Those of us old enough to have seen The Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show can easily recall when stars were stars that lasted a long time. What brought this to mind was all the fanfare on October 9th on what would have been the 70th birthday of John Lennon. Although dead for 30 years this superstar’s fame manages to survive the passage of time and he still serves as a star today to countless millions of people who were not yet born when he died! Another example is Michael Jackson – he too is an idol to millions who were not yet born when he was at the peak of his career.
These days there are stars that fade literally within weeks of becoming famous – an example would be Richard Heene and Mayumi Iizuka of short-lived Balloon Boy fame. They were all over the TV news and internet after they faked the runaway balloon incident involving their little boy – a dirty trick that landed them both in jail. You can find many examples like the Heenes but very few like John Lennon or Michael Jackson.
What makes the difference between stars that last and those that burn out in a flash? Firstly, there is the pure talent factor: just how talented and brilliant is the star? How good are they at their particular skill set? How did they reach stardom? This last question to me seems to be the key to determining star longevity – people who reach stardom gradually after years of hard work in their field tend to hold on to their star status for years. This makes sense since these “real” stars earned their place in the pantheon by reaching millions of people with their talent – as a part of many movies, songs, or whatever it is they do, these heavyweights built up a body of work, their ouevre, which is what makes them famous and keeps them famous. When you have done so much significant great work, like Lennon or MJ, there is no way to steal your stardom. Today’s modern false stars or one hit wonders get that way mostly through media exposure, not true talent and certainly not through producing a significant body of work. This leaves the lightweight star vulnerable to being overlooked quickly since their fame was really manufactured by the media rather than earned through the application of hard work and talent.
Article first published as The Short Shelf Life of Stars Today Pales in Comparison to Lennon, Jackson on Technorati.