the eight years since his initial presidential bid. However, on each occasion, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has rebuffed calls for its removal or the acceptance of damage sans repair. The star has also served as a magnet for street artists, who have transformed the marble and terrazzo plaque into a makeshift cell or embellished it with a commode, bathtub, and filing cabinets—a commentary on classified documents discovered in a bathroom at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Rudick was of the belief that the star warranted removal as early as 2015 when NBC terminated Trump from ‘The Apprentice’ for characterizing Mexicans as perpetrators of drug trafficking and crime in the United States. The events of January 6, 2021, when an insurrection was attempted at the Capitol, reinforced his conviction, especially considering that the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a resolution advocating for Trump’s ouster from office, citing his role in instigating a ‘seditionist, prejudiced, and violent’ uprising.
Yet, the star endured.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has consistently upheld the stance that once a star is enshrined on the Walk of Fame, its permanence is assured. This assertion was articulated by the Chamber’s chief executive in 2015 when numerous women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Cosby, sparking controversy surrounding his star. Cosby was subsequently convicted of sexual assault in Pennsylvania in 2018, although his conviction was later overturned on appeal. The Chamber reaffirmed last week that its policy remained unaltered. An attorney closely affiliated with the Chamber remarked that the costs associated with repairing the star, which had been vandalized with pickaxes, a sledgehammer, and copious amounts of spray paint, ran into tens of thousands of dollars—a substantial yet not prohibitive expense. On occasion, the Chamber, along with sympathetic city officials, have asserted, albeit without substantiation, that the Walk of Fame holds the status of a ‘California state landmark,’ impervious to modification as a matter of law. In 2018, the then Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, commented on the Trump star, saying, ‘Like it or not, it’s here to stay. We have no jurisdiction there.’
Yet, the Walk of Fame does not feature on the official list of California historic landmarks. A spokesperson for the state office of historic preservation clarified that the city of Los Angeles retains exclusive authority over ‘decisions pertaining to removal or alteration’ of any section of the Walk of Fame.
Los Angeles designates the Walk of Fame as a ‘historic-cultural monument.’ Nonetheless, the city’s planning department asserts that this designation provides only limited safeguards against ‘substantial modification’ of the Walk of Fame in its entirety—not modifications affecting ‘one or a handful of stars among the 2,700 plus in existence.’ What, then, accounts for this collective reluctance?
Individuals privy to the Chamber of Commerce’s deliberations—though preferring anonymity—contend that its leadership harbors apprehensions that the removal of a solitary star would pave the way for anarchy, as various interest groups could emerge to contest not only Trump’s star but that of other honorees, including Cosby and others embroiled in grave criminal charges.
“It’s a slippery slope, and we are wary of descending it,” noted an attorney linked to the Chamber. “We anticipate a cascade of controversies and protests.”
Many within Los Angeles, including political aides and historians of Hollywood, would, in fact, welcome heightened scrutiny of the individuals bestowed with stars. Historically, the Chamber has wielded substantial influence over the local council member, primarily because the Walk of Fame serves as a major tourist attraction, bolstering businesses along Hollywood Boulevard. If other council members have exercised restraint, it is, according to their staff, due to their aversion to instigating action on matters originating in a colleague’s jurisdiction. However, there are indications of a shifting landscape as a new council member assumed office in Hollywood last December, aligning the district with more progressive ideologies. Hugo Soto-Martinez, a former labor union organizer with a track record of challenging corporate interests, asserts his willingness to address the contentious segment of decorative concrete at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, citing Donald Trump as a ‘bigot,’ ‘authoritarian,’ and a menace to democratic principles. The question that lingers is ‘when.’ Soto-Martinez elucidates, “Given the absence of precedent for star removal from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we are in the process of ascertaining the locus of authority, legal considerations, and the potential procedural framework.” Rudick, for his part, harbors skepticism, stating, “They profess uncertainty regarding the procedure, despite my provision of comprehensive guidance. I find their hesitance perplexing.”
One potential source of complication in the forthcoming deliberations can be traced to a letter penned by Trump’s future employers at NBC in 1958, during the nascent stages of the Walk of Fame’s inception. A legal representative for the network expressed concerns about the consequences of honoring individuals while they are still alive. He penned, “Imagine a situation where a presently renowned actor, whose name is engraved in the pavement, is found guilty of a grievous crime a year later. Should his name be expunged? Who possesses the authority to order such removal? Would the actor possess the legal prerogative to halt the removal process…?” These concerns rapidly transcended theoretical speculation. One of the initial honorees, a bandleader and Western fiddler named Spade Cooley, saw his star unveiled in 1960. A mere year later, he was convicted of brutally assaulting and strangling his estranged wife in the presence of their 14-year-old daughter.
To this day, he stands as the sole convicted murderer commemorated on the Walk of Fame. Yet, his star endures—a testament to the foresight or foresightful trepidation that John West, the attorney, harbored and articulated, most likely destined to remain unaltered.