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"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!"


"Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl

But that was thirty years ago, when they used to have a show

Now it's a disco, but not for Lola

Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair"
Barry Manilow, "Copacabana (At the Copa)"

She was once one of the biggest stars in pop music, film, or theatre. But now, her time in the spotlight is over. She's over the hill. A joke. A "Where Are They Now?" trivia question. A White Dwarf Starlet.

But she still maintains dreams of greatness, or that she'll be rediscovered and back in the spotlight. Often totally delusional, quoting random lines and talking about fellow stars that passed her by. She probably lives in a run-down mansion full of memorabilia of her lost golden years, wears moth eaten Outdated Outfits from her great hits, and still expects everyone to recognize her.

This character is nearly Always Female and, as such, sets a Double Standard-- the unmentionable downside is that women are often kicked out of the entertainment industry once their beauty fades. A male entertainer can often keep performing for as long as he can remember his lines. He might develop some issues of his own over the years, but he can still find work.

Compare with Former Child Star. See also I Was Quite a Looker. Has absolutely nothing to do with the magazine published by Games Workshop; the name is a reference to stars — the kind in the sky — that have ceased to burn and are now glowing only with residual heat from their younger days. (Of course, the magazine used to be the world's premier gaming magazine and is now just an overpriced catalogue for Games Workshop miniatures, so maybe there's a connection after all...)

Examples of White Dwarf Starlet include:

Anime and Manga

  • In a major twist, the true villain in Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue turns out to be Mima's overweight, middle-aged female manager Rumi, who was a former pop idol who didn't last and now thinks she's the real Mima. The climax of the film where Rumi chases Mima in the illusory form of Mima's giggling, pop-idol alter-ego while trying to kill her is genuinely disturbing.
  • Subverted in another Satoshi Kon film, Millennium Actress. The titular actress has faded from the limelight and lives a reclusive life surrounded by memorabilia of her past fame; but her departure from the spotlight was intentional — resulting from a broken heart — and she has no interest in a comeback. She lives in the past, because she's not interested in the present.
  • In the anime anthology Memories, the first short, Magnetic Rose (also directed by Satoshi Kon,) has key to its story a once-great opera singer [Eva] who isolated herself in a satellite in the wake of a scandal. It is filled with reminders of her success and uses holograms to simulate a lavish mansion. Her consciousness still haunts the decaying satellite long after her death.
  • Akira Kogami qualifies for this at age 14, having worked as an Idol Singer since she was 3 years old and now relegated to a three-minute Greek Chorus show at the end of each Lucky Star episode. And boy, is she bitter about it.
  • It's All There in the Manual. Ever wonder why B.T., the manipulative Distaff Counterpart to Bear behaves so peevishly in .hack//SIGN? According a hidden message in the OVAs, she's actually a model who was recently told she's too old to keep in the business. Undoubtedly, The Game Within The Show, The World, is a vent for her.
  • In one of the Sakura Taisen OAVs, a particular movie studio was supposedly haunted by the ghost of such a lady; a silent film star whose roles dried up with the introduction of Talkies. Supposedly this was because while she was beautiful, she had a bad speaking voice but the truth is that her diva attitude alienated everyone in the industry. Since this is Sakura Taisen, the rumors are true and her horrific spectre really is hanging around and deadly jealous of the Hanagumi members filming in the studio. The OAV ends with an aesop of respecting both the cast and crew of a production and the ghost fades away as she returns to the state she was in during her glory days.
  • Averted in Glass Mask, where Tsukikage was horribly disfigured in a stage accident but she remains extremely popular and famous, and she hasn't even lost her acting skills. Now she's more into teaching and finding a "heiress", and the biggest candidates are Ayumi and Maya.
  • Shiho's mother Sayuri Nagasawa, in Private Actress. While she was genuinely talented, being scarred ruined her career. At the same time, Sayuri's old rival Ruriko Daichi deeply fears to become this.
    • Beautifully lampshaded by Shiho:

 Shiho: All actresses have their era to shine. Afterwards, they fade away. Like Greta Garbo, retiring in a berautiful house. Or in the case of Marilyn Monroe, death. But some actresses are still around! Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn... they're all old. They follow the change of seasons, spring being followed by autumn...


Comic Books

  • The original Silk Spectre from Watchmen, by the time 1985 has rolled around.
    • She's lost her beauty and her following, but is happy in retirement, with no wish to take up adventuring again, only to reminisce about her glory days and live vicariously through her daughter (whom she raised and trained to be Silk Spectre II) a bit.
  • Anthem in The Order, a washed up actor and friend in long standing of Iron Man's. How bad is he? Not only had he sunk into depression and become a severe alcoholic, he was resistant to the idea of a comeback because he felt he didn't deserve it. Luckily, he got better before the series began.


  • The Trope Codifier would probably be Norma Desmond from the film Sunset Boulevard, a silent film star who never made the transition into talking pictures. Despite her advancing age and secluded existence, she still believes she's big enough to star in one more picture, with Cecil B. DeMille to direct her.
    • Also includes a double helping of Reality Subtext, as Desmond was played by Gloria Swanson, who had been one of silent film's biggest stars but who never made the transition to "talkies". In a Genius Bonus, Desmond watches one of her old films, which is the Gloria Swanson movie Queen Kelly. This was directed by Erich Von Stroheim, a once-prominent director whose career behind the camera ended with the silent film era (though he maintained an acting career), and who plays Desmond's butler (who, it turns out, was also her first director...and her first husband). (Because Queen Kelly went grossly over budget, and was never completed, it effectively ended both Gloria Swanson's and Erich von Stroheim's careers in the silent movie business.)
      • Interestingly, Swanson had to be made up as older than she looked to play a character who was younger than she was!
  • Dame Evey from Driving Lessons.
  • "Baby" Jane Hudson, the title character of the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?? was a child star of vaudeville in the 1910s. Decades later, she still dresses and acts the way she did when she was famous, and refuses to realize that everyone has long forgotten about her.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? finds Betty Boop working as a nightclub cigarette girl, having been put out of business by cartoons going to color.[1] She's fairly philosophical about it, though.
    • Counts for a bit of a Tear Jerker, especially Eddie's sad, "Sure, Betty" after she assures him she's "Still got it."
      • You can thank this movie for helping to revive Betty Boop's career, if not as an animated film star then as a merchandising icon.
  • Susan Alexander in Citizen Kane. A bit out of the ordinary: Now she's running on the fumes of her former notoriety, but initially she was pushed into the limelight somewhat against her will and found stardom humiliating.
  • Meryl Streep as Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her. Interestingly, Streep has averted this trope in real life.
  • Alegria has a touching variant in the Cafe Opera, a watering hole that specifically caters to old, forgotten performers, providing them comfort and support from their peers in their twilight years (some even engage in romances with each other). The owner himself is a dancer and now alcoholic known as Old Taps. (Ironically, his actor, Brian Dewhurst, is a circus performer who had already worked with Cirque on and offstage. A year or two after the film was shot, he joined Cirque's Mystere as a clown, and is still with the show today...)
  • Sam (Peter Sellers) in The Optimists is a variant. He apparently was almost famous in English vaudeville at one point and certainly has the ramshackle house, old costumes and clippings, and drinking problem. But in his old age he still performs as a busker (street performer) and seems content to get by that way, with no delusions of grandeur.
  • Mildly subverted male example: Alex Fletcher in Music and Lyrics certainly fits the 'forgotten has-been' aspect of the trope, but doesn't display much serious desire to get back to the way things were; his main motivation is not to get back onto the top but to keep his profile up high enough so that he can keep doing the low-rent theme park gigs that sustain him (and possibly even land a lucrative contract at Disney Land).
  • Another male example: Buddy Young Jr. in Mr Saturday Night.
  • Vitriolic producer Les Grossman uses these exact words to describe Tugg Speedman if Tropic Thunder (the movie-within-the-movie) fails.

  "Speedman is a dying star. A white dwarf...heading for a black hole. That's physics."

  • Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, which makes him perfect for a starring role in one of the worst movies ever.
  • Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray, especially in the later versions. Her song "The Legend of Miss Baltimore Crabs" details her beauty queen past.
  • Elise Elliot is on her way to becoming this in The First Wives Club. She is still recognised by her fans, but her career is fading. She is struggling to get a role and when she finally thinks she will be cast as the star of a new film it turns out the young and hip regisseur wants her as the ugly and grotesque Mother. She has undergone major plastic surgery and is an alcoholic. She drunkenly complains about how Sean Connery is 400 years old and still a star, but women are cast as the mother when they are older than 20. In her apartment she has an entire room filled with her memorabilia, including prizes she won, gifts etc. Fortunately at the end of the film she gets better.
  • Bertha in Poor Pretty Eddie was a successful and glamorous showgirl, but is now an overweight, middle-aged alcoholic who surrounds herself with old photos of herself and practically defines herself by her abusive relationship with a much younger Eddie. When Liz, a famous jazz singer, ends up at Bertha's motel, Bertha immediately becomes jealous of her and constantly antagonizes her, most notably by refusing to help Liz after she's raped by Eddie. In her mind, she believes that keeping Liz as Eddie's captive at the motel will teach her a lesson about how one day, Liz's fame will dry up just like hers did.
  • Max Bialystock in The Producers was once a successful Broadway Producer (at least in his own mind), but is washed-up and forced to sponge off of little old ladies when the show starts. This is especially true in the musical version, where he opens the show singing, "I used to be the King, the King of Old Broadway."
  • The entire band in This Is Spinal Tap. Not that they aren't popular anymore, not by any means, it's just that "their appeal has grown more selective."
  • Peter Vincent in Fright Night, a former B-movie actor once famous for playing a vampire hunter in a series of Hammer Horror-esque films who now hosts a late-night horror program that's just been canceled. He gets called out of retirement to reprise his role for real.
  • An infamous example: Joan Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway) in Mommie Dearest. As Crawford got older (both in the film and in real life), she parlayed her talents into increasingly ridiculous guest appearances and starring roles in an attempt to regain her stardom. Most infamously, Crawford took over a role intended for her daughter (who was a good thirty years younger than her) in a bid to get her name back in the spotlight.
  • Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway. "Don't speak!"


Live Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone episode "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" was about a White Dwarf Starlet, Barbara Jean Trenton, who becomes so obsessed with her old movies she literally gets pulled into one.
  • Faith from Hope And Faith.
  • Nina Van Horn from Just Shoot Me.
    • Wendie Malick does this very well, just look at Victoria Chase on Hot in Cleveland.
  • Not Always Female: Rembrandt from Sliders was certain his singing the National Anthem at the baseball game he'd been on his way to attending would have restored him to stardom if not for that pesky portal accident.
  • Will Smith from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was once roped into a date with a thoroughly unpleasant version of this character, who was portrayed as a diva who was rude to everyone and refused to accept that her career was over.
  • Parodied in 3rd Rock from the Sun when Sally began to act like one when her "15 minutes of fame" ran out.
  • Jenna Maroney of Thirty Rock lives in perpetual fear of becoming one. Of course, she can't really become a has-been since she wasn't really that famous to start with. Instead, she'd be more of a never-was.
  • In the Angel episode "Eternity", an actress in her late twenties shows signs of slipping into White Dwarf Starlet territory, though she's still arguably at an average level of fame. Terrified, both of that and of her own "advancing years", she tries to get Angel to turn her into a vampire, so she'll have eternal youth.
  • All My Children's Erica Kane may count as either a White Dwarf Starlet or as a gender flipped Hugh Hefner (i.e., an increasingly desperate and creepy has-been who insists on acting like she's still just as relevant {and vital} as she was decades ago).
  • The Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady" casts fading Hollywood star Janet Leigh as a White Dwarf Starlet driven to murder in order to facilitate her comeback.
  • The main character of Colombian Soap Opera La Diva is an actress that, after having a big success in her home country, got a diva-ish attitude and decided to try her luck in Hollywood, leaving her reluctant family behind. After 10 years with no success she decides to came back, only to find that, while still beautiful and talented, she is no longer relevant, and her sons are still deeply hurt from the abandonment.
  • Patsy Stone.
  • In Slings and Arrows, Shakespearian diva Ellen Fanshaw begs her director not to cast her as the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet, because she can't stand to think of herself as being that old. She also spends a lot of time seducing inappropriately younger men. The trope is both played straight and subverted, because while the show makes fun of its aging starlet, Ellen never loses her dignity as an actress, taking on such weighty parts as Queen Gertrude and Lady Macbeth.
  • Petula from Dinnerladies thinks she's one of these.
  • The Norma Desmond character from Sunset Boulevard was frequently parodied on The Carol Burnett Show.
  • Desperate Housewives has former runway model Gabrielle Solis (who somehow managed to be a runway model at five-foot-nothing) returning to New York in one episode to schmooze with former co-workers (including Paulina Porizkova), only to find out they all hated her. Another episode features her trying to prove she's still model material, only to find that she's considered too old by the crew because she's in her 30s.
  • Castle has Martha Rogers (played by Susan Sullivan) as a past-her-prime actress who still gets work (although not the kind of roles she used to get) and is remarkably well adjusted to her later years for a fading starlet, but still wanting to retain some of her former glamour. The show has included Martha watching a clip from The Hulk movie (which Susan starred in) and several of her glamour shots from her Dynasty days.
    • There is also Castle's first ex-wife Meridith, who is an early-onset case, and not so well adjusted to it.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 uses the same pun as the trope title in The Giant Spider Invasion. An astronomy lecturer makes mention of "white dwarf stars" and "collapsed stars," each of which is followed up by the bots with, "like Linda Hunt."
  • Seedra from 1000 Ways to Die's episode "Inject-icide". She's an elderly former beauty queen who injected her face with corn oil as a cheap substitute for Botox (as she couldn't afford the actual treatments). Some of that got into her bloodstream, and then it started leaking out of her face...
  • Raquel in The L.A. Complex had some fame 10 years or so ago, but now she's pushing 30 and still auditioning to play teenagers. She makes a point of not wanting the "mom roles".


  • Music example: Lola of the Barry Manilow song "Copacabana".
  • Metallica's song "The Memory Remains" is about an unnamed actress past her prime.
    • Especially poignant since they managed to have 1960s starlet Marianne Faithfull sing backing vocals on the song and appear in the video. Talk about hitting close to home...
  • Yesterday's Hero by John Paul Young.
  • Bucks Fizz's (never spoonerise that name) Golden Days and Now Those Days Are Gone seem to be about this trope.
  • Nina Simone's Stars
  • Dog Fashion Disco wrote a rather creepy song, "Plastic Surgeons", that is a plastic surgeon's serenade to his white dwarf starlet clients.

 Would you like a new face to face a new day?

It seems the mirror is your worst enemy

For I am Christ to the shallow and aging

A plastic surgeon to the stars of old

    • Prefab Sprouts "The King of Rock And Roll" is about a one-hit wonder who becomes one of these. It was their only hit.
      • ...In the US.
  • Faith Hill's "When The Lights Go Down", dedicates a verse to this phenomenon.

 So another star falls from the Hollywood Hills

without a sound, when the lights go down.

  • "Mr. Richland's Favorite Song" by Harry Nilsson, about a (male) teen idol who goes from the heights of fame to being "a fallen star who works in a bar where yesterday is king."
  • "New Age" by the Velvet Underground is about a love affair between a "fat, blonde actress" and one of her fans.
  • "Della Brown" by Queensryche tells the story of a middle-aged homeless woman who was once a great beauty that had the world at her feet and her pick of men. Once her beauty faded, she was cast aside and had to live on the street because she had no other means of supporting herself other than with her looks. The song ends with her waiting for a man to come along and make her happy again.
  • "Duchess" by Genesis depicts a starlet for whom "everybody cried for more" lose popularity with her fans, to the point where "nobody (cries) for more".


  • The Stephen Sondheim musical Follies is full of elderly showgirls. Though most of the songs are period pastiches, "I'm Still Here," an anthem to ex-stardom, practically sums up this trope. Some poignant lyrics include:

 "First you're another

Sloe-eyed vamp,

Then someone's mother,

Then you're camp.

Then you career from career

To career.

I'm almost through my memoirs.

And I'm here."

  • Grizabella the Glamour Cat from Cats.
    • Gus the Theatre Cat, the elderly veteran who breaks down crying reminiscing about the star he once was.
  • Norma Desmond again in the Broadway musical version of Sunset Boulevard
  • Archie Rice, the title character in John Osborne's The Entertainer (later made into a movie with Laurence Olivier in an Oscar-nominated role). A broken-down old vaudevillian in late 1950s England still trying to desperately cling to the last shreds of his fame (which, to hear his family tell it, may only have ever existed in Archie's mind) while trying just as determinedly to ignore his family's disintegration around him.

Video Games

  • Gloria van Gouton from Psychonauts, though her decline was a result of her mother's suicide rather than a harsh industry. She's incredibly bipolar and delusional (performing for a collection of pots with faces drawn on them) until Raz goes into her mind and cures her.
  • Flurrie from Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, although her acting background isn't mentioned much after she joins your party.
    • Although she returns to the stage in the epilogue.
  • A rare male example- Gary Golden from Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines. Having lost both his career and his good looks when the local Nosferatu Embraced him, much of his spare time is spent dressed up in a tuxedo, conducting "wrap parties" with the corpses of long-dead actors, and occasionally trying to remind visitors that he was once a Hollywood star. Aside from that, though, he's pretty happy with his position.
    • Quite perversely, Gary has created a White Dwarf Starlet himself: Imalia, a former model who grew too arrogant for the local Nosferatu to stomach. Following her Embrace, she has become obsessed with the models who have taken her place on the spotlight, to the point of paying the Player Character to disgrace one of them. She'll also pay a lot for any footage (especially pornographic) of herself in her Glory Days, most of which Gary has spitefully removed from the public market.
    • Another male actor: Ash, an actor who was being groomed by Isaac, one of the local Toreador, as a hot leading man. Then Isaac found Ash overdosed one night and Embraced him — leading to the death of his acting career and a major case of I Hate You, Vampire Dad. Ash spends his nights running a club gifted to him by Isaac and trading on the last fragments of his movie career, but refuses to have anything to do with his sire — which is sad, because Isaac really does care for him.
  • Evelyn Morrison, B-movie actress turned motel owner, from Sam and Max Hit the Road.
  • Gloria Swansong from Sierra's The Colonel's Bequest.
  • Naoko Mihama from the first Siren game is a former model and actress reduced to B-list status. She ends up going crazy due to the horrifying situation she finds herself in, and, combined with her vanity, she willingly allows herself to become a shibito in a misguided attempt to stay eternally young and beautiful. Following her transformation, she is first seen as a regular shibito, before eventually mutating into a dog shibito.
  • Jack Hammer in the third case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It turns out that He accidentally killed his co-star and Dee Vasquez covered it up, forcing him to take on villains' roles for low pay.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series had as its villain Mary "Baby" Dahl, a White Dwarf Starlet, with emphasis on "Dwarf", who abducted her long-separated sitcom co-stars.
    • Another episode starred a former model intent on killing the people who had led to her downfall, wearing full-body covering and a featureless mask to hide what she's become since her fame ran out. The Reveal shows that she looks to be in her 30s and is still beautiful, but she "can only see the flaws". Wanna know the kicker, though? Her voice actress was former model Sela Ward, which sort of makes the episode Truth in Television, although Ward obviously didn't go stark raving nuts in Real Life.
  • Betty Boop's Drawn Together analog, Toot Braunstein, is the burnt-out husk left after the collapse of a white dwarf starlet. She's a Planetary Nebula Starlet (not as hot but larger).
  • Slappy Squirrel from Animaniacs is an aversion of this. The gag behind Slappy isn't really that she's a fallen starlet seeking to regain her fame — it's that she's a retired slapstick comedy star whose old antagonists don't seem to have let go as well as she has, only now, she's not only smarter than her opponents, she's old, grumpy, sarcastic and arthritic (think of an aged, vindictive Bugs Bunny), so not only is great harm befalling her geriatric rivals, it's gotten easier with practice and she enjoys it more.
  • A number of Adam West parodies, most of them voiced by West himself, tend to fall under this trope. Most notable is "Timothy North," who used to star as "The Fearless Ferret", a Kim Possible universe analog of Batman that ran during the same era, and in his old age has come to think he is the hero. He spent a considerable amount of his fortune having his home redesigned into a replica of the Ferretcave and his alter ego's mansion so accurate that everything actually worked. An actor who played a skunk-themed one-shot villain fell into the same delusion. When they finally work out and/or accept the truth, at a Fearless Ferret convention, they cheerfully greet each other:

 Whitestripe: How've you been?

North: Oh, living in a delusion, confusing fantasy with reality. You?

Whitestripe: Same, same.

    • And played dead serious for drama in Batman: The Animated Series as the Grey Ghost, Batman's hero. The actor who played the Ghost in the Show Within a Show Bruce Wayne watched as a kid winds up broke in a run-down one-room apartment hoarding memorabilia from his one starring role, until events make him a real hero, and get him back in the spotlight to boot. (It's worth noting that the real Adam West lives in a mansion and gets plenty of work.)
      • It's not "a mansion", it's "Stately West Manor".
      • It also helps that the actor has the last copies of the old show allowing the show to go to video, giving him some income from the royalties.
      • It should be added that, in a bit of a inversion, the character he voiced in Batman: The Animated Series is not hoarding the memorabilia from his one starring role because he misses anything about it, except perhaps the paycheck it'd brought; he's rather bitter about having gotten typecast as the Grey Ghost to the point of nobody wanting to give him a role as, well, anything else.
  • A Norma Desmond-like character was featured on the DuckTales episode "The Uncrashable Hindentitanic."
    • And, at least going by a critic's reaction to her old films being shown, she apparently wasn't a very good actress in her heyday.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants features Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, Bikini Bottom analogues of Batman and Robin (and actual superheroes within the Spongebob universe, albeit far past their prime) who (via the intervention of Spongebob) frequently end up attempting to relive their past days of glory.
  • Big Food from Chowder is a perfect example of this trope, even using the line "I am a big star, it's the roles that got small!" with her name and fridge replacing "a big star" and "roles" respectively.
  • In the Futurama episode "That's Lobstertainment!", Dr. Zoidberg's uncle Harold Zoid is a silent film star who now lives in obscurity in a retirement home. While not as delusional as Norma Desmond, Harold still believes he's one film away from getting back into the business, and tries to use his nephew's money to make that film. At other times, he seems resigned to his fate as a has-been.

 [On the red carpet before the Academy Awards]

Joan Rivers' Head: Oh, and here's washed-up actor, what's-his-name, Harold Zoid. Are you presenting one of those tacky honorary awards, or just getting one?

Harold Zoid: I'm a seat-filler, Joan's head. My only marketable skill is to occupy space.

  • Piella Bakewell from Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death. Wallace recognizes her as the spokeswoman for Bake-O-Lite Bread, but she was fired as the "Bake-O-Lite Girl" when she became too heavy to fly the balloon they used in advertising. She's more broken-up about this than she lets on, as Wallace and Gromit learn when she turns out to be the "cereal killer" who's been offing bakers all across town.
  1. There actually is one color Betty cartoon, Poor Cinderella (1934). And Betty's a Green Eyed Red Head in it!