Q Not all stars are born and bred in Los Angeles or New York, but after reaching fame, can a celebrity of a more humble beginning ever really return to live in his or her home town?

Kaitlyn Baird, Martinsburg, W.Va.

A The local Rotarians might paint your name in big letters on the water tower ("Home of . . ."), but this is about as close as any celebrity should ever get to going back. Britney Spears tries to have it both ways, returning frequently to Kentwood, La., (and even briefly marrying a local football jock) but the effect is creepy and childishly needy. Celebrities can never go home, unless home is something appreciable and rarefied, the way Katharine Hepburn "went home" to a large New York apartment or the Connecticut countryside. Even past their twilight, most celebrities cling to California, for it is their only life force.

When her latest TV series was canceled, Sela Ward announced she was moving home to take care of her ailing parents (she wrote a book about it) and reestablish her Southern roots. But she was back in front of the camera a year later for a role in this summer's "The Day After Tomorrow." So she's really only halfway home.

On a practical note, the American "no place" is ill-equipped to deal with a celebrity who has decided to come back for good. The problem isn't one of security, real estate or local gossip. The problem is: It's boring. Imagine poor Madonna coming back to Bay City, Mich. The possibilities for reinvention are next to nil. No one will buy that faux-Brit accent. Plus, it doesn't seem like a Kabala kind of place.

Celebrities get where they're at only by leaving it all behind. Their ultimate goal? Outer space and immortality. There are few return tickets.

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