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The New Yorker: December 26, 2005

L.A. POSTCARD: "STARDUST"

By Jake Halpern

In October, when Rod Stewart made an appearance on Hollywood Boulevard to unveil his star on the Walk of Fame, perhaps no one was prouder than Marcy Braunstein, a fifty-two-year-old woman from Pittsburgh. Braunstein is the ultimate Rod Stewart fan. This becomes evident to anyone who visits her house and stumbles upon her Rod Room—a cramped space that contains more memorabilia than one might find in a modest Presidential library. These mementos include a framed dress shirt that Rod once wore and a water glass that Rod sipped from on the set of “Oprah.”

“I like to joke that if my husband and I ever had kids my Rod Room would be a nursery,” Braunstein said recently. “But it's not. It's a Rod Room instead.”

Braunstein is proud of her obsession. “I will chat online with other Rod fans, and we will often say that we are going through ‘Rod withdrawal' or we need a ‘Rod fix,' ” she said. Braunstein typically satisfies this need by following Stewart on tour and dragging her husband, David Jones, along. Jones is not a Rod fan. “I'm going to be honest,” he said. “There is no way I could put my foot down. If I tried, it would be, like, ‘You can go, because Rod is staying.' ”

Several years ago, on one of these road trips, Braunstein and Jones passed through Hollywood and discovered that Rod Stewart did not have a star on the Walk of Fame. Braunstein called the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and demanded an explanation. The explanation was simple: no one had ever nominated Rod. So Braunstein filled out a nomination form and began raising money for the fifteen-thousand-dollar fee that would be required if and when Rod's star was approved.

Getting a star on the Walk of Fame is an arduous process that involves procuring approval from the (honorary) mayor of Hollywood, who is an eighty-two-year-old former talk-show host named Johnny Grant. According to Grant, he is constantly being buttonholed by would-be inductees. “I was at a funeral the other day and someone was pitching me to be on the Walk of Fame!” he said. Grant says that the process can be contentious, with officials bickering over who is a bona-fide celebrity and who isn't: “We've got one guy on the Chamber committee who says, for every nomination, ‘Why would you want to give that asshole a star?' ”

Rod Stewart's nomination sailed through without incident. And so, on October 11th, several hundred people, including Stewart, Grant, and Braunstein, gathered on Hollywood Boulevard. Grant sat in a folding chair, leaning forward on a cane and uttering pleasantries to passing young women: “Hey, looking good, baby. Are you on the menu?” He stood up to greet Braunstein, who told him all about the Rod Room. “That's nuts!” Grant said after she walked away. “Still, thank God for fans like that, who keep the business going.”

Several minutes later, Rod Stewart, who is sixty, showed up with four of his children and his fiancée, Penny Lancaster, who was pregnant (she delivered a boy, Alastair Wallace Stewart, a few weeks later). He wore white pants, a black blazer, and an orange tie. The crowd roared, and Marcy Braunstein's eyes misted with tears. “I can't believe this is finally happening,” she whispered. Grant escorted Stewart and Braunstein onto a stage, where he tried to make a speech over the noise of the spectators, who were shouting, “Rod! Rod! Rod!” Finally, he said, “Enough! You just blew out my hearing aid.”

Later, at her hotel, Braunstein said that she was enormously pleased with the day's events, except for one thing: she had failed to acquire any new exhibits for her Rod Room. So the following day she drove to Stewart's house, in the Hollywood Hills, to ask him to sign her copy of the original 45 of “Maggie May.” When she arrived at the front gate, she spoke her name into a security intercom, and the gate swung open. She drove in slowly, clutching the steering wheel with one hand and snapping photographs with the other. At the top of the driveway, a personal assistant appeared and explained that Mr. Stewart was in the shower but that he would gladly sign the record and mail it back to her. “So it all worked out,” she said.

 
— Jake Halpern