Today Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston will become the 2,502nd celebrity to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining icons like Steven Spielberg, Audrey Hepburn, and Frank Sinatra on what has become, since its launch in 1960, a who’s-who’s of who’s made it in American entertainment. But unlike, say, the Oscars or the Emmys, the standards for inclusion are kept under tight wraps. So what, exactly, does it take to get one of these coveted pink terrazzo marble stars? TIME got the scoop from the newest member of the star selection committee: America’s Funniest Home Videos creator Vin Di Bona, and Ana Martinez, the Walk of Fame’s Vice President of Media Relations and Producer.
1. Produce something iconic.
In theory, anyone can apply for a star—all it takes is mailing an application and a fee to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. But submissions won’t even be considered if the candidate isn’t accomplished. “It’s a tourist attraction,” says Martinez. “We want the tourists to come to Hollywood to see their favorite stars.” (And the people working behind-the-scenes to create their favorite entertainment, like directors and producers.) As Di Bona puts it, “A star lets [fans] say thanks. Thank you for making my life happier or better.”
More specifically, that means that star candidates have to be famous for at least five years, and have, as Di Bona puts it, “unchallengeable” expertise in what the Chamber deems a core entertainment category—television, movies, radio, live theatre and music. Reality and Internet stars are notably excluded. As one Chamber rep famously said about Kim Kardashian, “She needs to get a real acting job then come to us.”
Also, no worries if you’re not human (though kudos for being able to read this): animals who have stars include Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, as well as fictional characters like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Kermit the Frog.
2. Promise that you want one.
All star applications must include a written statement from the star candidate, confirming that a) they want a star and b) they will attend the unveiling ceremony if their application is accepted. That’s a main reason why A-listers like Julia Roberts and Dustin Hoffman don’t appear on the Walk of Fame—they’re not interested.
3. Raise $30,000.
All star applications carry a $30,000 sponsorship fee. Half goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust, which maintains the Walk of Fame. The rest funds the creation of the star itself—breaking up the blank existing square and replacing it with a new one, printing the replica plaque honorees can take home, hiring photographers, security, and anything else related to the ceremony.
Typically the recording label or movie studio will foot the bill. But in some cases, the money has been raised by stars’ devoted fans. “Liza Minnelli’s fan club raised money by showing her movies at somebody’s house and having bake sales,” says Martinez. “Dean Stockwell was into recycling, so his fans did it by recycling.”
4. Wow the selection committee.
Every June, a select group of Hollywood bigwigs meets to review sponsors’ applications—including, most crucially, the star biographies submitted by their personal managers. This is the place to tout key details about awards won, records sold, philanthropic work, and anything else that might sway opinions.
There are six members on the selection committee, all of whom are appointed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and can serve a maximum of two two-year terms. David Green, head of Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, is the chairman, and only votes if there is a tie. The rest represent the core categories of entertainment: Di Bona (Television), Clear Channel Market President Greg Ashlock (Radio), Black Swan producer Mike Medavoy (Motion Pictures), Christina Aguilera manager Irving Azoff (Live Theatre/Performance), and R&B songwriter James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III (Recording/Music). (Fun fact: Di Bona, Jimmy Jam, and Medavoy all have Walk of Fame stars of their own.)
Stars’ applications are good for two years, but they can reapply as many times as they want.
5. Fight for prime real estate.
Historically, the most coveted star placement has been in front of Hollywood Boulevard’s Roosevelt Hotel (where Julio Iglesias, Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter, and Joan Rivers reside) and the Hollywood and Highland shopping center (Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Susan Sarandon). Now that the Walk of Fame is so big, however, celebrities should consider themselves lucky to get a spot outside the W Hotel, which actually has enough room to accommodate large crowds.
Of course, most of these placements aren’t controlled by the stars themselves. It was Martinez, for example, who put Farrah Fawcett’s in front of George’s Hair Salon in 1995, “because she was so famous for her hair,” she says. Kiefer Sutherland’s, meanwhile, was placed at 7024 Hollywood Boulevard—a nod to his TV show 24. Roger Moore, also known as 007, has a star at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard.
But if a star is big enough, he or she may be able to make demands: Muhammad Ali, for example, did not want people stepping on his star, so it was placed on the wall of the Hollywood and Highland shopping center.
Oh, and Clint Eastwood, if you’re interested, a special place is being reserved for you. “There’s one spot left in front of the Chinese Theatre and we’re saving it,” says Martinez. “He’s been approved, but he never set a date [for the ceremony].”
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6. Throw a massive party.
Each star is unveiled in a grand ceremony, attended by the stars’ fans and other celebrities. The events typically attract about 600 people—unless the candidate is a Latin music star or a boy-band member, whose fans turn out in droves. The one for mariachi singer Vicente Fernandez drew 4,000 people, the largest crowd ever. J-Lo’s was also on the higher end, boasting 1,100 attendees.
These days, Martinez regularly gets bombarded with emails, tweets, and phone calls from boy band fans—so much so that she’s designated a special “corner” for boy band stars on Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea and Sycamore Avenues, which can accommodate more people. Some 1,000 fans—mostly moms—camped out for the Backstreet Boys’ recent ceremony, arriving as early as 4:00 a.m.
7. Remain on your best behavior. (Or don’t!)
When Oscar-winner Marlon Brando came under fire for making anti-Semitic remarks about Jewish people in Hollywood, some said the Godfather actor did not deserve a star anymore. But the late Johnny Grant, former chairman of the Hollywood Walk of Fame committee and the honorary mayor of Tinseltown, argued that celebrities get stars solely on the basis of career merit. After all, as Grant put it (according to Martinez), if stars were pulled up every time a famous person said something stupid, “we would have no stars left.”