She’s not God, but she does wield the power of the stars.
As un-Hollywood as it gets, the very down-to-earth Latina who worked her way up from receptionist to VP, with everyone telling her she was too shy and too nice for the job, now controls the second largest tourist attraction in the U.S.
Ana Martinez, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s VP of Media Relations, has laid over 600 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – she chooses the spot where Hollywood’s elite will live on the ground forever.
Using what she calls a different persona, she flips her mild-mannered self into super overseer as she sets dates for the placement of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, writes press releases, vigilantly manages the press and security, directs the celebs and their families and is the social media maven for the Chamber.
“I love my job,” said the half-Mexican, half-Peruvian. “Walk of Fame represents about 90 percent of my job."
There are five categories for getting a star placed with your name on it: Radio, TV, Motion Pictures, Recording and Live Performance. It costs $30,000 for a star; which is usually sponsored and every celeb is vetted and approved by a committee. Anyone can nominate a celeb, and they’re chosen based on their longevity in the business, the awards they’ve won and their philanthropic work.
But she doesn’t just select any free spot for celebs – the location is methodically chosen based on popularity, relationships or artistic genre, among other criteria.
Hollywood and Highland Boulevards are prime real estates and saved for Hollywood’s elite. Farah Fawcett, famous for her hair, was placed in front of a hair salon. Irish-American actor Mark Wahlberg was placed in front of an Irish pub. Motley Crue and Journey were placed in front of Musician’s Institute. Ranchera singer Pepe Aguilar was placed next to his dad, Mexican icon Antonio Aguilar. Actress Penélope Cruz was placed next to her husband, Javier Bardem.
“I like putting families together,” she said.
Of course, things don’t always go so well when she places loved ones next to each other.
“I put Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins together,” she said. “And they broke up!”
A nomination can be a big deal for an artist – it means they made it in Hollywood and they will forever be etched on Hollywood. When they die, Martinez arranges for floral arrangements to be placed on the stars right after the death announcement is made —within hours— an idea she came up with years ago.
But the ceremonies are not always fun. There have been the occasional divas –she names no names– and some arrive late at their own celebration. Other stars are easier to deal with. Sophia Loren, for one.
“She was cool,” she said. “She didn’t care about the press or photographers. She was also No. 2000 on the newly block on La Brea.”
There have been thefts of stars while they were under construction and in transition, once showing up in the backyard of a drug-dealer. And Gregory Peck’s star, which was actually cut out of the sidewalk, has never been returned.
Martinez credits the now deceased radio personality and unofficial Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant (also Martinez’s daughter’s godfather) with helping to diversify the Walk of Fame.
“It was something Johnny was very committed to. He made it a mission to include more celebs of color,” Martinez said. “Also, there are simply more Latinos in the business today than 25 years ago when I started —in front of and behind the cameras.”
One of the largest fan turnouts was for Vicente Fernández’s star, because the ceremony happened to fall on a holiday.
“There were over 4,000 screaming Latino fans to manage,” she said. “The Latino press was out, a very energetic and enthusiastic bunch; a local radio station set up an entire stage without the city’s permission. It was insane.”
A few celebrities, though nominated, have declined to have their names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Among the stars she’s holding spots for: Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.
Recently Martinez herself was gifted with a star. For her tireless work, someone was able to get permission from the Chamber (the stars are trademarked) to have a star made with her name on it.
The 300-pound beauty is proudly displayed in her home.
Rebekah Sager is a nationally published lifestyle and culture writer. She's a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow Rebekah on Twitter @Rebekah_Sager.