If you’re like me, you’ve probably walked over those bronze stars embedded into Granville Street’s sidewalks thousands of times. You might spot a few names you recognize, like maybe The Beachcombers star Bruno Gerussi, or jazz chanteuse Diana Krall, or rocker Bryan Adams. You probably also walk over plenty of names you don’t recognize, like Ray Collins (a veteran character actor who died in 1965) or Pat Morgan (a mid-century radio star). It seems many Vancouverites don’t know the story or significance behind Vancouver’s two-block “StarWalk”.
Here’s the quick lowdown: the StarWalk began back in 1992 as the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame’s (BCEHF) effort to permanently and publically recognize famous Vancouver entertainers and industry leaders who have "enhanced the province's cultural profile, both locally and on the world stage."Granville Street, with its history of theatre, music and vaudeville, was the obvious location choice, and one the BCEHF doesn’t regret, despite its descent into debauchery. Four or five stars are added to the sidewalk each year. There are currently 205 stars.
Just last week, the 2016 StarWalk inductees were announced: actor Michael J. Fox, gospel singer Marcus Mosely (the Sojourners), composer Hal Beckett, bhangra star Jazzy B, and punk legend Joe Keithley. Those five get their own bronze stars on Granville and their photo added to the StarWall photo gallery in the Orpheum Theatre’s upper mezzanine.
A baker’s dozen of “Pioneers” were also inducted, including musician Linda McRae and notorious Penthouse Nightclub owners the Filippone Brothers. They all get added to the brass Honour Plaque in the main lobby of the Orpheum.
BCEHF president Rob Haynes is thrilled with the diversity of this year’s StarWalk list, which was selected in part by public nominations collected earlier in the year, and by the BCEHF board of directors.
“It’s definitely our most unusual list of inductees in many years,” says Haynes. “We have a superstar actor in Michael J. Fox, and a renowned composer in Hal Beckett.” (Among many other highlights in his 30-year career, Beckett arranged the national anthems for every country represented at the 2010 Winter Olympics.)
“Joe Keithley is without a doubt the first punk musician to be honoured with a star,” declares Haynes, “and Jazzy B has been called the ‘Michael Jackson of India’ by the New York Times.” The bhangra musician from Surrey has been singing and performing around the world to mass acclaim for decades.
“Oddly enough, tourists seem to spend more time looking at the stars than Vancouverites,” states Haynes. When I asked him why that is, Haynes simply felt that tourists were “more inquisitive” than the average Vancouverite. Maybe it’s also because Vancouverites don’t know or understand the story behind so many of their homegrown stars. The bios of each can be found at BCEntertainmentHallOfFame.com, and there is a saga worth reading behind every one.
Michael J. Fox’s star was embedded into the sidewalk last week, right in front of the Commodore Lanes bowling alley, and nestled beside Sarah McLachlan’s star.
Sure enough, the first people to stop were Brazilian tourists. One of them was a neurologist whose hospital had received funding from Michael J. Fox’s charitable foundation. She was thrilled to see his name honoured. It’d be nice if the Vancouverites who walk over those stars every day showed some of the same reverence.