Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Path to the Walk of Fame (Part 2)


I’m taking a break from Five Question Friday this week to continue the tale of how it is that Brian Keith came to be immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  If you’ve just joined, pop back over to yesterday’s post for part one of the story . . .

So, once we decided we were really going to make the star happen, we had to figure out where to start.  Well, the first thing is that you have to submit an application to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce folks.  It turns out the nominations are due at the end of May, so we only had a couple of weeks if we wanted to apply that same year.  Our quick research had told us that people rarely (maybe never) get accepted the first time, so we thought we should get something together and toss Brian’s name into the hat as soon as possible.  But before we could do that, we had to gain permission from his family.  One of the things the star committee requires before they will consider anyone for selection on the walk is that the honoree will be willing to attend the ceremony and accept.  In cases of posthumous nomination, like for Brian Keith, it becomes a family obligation, and since we were outsiders, we couldn’t speak for them.  That meant we only had two weeks to not only write and submit a nomination, but also to locate Brian’s widow and get her on board with our fannish obsession.  Fortunately, Victoria Keith was thrilled with the idea, and more than touched that there were still fans so moved by her husband’s work that we would be willing to put in such an effort.  She said yes readily.  Now, I can’t say that the nomination we put together the first time around was particularly spectacular, but we did manage to meet all the requirements and get it in by the deadline; Brian Keith had officially been nominated for a star. We knew then we had passed the point of no return; we couldn’t back out now.

When the selections were announced for 2007, we weren’t surprised not to be chosen, but I can’t deny we weren’t still just a little bit disappointed.  We can be a fanciful group, and the idea of a fan-nominated posthumous star being awarded on the very first nomination would have been a great story.  But the story would have to wait.

But, while we were waiting for that first rejection, we were already getting busy.  We knew we had a lot of money to raise, and we weren’t entirely sure how we were going to make it happen.  We came up with an easy-to-remember acronym, (STAR—Society to Advance Recognition) and then launched a website, explaining our cause and blatantly asking for money.  We looked for for ways to spread the word, and there have been several occasions since all of this happened when I have wished that social media had been such a huge deal back then as it is now.  (And that’s only been 7 years ago, which really puts into perspective just how quickly sites such as Facebook and Twitter have grown, but that’s a whole other story.)

Other than putting together a significantly better application (and we had a year to do that), raising the fee for the star was really the only thing we were focused on.  In addition to seeking direct donations, we were open to just about any other kind of fundraising idea that came our way.  We sold candy, hosted an online auction, set up affiliate accounts, and sold commemorative items through a Café Press shop.    But the largest bulk of our funds came from “fanzines”—compilations of Hardcastle and McCormick fanfic put out on CD—and copies of the series episodes, gathered from various VHS stashes of the fans and transferred to DVD, providing many fans with the first opportunity to see the episodes in years.   Created from the love of fans, these items were offered as tokens of appreciation in exchange for donations (because, you know, actually selling copyrighted material could’ve gotten a little tricky).  There were four of us on the committee, and the STAR campaign and that $15,000 pretty much ruled our lives. 

In the midst of all of the fundraising (and all the fic writing and episode compiling), life sort of turned into this ongoing obsession with watching a bank account grow.  And, I can’t say that we didn’t have some dark moments of doubt that we would ever succeed, and even some moments when we wondered if it was even worth the trouble.  I think most people—and certainly all of us, before this all began—see the Walk of Fame as this amazing honor simply bestowed upon members of the creative community in recognition and appreciation for a body of work.  It was sort of surprising to find that just wasn’t entirely the case.  First, we never realized there was a cost involved, though it makes sense that someone has to pay for all that brass and terrazzo and such.  We also never realized how much politicking goes into the selection process, though I suppose that’s also to be expected when there are hundreds of nominations received but only maybe a couple of dozen stars awarded each year. 

It was not only a daunting process, but from what we as fans knew about Brian’s personality, we were fairly certain that it was not a process of which he would have particularly approved.  Not that he wouldn’t have been grateful that we wanted to recognize his work, of course, but all the rest of it he would likely have considered just so much hoopla, and that time, energy, and money could all have been better spent.  But by then we were getting fairly bonded with Victoria, and she loved the whole idea and couldn’t wait to see Brian honored.  Even in those dark moments when we might have considered it all to just be a waste of time, we couldn’t dream of quitting because we didn’t want to let her down.

Anyway, slowly, surely, that bank account we were so carefully tending did begin to grow, and things were really taking shape.  By February of 2007, we were just about half-way to our fundraising goal when the unthinkable happened:  the fee was increased to $25,000.  Our hearts broke.  We were a small group of dedicated fans trying to pull off a victory worthy of Hollywood, and it felt like we might have just found the insurmountable obstacle.  Even $15K was a lot of money when it was coming in 5, 10, 20 dollars at a time, but twenty-five thousand?  We had another few dark moments.  But then we decided our game plan was working, even if it was working slowly.  We might need to step our efforts into overdrive, but we weren’t giving up. 

Now a full year had gone by, and we’d gotten ourselves into a fairly well-oiled routine, and then it was time to submit another nomination.  Obviously, we were better prepared this time around, and we were much happier with the results.  Plus, in that intervening year, we’d been playing the games as much as we could from various points of the country—staying in touch with the Walk of Fame committee folks, asking for tips on how to submit the best possible application, finding allies in the Hollywood community who could use connections and put in a good word for our nominee, etc. 

As we waited for the announcement of honorees in June of 2007, we were much more hopeful.  But we realized that with all our planning and such, one thing we didn’t know was exactly when or how we’d be notified if Brian was selected, so we bookmarked the Walk of Fame website and checked ridiculous numbers of times, set up Google alerts so we’d get breaking news delivered to our email, lurked on all sorts of internet sites watching for reports.  I will never forget the night the honoree list finally showed up in my web search: I was almost afraid to click the link and read it.  But I held my breath and took the plunge and there he was:  Brian Keith, a posthumous award for his contribution to the art of television!  It was late at night, and I was the only one awake in the house, so I couldn’t scream, but there was some definite dancing going on.  I sent emails to my two comrades in arms (we’d essentially lost one of our founding members by then), and fortunately, between different time zones and insomniac tendencies, I knew they’d both still be awake, too, so I also started calling.  We were like giddy school girls, laughing and talking and celebrating.  And just for a moment, we could simply rejoice and forget all the work that was still left to do. 

The next few days, there were lots of congratulations exchanged among  the fandom and Brian’s family, but we knew we were on a deadline now: the star could not be installed until we had raised the necessary fee.  We went back to work. 

I won’t bore you with all the details (What’s that?  Too late, you say?!), suffice it to say that we did finally reach our goal.  We were fortunate to receive some donations from a few cast/crew members who had worked with Brian over the years, and the Disney corporation made a donation to cover the cost of the reception which followed the installation, but the vast majority of that twenty-five thousand dollars came directly from fans—all around the world, by the way—who simply wanted to have a part in honoring a man’s work.  We mailed off the check to the chamber of commerce in March of 2008, and set into the work of final planning of reception details, speakers at the installation, and travel plans for those of us who were making the trip to watch the fruits of our labor pay off.

It was an excruciatingly long two years, though there were also moments when they seemed to fly by.  But my instinct is, no matter what happens from now on, they will always be some of the best two years of my life, culminating in an event that I will never forget.

If you are so inclined, you can watch the actual unveiling of the star here, though my favorite part of the ceremony was Daniel Hugh Kelly’s heart-felt speech remembering his co-star and friend.  I go back and watch these videos every now and again and remember that wonderful day, and how proud we all felt watching Brian get his star.  I still wish I were out in Hollywood with my friends this week, celebrating the anniversary of this moment, but I’m forever grateful that I was able to be part of making the moment happen.

BK star 6-29-13


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