It isn't always possible to meet your favorite star. In Los Angeles, you often settle for your star's star instead.
When you want to celebrate, when you want to mourn, you commune with your idol's brass and terrazzo stand-in.
He was shot to death by Mark David Chapman eight years before he got his star — which is on Vine Street, outside Capitol Records.
Still, every year his fans gather at the spot on the day of his birth and the day he was killed. Somehow, they say, it makes them feel closer to him.
Had he lived, Lennon would have turned 72 on Tuesday.
On Tuesday evening, about 50 people showed up at his star.
Beside his star, they signed a birthday card and ate birthday cake, and Sienna Niniz, 13, of Highland Park, cried because she would never, ever get to meet him.
On the outside, such a scene can seem crazy — too much devotion and time warp.
But something happens in the middle of it all on the pavement, when the sun starts to set and the sky over Hollywood turns first gold, then tangerine-pink.
Candles flicker. People start to sing. "Imagine all the people..." floats through the open windows of passing cars.
Big city turns into cozy living room.
Santa Monica activist Jerry Rubin has organized gatherings for Lennon since 1981, the year after the singer was killed. He does the same for George Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001.
Rubin, 68, wore shorts and a green T-shirt with a blue peace sign on it. He stamped blue peace signs on the hands of all who came. And when he noticed that the decorators of the cake provided by Capitol Records had iced Mercedes logos instead of peace signs, he cut pieces of cardboard off a box of plastic forks to make them right.
Most in the crowd were familiar to him, he said. Chris Carter, host of the "Breakfast with the Beatles" radio show, who always cuts the cake at these gatherings, described those assembled as "the hard-core Apple scruffs."
Philip Lopez, 40, fit the bill. He came from La Puente with his wife, Fatima, and their 5-year-old son, Lennon, who said he liked the Lennon song "All the people."
"It means a lot to be here," said the older Lopez. "It's not just about his music. It's about what he stood for: peace, love, coming together."