First published in the Jan. 22 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
By Jonathan Williams
Nestled in the heart of the Southland, lies the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Since 1953, Hollywood stars have been immortalized on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.
Millions of tourists, upcoming actors and entertainers have flocked to the 2,710 stars to see their favorite person in the industry’s name on the sidewalk embedded in the heart of a 6-foot coral terrazzo star trimmed with brass.
In almost 80 years, no one has documented a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the famous Hollywood monument and its induction ceremonies — until now.
La Crescenta resident Leron Gubler’s “The Walk of Dreams: Finding Fame in Hollywood (Or Wherever Life Leads)” chronicles his 26-year career as the president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the organization responsible for managing the Walk of Fame.
“I’ve got kids of my own and I’ve seen a lot of kids [who] don’t believe in themselves,” Gubler said. “They lack direction in their lives and what to do, so I’m hoping that this book will be inspirational to help kids and young people getting started or those further along to let them know that these celebrities are a lot more like us than we think. You listen to their stories and they are the same as our stories. They’ve had the same struggles we’ve had and if they can succeed, so can you.”
Gubler grew up in Porterville, which is in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University, he started his career with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1992.
At the time, Gubler said the chamber was struggling fiscally and had had three CEOs in three years prior. He saw it as an opportunity to come up to Hollywood and his plan was to stay for two years.
“It was a little scary coming up to Hollywood,” he said. “I ended up staying for 26 years and it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of challenges but after you’ve been in Hollywood for a few years, any place else seemed boring by comparison. It was pretty hard to leave so I ended up staying far longer than anticipated.”
Living in San Pedro, Gubler would commute to Hollywood for the first seven years he was with the chamber and found that he took an interest in the Glendale area.
Gubler said he enlisted the help of a realtor because the commute was stressful traveling through the heart of Los Angeles. He said the realtor suggested La Crescenta would be perfect because of the cost of living and the quality of the schools.
He purchased his home in 1999, got married and had two children. He still lives in the same house he purchased more than 20 years ago.
“I wanted a place that would be good for families,” Gubler said. “I’ve loved it up here. It’s very rural. You really have the feeling you’re not in a big city when you’re up here. The streets kind of roll up at night in fact. It’s a very friendly, small-town atmosphere which is kind of like where I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley.”
He’s been active in the community helping at a food bank, his church and working as the treasurer of the booster club at Crescenta Valley High School along with being a member of the Glendale Historical Society.
“You’ve got to stay active,” Gubler said. “Otherwise, you’re going to go brain dead.”
During his tenure, he participated in Walk of Fame ceremonies that featured stars such as Christopher Reeves, Andrea Bocelli and Mark Hamill. Gubler said through all the years, it’s a challenge to pinpoint a favorite.
“One of the stories that was most amazing was Zoe Saldana,” he said. “She came out with a theater troupe that she was a member of. They got some sort of a grant and it covered the cost for them to come to California … they were walking down Hollywood Boulevard at midnight and they were so excited. All of a sudden, there was an earthquake. They thought, ‘Is this a sign?’ She had her two sisters and she asked them, ‘Do you think there’s really a chance for me that I could ever make it here?’”
Gubler said he is stepping in to help while the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new CEO and is looking forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
“The founders of the Hollywood Walk of Fame never envisioned what would happen,” Gubler said. “They were basically trying to create a tourist attraction. In reality, it has grown into something far greater than a tourist attraction. It has become a source of inspiration for millions of people who come there every year so that’s why my book is called ‘The Walk of Dreams.’”
Ana Martinez is the vice president of media relations at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremonies. She said she met Gubler 28 years ago when he started his tenure at the chamber, where Martinez has worked for 35 years.
“Gubler is one of the nicest people you will ever meet,” Martinez said. “He’s got a beautiful family. He could’ve kept working but his kids were growing up, you know. That job takes a lot of time and I could see why he retired when he did. We were bummed out because he was so good to work with, very mellow and very intelligent. He is a good family man.”
Martinez said she can remember when Gubler crafted the book and his diligence inspired her to write her own book in the future.
“I’m very proud of him,” Martinez said. “I thought, what is this book going to be like? Then I read the description and started reading it and said, oh my God, he did a great job. He has a passion for the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He loves his job as well.”
Carmine Goglia spent 43 years at the film studios as an on-set scenic artist and became involved with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the 1980s making replica stars for the honorees. He said he remembered meeting Gubler for the first time.
“My first impression of Gubler was that he was a full-on nerd,” Goglia said. “I watched him progress from that nerd to someone who was so comfortable and funny. We had this nice little bond. The ceremonies grew really because of Martinez and Gubler.”
Goglia said he was shocked to hear when Gubler retired and hopes he will write another book in the future.
“I’m so proud of him because I know it’s going to be a spot-on view of how [he] saw Hollywood,” Goglia said. “I always thought of him like a brother or a son or whatever. I’m just proud of him. I’ve always been proud of him. Gubler always showed me the utmost of respect and I reciprocated that.”