Q: Is it possible to de-celebritize someone by simply agreeing, among all of us, that someone is no longer sufficiently interesting? (Or even worthy of appearing in People magazine?) If so, whom would you recommend we first consider?
Richard A. Seid, Washington
A: There is only one way to de-celebritize someone, and it is an incredibly cruel process: Let them grow old. I don't mean baby-boomer "Nick at Nite" old or working-on-infomercials old, I mean very, very old. Nora Desmond old. So old that the kind of thing the person was famous for no longer exists in that format (such as vaudeville, light musical comedy, silent films).
Otherwise, the answer is: No, it is impossible to strip away all traces of celebrity status. For one thing, there exists the tantalizing possibility that any has-been could commit a crime, unwittingly repurposing themselves for our sleazy media needs.
And the masses could never come to a consensus about whose license to revoke. I'd opt for Clay Aiken, but even just suggesting that will bring me a fresh round of vitriolic, pro-Clay e-mail. Also, the "Love Boat" cast; the members of Oasis; Corey Feldman; excess boy-band members and dormant Spice Girls; Sheena Easton; Dan Cortese from "MTV Sports"; Tootie and Natalie from "The Facts of Life" and on and on.
But then I think: Each of these people, someday, is going to make an excellent, curious, brief appearance on an obituary page (or whatever obituary pages electronically become). There will be a wonderful second or third paragraph attempting to describe who these people were and what they meant in their time. Some deaths will be overlooked, but be assured an obsessed fan or two will remain to protest such omissions. Even the dullest celebrities will always have fans.
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