Prince is gone. I apologize for being so blunt, but I’m still coming to terms with it all, and declarative, wiggle-free sentences like that help. To be honest, it hadn’t really even dawned on me that Prince could die. It’s not that I thought he was some sort of immortal comic-book character or anything, even if he did have a lot in common with comic book characters. (A set of skills far outside the range of most normal humans, a giant purple compound covered with his own personal symbol, an affinity for brightly colored skin-tight outfits that sometimes included capes.) It’s just that he was such a star that it almost felt like he’d be around forever.
There’s a difference between being a star and being famous, even if we tend to conflate the two, especially when we talk about people who act in movies. For example, I would argue that Ryan Gosling is famous and not “a star,” because it feels kind of like you could bump into him in a Whole Foods if you timed it right, and stars do not scoop their own olives from the olive bar. Same with Jennifer Lawrence, despite all the magazine covers and much-deserved awards for high achievement in her chosen profession, because she seems entirely too down-to-Earth to be a star, and stars belong in outer space. Even George Clooney might not quite be a star in the way I’m talking about, if only because he pops up at dinners now and then and yells at people about politics, like he’s the country’s very handsome uncle. He probably even shows up to the dinners on time. That just won’t do.
Being a star requires some level of disconnect, almost as though they’re behind the glass at a museum. Maybe they’re holding something back on purpose, or maybe it’s the way they carry themselves. Sometimes it helps to have something a little kooky or mysterious going on. Frank Sinatra was a star. Mariah Carey is a star. (If you question Mariah’s star status, please note that she just threw herself a birthday party at which all the guests were expected to dress up as their favorite version of Mariah Carey throughout history.) Tom Cruise is a huge star. And Prince was probably a bigger star than all of them.