Hollywood Boulevard’s guardian of the stars

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Like many of those who visit Los Angeles, I’m  intrigued by the myths and traditions of Hollywood Boulevard, even though I’ve lived near the area most of my life.  One day I met Ana Martinez,   known as “Star Girl.” Ana works for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and she is in charge of placing wreaths on the stars of the dearly departed.  In recent days, she’s been quite busy, placing wreaths on the stars of Annette Funicello, Roger Ebert and Jonathan Winters.  In June, 2009,  it was even busier. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died on the same day. Many other actors and celebrities died before and after their deaths. Ana told me: “I feel like the grim reaper.” From my story:  (Daily News, July, 2009).

HOLLYWOOD — She is there in the beginning, to roll out the red carpet, to welcome the birth of a pink terrazzo star.

And she is there at the end, to place a floral wreath on the star that bears the bronze engraved name of the recently departed.

On Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, dreamers come and go, but certain traditions endure.

Sharp-eyed men and women hawk maps to stars’ homes. Wide-eyed tourists slip their fingers and toes into the cement imprints of famous hands and feet.

And Ana Martinez watches over the stars.

“We always leave flowers,” said Martinez, the spokeswoman for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“For a lot of people, it’s like visiting a gravesite.”

Hollywood

It’s part of the job the 48-year-old Martinez relishes, driving in from Diamond Bar each day to oversee the more than 3-mile round trip of sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Martinez worked side by side with Hollywood’s honorary Mayor Johnny Grant for nearly two decades before he died last year. Her duties still include organizing unveiling ceremonies for actors, directors, musicians and other celebrities who get their 300-pound pink terrazzo marble stars installed.

And she still calls in orders for flowers for those who have died. Grant used to place wreaths on the sidewalk to signal to pedestrians that a star had fallen. It’s a tradition Martinez has since inherited and one she does with a sense of honor.

But she shakes her head in disbelief at the unusual set of circumstances that has befallen the boulevard the past few weeks.

Hollywood lore includes the myth that the famous often die in a series of threes. Lately, there’s been a twist in the cosmos that even Martinez can’t explain.

“I feel like the Grim Reaper,” said Martinez, who wears a sparkling star pendant on her necklace and uses an e-mail address with the word “stargirl.”

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