RESCUING ELVIS : ROADWORK STEALS SHINE FROM ICON'S `FLAMING STAR'.
Elvis Presley hasn't weathered well.
Millions of visitors' feet and years of subway construction have left the King's bronze commemorative star and those reserved for the hundreds of other music, television, film and radio celebrities along the Walk of Fame in tattered, battered, sometimes shattered condition.
Some community activists say they're all shook up over neglectful city, MTA and Hollywood officials who have consigned the singer's star - the most visited of them all - to the ``Heartbreak Hotel.''
``It's disintegrating. It's a mess,'' said Chris Shabel, a member of the Hollywood Project Area Committee. ``This is a great attraction and they don't take care of it.''
In fact, Presley's star looks like it should be returned to sender.
It tilts up on one end because of settling. The terrazzo surrounding the star is badly cracked and gouged, and the metal framing around the star is missing.
``It's cracking to pieces. It's looking pretty bad,'' said Jerry Schneiderman, whose building's basement at 6777 Hollywood Blvd., just east of Highland Avenue, underlies part of the Presley star.
Contributing to the sorry state of Presley's star, Schneiderman contends, is settling caused by underground construction for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Hollywood-Highland subway station.
The MTA plans to eventually replace or repair any stars damaged when construction is finished, but one agency spokesman disagrees that subway work has damaged the King's star.
``Some people in Hollywood say the crack happened when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson,'' said MTA senior public affairs officer Stephen Sawyer.
Fans seeking mementos from their visit to the star haven't helped its condition. Some have chipped away at a hole in the terrazzo. Years of footprints also have contributed ample wear and tear, officials said.
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce officials say the problem is bigger than just Presley's star, which was installed sometime between 1958 and 1960, with about 1,700 others added when the Walk of Fame was first created.
The Walk of Fame, created with an initial $1.25 million tax infusion from Hollywood merchants, draws about 9 million visitors a year.
And while chamber officials say they don't want to be cruel to Presley or other stars along the Walk of Fame, they only have a small amount of money to repair the tourist attractions.
After inquiries this week from the Daily News, chamber Chairman Johnny Grant said he has ordered the terrazzo company that installs new stars to fix the Presley star as soon as possible.
``It's the No. 1 attraction in Hollywood and we want to keep it that way,'' said Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood, who also is chairman of the Hollywood Historic Trust, which tries to preserve notable structures and attractions in the area.
Part of the problem is that star maintenance falls in a jurisdictional gray area. The chamber oversees the star application process and owns the copyright on the Walk of Fame, while the city owns the sidewalk the stars are cemented in, Grant said.
Both profit from the Walk's continued attraction to tourists, but both have held off major repairs in part because of ongoing MTA subway construction work, which has left large stretches of Hollywood sidewalks in bad shape.
Two years ago, the transit agency tried to avoid some problems by removing and storing more than 200 stars, including those of Charlie Chaplin, Milton Berle, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ingrid Bergman, said chamber Publicity Director Ana Martinez-Holler.
The agency plans to replace those stars and repair any others damaged by its work when construction is done, said Sawyer. But that could take as long as three more years.
``We don't want to step in and do it while construction is still going on,'' Sawyer said.
In the meantime, fixing the sidewalks ``really is the city's responsibility,'' Grant said. ``But it doesn't look like they're going to do it,'' he said.
City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the district, did not return calls.
PHOTO (color) Chris Shabel, back left, Dorothy Halper, Gerald Schneiderman, Jacquie Shabel and Hilary Carr stand in the faded gleam of Elvis Presley's star.
Tina Gerson/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 4, 1996|
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