Making it big is the dream of many a starry-eyed young actor, but fame is fleeting. Being the darling of the media, whether it’s being a Hollywood celebrity or the star of a popular television show, is fun, but it can be a flash in the pan. After the spotlights are shut off, the paparazzi evaporate and the fans disappear, life goes on. Some former stars have dealt with that reality better than others.
Born in Detroit, MI, Tom Selleck burst onto the scene with the debut of “Magnum, P.I.” in 1980. The show revolved around the adventures of a private investigator based in Hawaii. After a few seasons, 6-foot-3 ½-inch Selleck become known for his long, slender legs, hairy chest, bushy mustache and Hawaiian shirts. There is some controversy over the “last” episode in 1987, in which the Magnum character is supposedly killed off and, clad in white, is filmed walking away from the camera, into clouds and a bright light.
Selleck actually starred in one more season of the show, and then went on to appear in more than 50 other productions including “Three Men and a Baby,” “Quigley Down Under” and the TV police drama “Blue Bloods.” He now lives on a ranch in Ventura County, CA, and divides his time between filming episodes of “Blue Bloods” and spending time with his family. He and his wife Jillie Mack live a contented life, and Selleck harvests 20 acres of avocadoes that grow on his ranch every spring.
As the ultra-dedicated fitness guru who was a household name from 1980-1984, many associated Richard Simmons with everything exercise-related. His TV shows had a primarily female studio audience, and they focused on physical fitness and weight loss. He was the 1980s equivalent of Jack LaLanne, without the bulging muscles, and Simmons’ show won Daytime Emmy Awards in 1981 and 1982.
Years later, Simmons remains active. He has written nine weight loss books and three cookbooks, and made more than 60 fitness videos. His “Deal a Meal” and “FoodMover” products help people keep track of portion sizes and calorie counts. He conducts national tours 250 days out of the year, and makes regular television appearances promoting health and fitness.
Soleil Moon Frye
For anyone who may not remember “Punky Brewster,” a rather obscure prime time TV series that ran from 1984-1988, Soleil Moon Frye played the starring role, an abandoned little girl being raised by a foster dad. Moon Frye started her acting career at age 2, and was chosen for the role of Punky at age 8. He career was no doubt influenced by her father, the late actor Virgil Frye, and her brother Sean Frye, a TV actor.
After the show ended, she became more active behind the scenes, and in 1998, at age 22, directed a movie called “Wild Horses.” The same year she starred in the made-for-TV movie “I’ve Been Waiting for You.” She now co-owns an eco-friendly baby boutique in Los Angeles, and is a “Mommy Ambassador” for Target department stores. She also wrote a book of parenting advice and inspiration, “Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between,” published in 2011.
Not everyone was able to deal with skyrocketing to fame without burning out, as revealed by the story of superstar Michael Jackson. He began making a name for himself early on, as a member of the Jackson 5. His siblings were also talented, and although his sister Janet showed musical talent, young Michael outshone them all. Long before the show “American Idol” ever hit the airwaves, he became one onstage and on the screen.
His music videos “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It” and his songs “Man in the Mirror” and “Heal the World” helped propel him to stardom. His 1982 album “Thriller” was named the best selling album of all time. His was a troubled life, however, and Jackson was sometimes surrounded in controversy. In 2009 that life ended at age 50 when he died of cardiac arrest related to a drug overdose.
Stardom is exciting for a few years, but nothing lasts forever. Each of these individuals had to deal with the blitz of intense scrutiny that goes with it as best they could. Some adjusted better than others, and were ultimately successful in moving on to the next phase of their lives.
Tom Selleck, courtesy of Alan Light
Richard Simmons, courtesy of Angela George
Michael Jackson, courtesy of U.S. Government (White House photo)