Why the Walk of Fame Became a Hotbed of Vandalism and Rage

The city councilwoman fighting to axe Donald Trump's Hollywood tribute told us why this battle is about a lot more than a sidewalk.

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16 August 2018, 3:30pm

Photo by Victor Park/Loudlabs via Twitter

Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been spat on, covered in graffiti, spray-painted with swastikas, splotched with dog shit, and—after someone laid into it with a pickax last month—completely obliterated twice, only to be cleaned up and repaired each time. The battle over the plaque looked like it might go on that way forever, a strange war between self-righteously unhinged citizens and a totem of buttoned-down entertainment elites—not to mention the occasional Trump supporter. But last week, the West Hollywood City Council passed a resolution urging the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (which administers the Walk of Fame) and the City of Los Angeles (which maintains it) to permanently remove Trump’s star. Among other reasons, the Council wants the relic gone because of Trump's "disturbing treatment of women." Which is to say that especially in light of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, it seems a bit odd to honor a guy facing at least a dozen accusations of sexual assault who’s bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” on tape.

Still, the local Chamber of Commerce has refused to budge. President and CEO Leron Gubler insists the landmark is about “celebrating the positive contributions of the inductees." Once the Chamber adds a star to the Walk, it’s part of the landmark’s “historic fabric," he explained when attempting to justify his group's refusal to remove Bill Cosby’s star from the Walk back in 2015. Presumably with that obstacle in mind, the resolution suggests the Chamber “revisit the qualifications” for being included in the Walk, taking things like allegations of sexual misconduct into account. In other words, to separate the art from the artist.

To get a better handle on this fight and whether there's any hope of it ending in Trump's permanent expulsion from the sidewalks of LA, I spoke with West Hollywood City Councilor Lindsey Horvath, who drafted the Council’s resolution alongside Mayor Pro Tempore John D'Amico. She said she's received death threats from Trump supporters, but isn't letting that stop her—because as she sees it, this fight is about much more than a star on a patch of fancy sidewalk.

VICE: Why did you decide to draft the resolution at this particular moment?
Lindsey Horvath: Well, in light of the fact that the star had been destroyed for the [second] time, and Los Angeles taxpayers would be asked yet again to pay to replace that star. And given that, in his own words, Mr. Trump exhibited conduct unbecoming while he was an entertainment executive, I thought it was the perfect time to raise this issue and call for his star to be removed.

There were nods in the resolution to Trump's policies—his role in the family separation crisis, his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and his move to bar transgender troops from the military, to name a few. In what ways is this not just about his conduct toward women, but also about what he’s done since, in his presidency?
From time to time as a city, we take action on issues that are beyond our borders, but are certainly within our values. This issue is no exception. We are taking action on this issue knowing he was given this star for his work as an entertainment executive, but we as a community have been particularly impacted by the policies that were mentioned in that report, and so many others, in a negative way. We think that contributes to a culture that he is creating, and that is why our community is choosing to stand up. We certainly know as a community how we’ve been harmed by his policies and the kind of culture and rhetoric that he’s continued to perpetuate, first as a candidate, and now as a president.

There’s a long history of Trump’s star being vandalized, as you alluded to. Sledgehammers, pickaxes. What do you make of the varied—and repeated—nature of the vandalism in play here?
It’s an expression of public outrage. It’s notable to me that his is the only star that seems to continue to experience this kind of destruction. I certainly do not advocate for public destruction of property, but I do think it’s indicative of a desire to express how people are feeling, and a need to address who is included in this national monument—and what standards are used to be included. Right now, there is no process for people to register complaints, other than to write to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and to the City of Los Angeles, and there’s no process for removal, should there be a public outcry. What we tried to do with this item is start this conversation.

Right, and it's not like Trump's is the only one in question. Bill Cosby’s star is still on the Walk of Fame, and there are no plans to remove it. Kevin Spacey’s star is on the Walk of Fame is still there, and there are no plans to remove it. You can go down and down the list—there’s a whole glut of them dedicated to men accused of serial sexual misconduct. To survivors of sexual assault, and harassment, and abuse, that seems like kind of a slap in the face.
I completely agree, and I think that those stars are also included in what we asked for in our report. We asked for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to establish standards of conduct that would be applied to all stars, not just [Trump’s] star. And from the communication I’ve received about our action, there seems to be a lot of confusion about that—that we’re asking for those to stay, or we think those are worth protecting—and nothing could be further from the truth. We are not protecting those stars. In fact, what we’re saying is that there should be standards for inclusion that apply to all stars. I certainly expect that if those standards of inclusion are applied to other stars, there will be other ones that will have to go.

Realistically speaking, what kind of message does it actually send to have those names lionized in public?
To me, it says all that matters is you made a studio a certain amount of money, or you reached a certain level of fame, or you had one hit TV series, and it didn’t matter how you treated people in that TV series, it didn’t matter how you treated people behind the camera—all that matters is fame, money, and other superficial things that I think the Hollywood culture is really not about. I think that specifically, the stars that we talked about, while they may have originally been intended to demonstrate other values to people, now—especially in light of the behavior of many of these Hollywood stars—what they’re communicating to people is that we are going to uphold these people as our heroes, no matter what we find out about them. And that their level of fame, or the amount of money they made (or that the studios made) is more important than whether they abused people, than whether they harassed people, than whether they disrespected people in order to get to that top star. I just don’t think that’s who we want to be as a community. I don’t think it’s the kind of entertainment culture we want to export to the rest of the country, and to the world.

How likely do you think it is that Trump’s star, and stars that honor other men accused of sexual misconduct, will actually get removed? How receptive do you think, first of all, the LA City council will be to this resolution? Have you heard anything from your colleagues there?
You know, I spoke with Council Member Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he believes talk about removing stars is a distraction from the real work of fighting Trump’s policies, and what’s coming out of Washington right now. And I disagree. I think that removing a symbol of the discrimination, harassment, and abusive behaviors that are happening to women—and to all different kinds of people in this country—would be quite a statement. So, while we know that this decision is ultimately first in the purview of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and of course with our colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council, we believe that we’re starting a conversation.

The Walk of Fame is on public land, but everyday citizens aren’t allowed much of a look into the institution that’s actually in charge of it—we don’t have a real sense of what the inner workings of the Chamber of Commerce are. Does that trouble you?
I think a big difference between people who are included in this national monument versus others is that they pay to be included. Whether the people who are honored themselves paid or, as is the case for most of the stars, their talent management or someone in an agency who represents them pays that fee—and it’s quite a high cost—that allows them the right, in addition to their career in entertainment, to be included. It’s the only national monument I know of where someone has paid to be included. I think there perhaps are other standards that would better reflect the values of Hollywood and the broader community for inclusion beyond, “Did you work in the entertainment industry?” and, “Are you willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in order to be included?”

So what might a new system of qualifications for receiving a star on the Walk of Fame look like? What kind of behavior do you think should disqualify someone from receiving a star, or lead to their star’s removal?
I think in light of what the Hollywood Chamber’s desire is—to highlight the positive contributions of entertainment executives or very well-known movie stars—I think we should be holding up people who exemplified that work, not only in terms of what happened on screen, but what happened off screen. Certainly, people who exhibit criminal behavior, that seems to be—and a chronic practice of abuse of women—I think those would certainly be things that should be raising eyebrows.

We’re not calling for the removal of a star simply because someone is Republican. We’re not calling for the removal of stars simply based on political stances that they have taken. What we’re asking is for a comprehensive policy to address the behavior that was exhibited by these stars, by these entertainment executives, and if what they’re being honored for is their entertainment career, then let’s make sure that career is one worthy of being honored.

In light of the vast number of powerful men in Hollywood who have been accused of sexual misconduct, can you envision a time when the number of stars on the Walk of Fame actually shrinks? How much smaller do you think the Walk could get—and how much smaller do you think it should get?
Well, I like to think about it a bit differently. I like to think about the Walk of Fame growing: being more inclusive, more diverse, and being more reflective of those positive qualities of Hollywood and the entertainment industry that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce thought to memorialize in the first place, instead of thinking about only the removal of those stars which no longer shine so brightly. I think we also can see a future where many more stars are included, where many more careers are considered worth elevating and reviewing for our future, and where we think a little more differently about who our Hollywood heroes are.

At the end of the day, you’re in a position at the West Hollywood City Council where, legally, you have no jurisdiction over whether or not Trump’s star gets removed—and, for that matter, whether any of these other stars get removed. Do you ever get frustrated and feel sort of feckless?
Yes, of course it’s frustrating—but what I’ve actually found very rewarding is the opportunity for correspondence that I’ve had with people, both locally and throughout the country, especially from people who initially wrote to us upset about the action that we’ve taken. We’ve gotten death threats, we’ve gotten more veiled threats, and certainly have been called all kinds of different names by people who are not happy with our decision. For the people who wrote a somewhat logical or impassioned response that wasn’t full of expletives, I’ve taken the opportunity to respond to people, and share with them a bit about why it was important to me to take this action, and be a part of this resolution. At the end of my emails, I’ve said, “I understand that on this issue, we disagree, but I’m sure there are many other issues on which we do agree, and I really do appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you about this, and to be in touch with you, and I want to wish you all the best.” And I can say probably about 80 to 90 percent of the time, the tone significantly shifts.

You know, I’ve heard from people with whom I share lots of values, and we just happen to disagree on this issue, and that’s okay. Reasonable people can disagree. But I think it's important that we have the opportunity to make our case with each other. That’s what we’re asking the Hollywood Chamber: to create the opportunity for people to engage in that debate in a reasonable way, to not get so frustrated that they take a pickax to a star, and to say that there is a lot more that these stars represent, in light of new facts, than what they originally intended. It’s okay to have a new conversation when we have new information, and acknowledge that what was originally intended might not be what the outcome is today.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.