What do you do when you’re no longer famous but still need to pay the bills? Most of us who are normal people are not famous enough to matter anyway to those outside of our family and friends and perhaps neighbors (if one is not an antisocial recluse like me). But those who have acquired money and fame in the world find themselves addicted to both, and for good reason. Without any sort of negative slur on anyone’s character, to go from wealthy and able to buy what one wants and go where one wants to being someone who has to work for a living and tough out an existence as a common person is not easy. Take, for example, the choice of the Cosby Show actor who was found to be working at a Trader Joe’s grocery store, only to be insulted online for slumming. Many others, myself included, responded with praise for the man’s humility and his willingness to do honest labor after having been a star. Nor is he the only person to make this sort of choice. I heard, and I do not know if it is true, that the member of a pop duo from the late 80’s and early 90’s that was a one hit wonder ended up working at a Del Taco. If so, I would have liked to have told him that I still remember his hit and still enjoy it, and that I also like the value tacos and cheese quesadilla.
The options that one has available when one has lost one’s fame depend on the sort of life one lived while famous . The aforementioned member of the 80’s pop duo and the cast member of the Cosby Show are both people who lived a low profile. They had, so far as I am aware, no massively expensive divorces, no child support cases, no terrible scandals, and they were able to enjoy their time in the spotlight and then return to be ordinary and decent and hardworking people among those who once cheered on their efforts in the public sphere. Hopefully they have no regrets, and nothing to feel ashamed of. Nor do they feel any great desire to remain a part of the fame machine, having walked away from it to live very ordinary but honorable existences. There is no shame in working at a restaurant that makes tasty (and inexpensive) Mexican food nor in working for a grocery store. Not everyone can make that sort of choice, though.
After all, some people become addicted to expensive lifestyles and have expensive child support and alimony payments to keep up even after the fame is gone. For such people, it is not an option to blend into the ordinary population. Such people need, desperately, to be famous. And the options available depend on the area where one is famous. Athletes can often play on some sort of senior circuit or become a hired gun in an obscure league that is looking for someone to sell tickets even if their skills have declined, but that only increases the toll on one’s body from playing in many of those sports. Actors who are getting old may feel it necessary to lower the standards of the films they are in to pay the bills. Singers who are no longer famous may perform their hits at corporate festivals like Domopalooza, or perform in obscure casinos in rural eastern Oregon or at concerts in India, Russia, and the Faroe Islands. Others may poke fun at themselves in commercials or be a part of embarrassing and cringeworthy reality television shows to keep their name in the public eye and themselves in receipt of money as long as they can, long after they are but a caricature of themselves.
Who is better off? Is it worth being the butt of jokes like Vanilla Ice is–who, all things considered, seems like a nice enough guy–for having been on a flight from Dubai that got quarantined when many of its passengers ended up sick? Why was he in Dubai in the first place? He likely had some business somewhere to pay the bills and was doing some sort of concert, and he ended up accidentally becoming the punchline of the joke in the news. Is it better to be laughed at or to be largely forgotten as a person, except for the enduring memory of one’s work? What if one’s work doesn’t endure? I suppose in that case it would be like the work of many of us, people who may have been prolific in our creation of material, but whose work never reached the level that it received public attention. Perhaps that is for the best. It is uncomfortable to meet people who know us when we do not know anything about them. It is awkward to have our lives and habits known by people who know them only for malice, to make fun of us. It can definitely be appealing to gain some benefit from fame in terms of money and fleeting popularity, to be proud of what one has made, and then to be able to mix and mingle among past fans and present friends as an equal, to show that one was not corrupted by one’s brief experience in the big time. Not everyone gets the chance to be famous, even for fifteen minutes, and not everyone handles it well. Let us praise the anonymous many who have had their time in the sun and have lived honorably in the shadows with the rest of us.
 See, for example: