Illustration Graham Roumieu
Operating an industrial milling machine is hard work, but the lemony Los Angeles sun is so mild this morning that Travis Paternostro, a stocky stonemason, has barely broken a sweat. Working the device in a roped-off section of Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, Paternostro is grinding to a shiny finish a three-foot square of terrazzo paving block that he mixed and laid himself just yesterday.
“I always take care of the stars personally,” Paternostro says, his graying black hair coated in stone dust. “It keeps up the family tradition.”
Last year, an estimated 20 million people walked all over the handiwork of Paternostro and his forebears. They’ve also had their pictures snapped as they knelt on and fitted their palms into the handprints left by celebrities. For nearly 50 years, the Paternostro family has crafted the brass stars that line this 3.5-mile stretch of sidewalk. There are 2,393 stars’ stars in all (plus a few for companies including L’Oreal, and minus those that have been stolen, such as Gregory Peck’s). The first celebrated actress was Joanne Woodward; Paternostro’s grandfather, Biaggio, did the honors in 1960. Today’s addition is Full House and ER heartthrob John Stamos.
“I got up early this morning and welded the name and the star design from brass,” Paternostro says, mopping his brow.
Each square on the Walk is made from an aggregate of marble, coral, seashells and glass (“Sometimes you can see the labels from old beer bottles”) and then blended with either cement or epoxy. Every year, an average of 24 stars are awarded to celebrities eager for this heavily sought-after piece of Tinseltown immortality. While the price of fame itself is incalculable, a place on the Walk will set Uncle Jesse’s supporters back a cool $25,000.
“I guess they thought it was worth it,” says Paternostro, turning back to his grinder. —JAMES BARTLETT