April 12, 2011
To the list of things that can only happen in Hollywood, add today’s revelation about a man coming forward to return 1920s actress Marilyn Miller’s original Walk of Fame star, which was apparently stolen 40 years ago without anybody realizing it.
Ana Martinez of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce told City News Service she received a call yesterday from a nervous man who said he had a Walk of Fame star, which he claimed someone had given to him.
It turns out it was Miller’s, which was one of several that were removed from the area of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in the 1970s to make way for special honors on the famed walk for NASA astronauts, Martinez said.
“The stars were removed because they were going to be moved up in the same area of original placement,” Martinez said.
She said the original stars were supposed to be destroyed because they were being replaced with new ones.
“Obviously a few of them weren’t,” she said.
Miller’s star was apparently pilfered from a construction site — the same one from which the original stars of James Stewart and Kirk Douglas disappeared, she said. Those stars were later recovered, but nobody realized that Miller’s had not been destroyed as planned, so the theft apparently went undetected.
“I guess everyone assumed it was destroyed,” Martinez said.
Martinez said the caller, whom she identified only as Bill, asked if it would be a crime to keep the star.
“I said it’s a registered historic landmark,” she said.
So the man hastily returned the 300-pound piece of concrete, even though his wife apparently had plans to turn it into a patio table, Martinez said.
Martinez said the star would be kept in the chamber’s archives, which will someday be used to create a “mini-museum.”
“I’m just glad she’s back,” Martinez said.
As the story goes, Miller — a singer/dancer who rose to stardom on Broadway in 1920 working with Florenz Ziegfield and went on to star in a series of musical comedy films — was the inspiration for an aspiring actress known as Norma Jeane Baker to change her name to the far more memorable Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe’s agent, Ben Lyon, reportedly urged the change, saying Monroe reminded him of Miller.
Miller died in 1936.