Put your hands in the hands of the stars.

Times Square, 3 1/2 Exchange Street, Pawtucket
(401) 728-0500 (Pawtucket City Hall)

The optimistically named Hollywood Walk of Fame began as a memorial to the making of a single movie (a movie, in fact, that wasn't particularly popular with the movie-going public). American Buffalo, directed by Michael Corrente, featured several locations in and around Pawtucket's Times Square, where the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located. In July 1995, on the eve of the end of filming, Corrente joined the movie's stars, Dennis Franz, Dustin Hoffman, and Sean Nelson, in kneeling on wooden slats to immortalize their hand prints and signatures in wet cement. (Hoffman has allegedly refused to put his foot and hand prints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater, so Pawtucket may be the only place where you'll find imprints of any of his body parts.)

It was thought at the time that these would be the first in a long line of celebrity visitors eager to get on their knees to benefit Pawtucket's tourism industry, but somehow someone dropped the ball. In the intervening years, some of the bronze plaques have been pried up for souvenirs and the handprints have filled with sand. It was many years before another name was added (more on that below).

When this article first went live, back around 2001, we suggested that visiting the locations that were featured in American Buffalo could be a lot more fun than watching the movie itself, and we proposed the following activities to enliven your visit to Times Square:

1) Consider, ponder, reflect. Can you figure out whose hand prints are whose? Are you man or woman enough to fill the hand prints of Dustin Hoffman or Dennis Franz? Can you name another film that Sean Nelson has appeared in? Do the creases in Michael Corrente's palms reveal his directorial genius?

2) Stroll a few feet around the corner from the Walk of Fame and peer in the window of the shoeshine parlor where Franz' character, Don, had his shoes shined. Note the sun-bleached comic books and magazines in the rack by the window that appear not to have been touched since filming wrapped up. If you've come during business hours, go ahead and get yourself a shoeshine. Nothin' beats having a guy kneel before you while he rubs your shoes!

Engage the owner in conversation and he may tell you how scenes were filmed over at the Riverside Diner, but never used. Or how Dustin Hoffman, at the behest of director Corrente, worked himself into character by convincingly acting out an agitated phone call, prompting one regular diner customer to run out exclaiming, "There's gonna be a fight!"

3) Now, with your footwear shining twin images of your own face back up at you, stroll around to the front of the Riverside Diner. In the movie, this is where we first meet and gain insight into Hoffman's character, Teach, as he angrily kicks an empty plastic pallet while repeatedly saying, "Fuckin' Ruthie!" under his breath. If you can find a pallet, you can kick it and curse too, just like the famous movie star!

4) Formerly called the Times Square Diner, the Riverside Diner was renamed for the movie, and is still open for business. Go inside and get something for yourself. Teach would ask for bacon—crisp, not greasy—but it wouldn't be cooked to his satisfaction. We suggest you order whatever you like; it's all good. Afterwards, be sure to check your change for American buffalo nickels, the North American grazing quadruped of the film's title.

5) Once you've had your fill of diner fare, step back outside and gaze across the street. Contemplate whether the view is improved without the Leroy Theater or Hagist Appliances, where Don had his store. Soon after filming wrapped up, the whole block containing those businesses was torn down to make way for the Walgreens you see before you.

6) Now, if you've never seen American Buffalo, you may want to rent it while its locations are fresh in your mind (see the American Buffalo entry in Rhode Island in the Limelight: Film for more details). Viewing the film might cause you to ask such questions as: Do I like my present station in life? Do I have everything I need, or would I like a little bit more? What would I be willing to do to improve my lot? Would I steal? Would I involve an innocent boy in my scheme? What if it wasn't so much for the money, but for revenge? Could I do that and still consider myself a good person? Does it even matter to me whether I'm a good person or not? What would I do in Don's place, or Teach's, or Bobby's? Does getting hit in the head with a telephone really hurt as much as it appears? Who the hell is Ruthie?

Time passes and things change. In the movie, the neighborhood is economically depressed, and hardly another soul (aside from the three main characters) is ever seen. In real life, the intersection is a high traffic area, yet still something of an economic dead zone. As of this revision (2015), the shoeshine parlor and Times Square Diner are both closed. The diner may one day re-open with a new name and new management, but it's unlikely the shoeshine parlor will ever serve another customer.

These hands... these hands have seen stuff, man.

While time taketh away, time also giveth. In 2014 a new square of cement, imprinted with the handprints of a cinematic master (or monster, depending on your point of view), was added to the sidewalk. On August 7, director Woody Allen took a break from filming his then-unnamed movie, Irrational Man, in Providence, to immortalize his hands and signature in red cement. The block was then installed in Times Square at a later date. Officials had hoped to secure the prints of the film's stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, but no such luck. Like Dustin Hoffman, Allen doesn't have a spot on the real Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California, but only here, in Pawtucket.

Hopefully we won't have to wait twenty years for the next name to be added.

Information

Cost: free

Time required: allow 5 minutes to an hour, depending upon how many fun-filled activities you pursue

Hours: year round, dawn to dusk

Finding it: from Route 95 south take exit 29 to Broadway; take a right onto Exchange Street and continue to the big intersection just past the Pawtucket Times building. From Route 95 north take exit 28 and take a left onto School Street; go to the end and take a left onto Walcott Street, which becomes Main Street; take the next right onto Roosevelt Avenue and then the next left onto Exchange Street; continue to the big intersection just past the Pawtucket Times building.

What’s nearby

Distances between points are actual distances, without regard to creeks or listless ghosts. Your travel distance will be longer.

This article last edited December 10, 2015

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