On This Page:

Fame: What can poetry teach us about the nature of fame? Read what one great poet wrote and consider its wisdom.

Fame: Want to be famous? Surveys say that most people do, especially younger people. Think carefully before you select fame as a goal. As with everything, there is a price to fame.





A powerful need for fame motivates many of us. It is a very common desire among humans: to be loved by all, admired by all, deferred to by all, unique, special, praised, talked about, thought about. Pursued as a lover. A coveted friend. A trend setter, with so many people imitating oneself. People declaring to us that their goal in life is to be like you. It is heady stuff, I can only imagine. Some profound personalities were driven by it. Our pretended modesty is a threadbare cloak. We can see through it to the need in all of us for approval, admiration, and deference. The crowd parts for you if you are famous. People stop to applaud when they see you.

Wealth finds its way to the famous. The famous accept one another as a fellow in fame, though there is much rivalry and jealousy among the famous over who is the most glorious. I have read of two actors who held up a movie production because each of them believed that it was the star’s privilege to arrive on the set last, after everyone else was ready to work. Neither would walk to the set unless he was assured that the other one had already arrived. Parts of the script had to be rewritten so that their two characters were not in the same shot, because of their vanity.

Marlo ThomasFame lost its appeal for me when I went into a public restroom and an autograph seeker handed me a pen and paper under the stall door. - Marlo Thomas

Psychologists have found that some of our relatives - a species of monkey - would rather stare at a high status monkey than eat. When given a choice between going where food can be found or staring at a dominant monkey, these monkeys often prefer to gaze at the adored dominant one instead of eat. Adoring human apes exhibit much the same behavior. I have only met a few celebrities, but I admit that they had a definite glow about them. Of course, the glow was provided by my own mind, not by the celebrity. While I told myself that the famous person was just another person, my eye kept drifting over to him and my ear strained to catch any of his remarks. When President Reagan was shot, video taken at the time showed that the police who were protecting him were looking at him, not at the crowd as they had been trained to do.

Shirley Temple, Actress and DiplomatI stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. - Shirley Temple

If you desire fame be ready for criticism. While America was not always this way, we now enjoy seeing famous people make embarrassing mistakes, be disgraced, or otherwise be hurt socially. And, we enjoy never letting them forget it. Americans never forgive and they never forget. We haven’t forgotten and many haven’t forgiven OJ Simpson, Peewee Herman, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Jane Fonda, Woody Allen, Spiro Agnew, etc. Criminal charges and investigations are very unforgivable except in show business and sports. Somerset Maugham, novelist and playwrightShow business and sports stars can get away with drug use, shoplifting, drunk driving, infidelity, child neglect, reckless driving, spousal abuse, and other garden variety sins that we all commit. However, they are not forgiven for political sins (the Dixie Chicks) or the use of racial epithets (Mel Gibson, Michael “Kramer” Richards).


It is dangerous to let the public behind the scenes. They are easily disillusioned and then they are angry with you, for it was the illusion they loved. - W. Somerset Maugham


Fame is a hard business.

  • Anything and everything you do will be hated and criticized by at least 25% of the people. Some people love Britney Spears and other people hate Britney Spears. Some people love George Bush and some people hate George Bush. Some people love the Dixie Chicks and some people jeer at the Chicks when they appear in public. Fame means being hated, intensely, by some people.
  • Very few people are famous all their lives. For every Bob Hope, who was adored by everyone for his whole life, there are a hundred people like Jay North; famous for a time, then no longer famous. Star of the TV series Dennis the Menace, North spent the post-famous part of his life in the Navy and later as a security guard. He is now retired.
  • The upside of fame is that so many people love you. The downside of fame is that so many people love you. As I have reminded you before, be prepared to pay the high price of being loved. Love is felt when the caudate in one’s brain is flooded with dopamine, the brain chemical that causes the sensation of pleasure. Lovers are dopamine junkies. They want fix after fix. When you caress your lover’s hair, you are giving her a shot of dopamine right where Leonardo DiCaprioshe likes it, in the caudate nucleus of her brain. How does a wife behave when her husband disappoints her expectations of him? How does a child behave when his mother disappoints him? How does a loving fan behave when the adored one proves unworthy? Anger, frustration, a feeling of betrayal, a feeling of being cheated, a feeling of being mistreated. Love can turn to hatred very quickly.
      There is a real downside to being loved. This is a problem most of us simply have to accept and live with, because we are almost all love junkies ourselves.

People want you to be a crazy, out-of-control teen brat. Mel BrooksThey want you miserable, just like them. They don't want heroes; what they want is to see you fall. - Leonardo DiCaprio

It is not only the shallow and insecure among us who pursue fame. Profound personalities who changed the world’s history for the better have also pursued fame. Abraham Lincoln is a famous example. The same goes for Sam Houston, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gandhi, Dwight Eisenhower, and many others. Don’t be ashamed if you crave fame, but be prepared to handle the demands and disappointments that fame brings to your life.

You're always a little disappointing in person because you can't be the edited essence of yourself. - Mel Brooks



The Poetry Corner:


On Fame


“On the Cover of Rolling Stone”

performed by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show

Lyrics by Shel Silverstein


“Well we are big rock singers, we've got golden fingers,

And we're loved everywhere we go.

We sing about beauty and we sing about truth

At ten thousand dollars a show.

We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills,

But the thrill we've never known

Is the thrill that'll get you when you get your picture

On the cover of the Rolling Stone.

Dr. Hook and the Medicine Company On the Cover of Rolling Stone Magazine

I've got a freaky old lady name o' Cocaine Katy

Who embroiders on my jeans.

I've got my poor old gray-haired Daddy

Drivin' my limousine.

Now it's all designed to blow our minds,

But our minds won't really be blown

Like the blow that'll get you when you get your picture

On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

Shel Silverstein wrote these lyrics. He died in 1999.

We got a lot of little teenage blue-eyed groupies

Who do anything we say

We got a genuine Indian guru

He's teachin' us a better way

We got all the friends that money can buy

So we never have to be alone

And we keep gettin' richer but we can't get our picture

On the cover of the Rolling Stone “


Lyrics were written by Shel Silverstein, a best-selling author of children's poems and books, for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.

FYI: The group made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine on March 29, 1973, 3 months after this was released. Dr. Hook no longer performs. Shel Silverstein died in 1999.


Chapter 21





Download or read online: Machiavelli’s Prince in English translation by W. K. Rowling


Read a brief summary of Machiavelli’s life and works,

written by W. K. Rowling as the Introduction to his translation of The Prince


A readable summary of Machiavelli’s Prince can be found at






The Modern Prince:

Better Living Through Machiavellianism


Click to read a couple of sample chapters. Click here to read a couple of chapters


  Download PDF -  $4.95

  Order the Book - $14.95

  Amazon Kindle  -  $4.95