She squats, scrubs, then smiles, the guileless grin of a woman who does not know she is about to become a meme. She kneels beside a recently-vandalized star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and announces to all the world that she stopped to clean the square: “Nothing but respect for MY president.”
The star, of course, is Donald Trump’s, and it was laid into the cement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame almost a decade before he would be elected President of the United States. Weeks after this photo was taken and shared, 24-year-old Austin Mikel Clay allegedly took a pickaxe to the star, demolishing it.
And that wasn’t even the first time somebody busted up the star with a pickaxe! This extremely specific destruction method was also deployed in 2016 by 53-year-old James Lambert Otis, who was caught on tape wrecking the star with both a pickaxe and a jackhammer. Otis attacked the star about a month before the election, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about how his “star” status gave him the freedom to sexually assault women.
Clay was booked on felony vandalism, jailed on $20,000 bail, and released. Otis pled no contest to one felony count of vandalism.
Donald Trump’s star completely destroyed along the Hollywood walk of fame. pic.twitter.com/b1bpLhmG2X
— Ryan Parker (@TheRyanParker) July 25, 2018
Everybody knows it takes three to make a trend, but the West Hollywood City Council would prefer not to wait for yet another pickaxe-wielding protestor to take out their frustration at the current Commander-in-Chief on their sacred (and, more to the point, expensive) real estate.
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran tweeted Monday night that the council “unanimously” resolved to ask the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce — which governs the stars, much like God — to simply remove Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
West Hollywood City council unanimously passes resolution asking the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove the Donald Trump star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. #horcruxdestroyed #bellicose #belligerent #unAmericanvalues #MakeAmericaintoAmericaAgain
— JohnDuran (@JohnDuran) August 7, 2018
Now what? The Los Angeles City Council and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce would have to approve the resolution, which is something they have never done before.
After alleged serial rapist Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, somebody vandalized his star with graffiti, writing “guilty on all three counts” under his name. His star had been vandalized several times before. People really like to write “rapist” next to Bill Cosby’s name.
In 2015 (so, after the Cosby allegations but years before the guilty verdict), Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Leron Gubler released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter saying that all the stars are here to stay (emphasis added):
“The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has received inquiries asking whether we are planning to remove the stars of Donald Trump and Bill Cosby. The answer is no. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a registered historic landmark. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.”
Protestors have spray-painted a swastika on Trump’s star. L.A. street artist Plastic Jesus built a tiny wall around it, complete with razor wire and little “KEEP OUT” signs. Others have covered it in “#IResist” stickers.
After Trump’s star was reduced to rubble in 2016, Gubler said in a statement that the star would be repaired immediately. “When people are unhappy with one of our honorees, we would hope that they would project their anger in more positive ways than to vandalize a California State landmark. Our democracy is based on respect for the law. People can make a difference by voting and not destroying public property.”
While Gubler was very on-trend — calls for civility among the people in the name of respecting the powerful are really having a moment — it went unheeded. Trump’s star was smashed to bits again the following year.
The West Hollywood Council voted on the removal at their meeting Monday night. According to THR, the agenda item read:
“The City Council will consider adopting a resolution urging the Los Angeles City Council and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove President Donald J. Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, due to his disturbing treatment of women and other actions that do not meet the shared values of the City of West Hollywood, the region, state, and country.”
In the staff report, the council lists a battery of reasons for prying Trump’s star out of the sidewalk, including Trump’s “disturbing treatment of women.” Having a star is “a privilege,” they write, and “allowing Mr. Trump to continue to have a star… particularly in the #timesup and #metoo movements, should not be acceptable in the Hollywood and entertainment industry communities.”
The council goes on to cite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which recently removed from its ranks a number of men who’ve been accused or convicted of sexual violence — Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski — and say this is a similar “opportunity for decision-makers to take a stand on their values in support of women and against the disturbing treatment of women.”
Beyond Trump’s conduct with women, the council lists several actions of Trump and his administration that “have not met the shared values” of Hollywood or the United States:
The council also notes that the cost of repairing Trump’s star falls on Los Angeles taxpayers. And as a kicker, the council recommends that the City of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce “revisit the qualifications for being included in the Walk of Fame, for both future ‘stars’ and existing ones.”
Currently, the qualifications are as follows: Prerequisites include some other award in the arsenal — an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy — and “a history of charitable giving.” One wonders what “charitable giving” Trump listed on his application, considering his now-well-documented history of stiffing the beneficiaries of his philanthropy.
A star need not be a performer; notable behind-the-scenes contributions are recognition-worthy. But one does need to be famous for at least five years and have “unchallengeable” expertise in a “core entertainment category”: television, movies, radio, live theatre, or music.
While animals both live (Lassie, Rin Tin Tin) and animated (Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Kermit the Frog) are welcome, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce does not bestow its honor upon reality or internet stars.
In fact, years ago, when Kanye West complained that his wife, Kim Kardashian West, did not have a star, a spokesperson explained away her exclusion by saying, “We don’t have reality stars on the Walk of Fame. We don’t have a category for it. We’re happy to consider reality stars once they get nominated for, or win, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar. We’ll consider them when they’re legitimate actors or singers.” (The best part of this Kim-rejection was the additional note, from spokesperson Ann Martinez, that, re: Kanye, “I know he loves her, and it’s all very sweet. But she doesn’t qualify.”)
So why, then, was Trump included, given his most obvious claim to fame — before this whole thing — is from his performance on The Apprentice? According to Martinez, “He was selected for his producer job for his Miss Universe shows.”
Okay, but… was he though? In 2007, The Apprentice was at the height of its popularity. Trump was a co-owner of the Miss Universe pageant from 1996 until 2015, when he was forced to sell it after his racist comments about Mexicans sent broadcasters NBC and Univision running. Timing seems a little off, much like Trump’s reported behavior backstage at the Miss Universe pageant.
Now is probably a good time to note that nothing in this cruel world is free, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
If one desires to have one’s name smothered beneath the rubber-soled sneakers of tourists for years to come, one must raise a $30,000 “sponsorship fee” to accompany one’s application. (A star who wants a star must apply with a written statement and promise to attend the unveiling ceremony.) Half of that money goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust, which maintains the Walk of Fame; the other $15,000 funds “the creation of the star itself—breaking up the blank existing square and replacing it with a new one, printing the replica plaque honorees can take home, hiring photographers, security, and anything else related to the ceremony.” Then a six-person selection committee plucks the most deserving boldface names from the pile.
For as long as Trump’s star stays on the walk, it seems inevitable that it will be the site of more protests — that an endless cycle of vandalism-repairs-repeat will play out on this street indefinitely. And if the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stands by its practice of never removing a star, two strange presidents of questionable merit will always be very close to each other.
The star right next to Donald Trump’s belongs to Kevin Spacey.