A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 13, 2019
“A celebrity works hard to be well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized”

“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized” is a jocular definition that has been printed on many images. American comedian Fred Allen (1894-1956) is usually credited for this now-classic statement, but he probably didn’t originate it.

“‘A celebrity is one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses in order to avoid being recognized.’—Mundo Argentino” was printed in The Daily Journal-Gazette and Commercial-Star (Mattoon, IL) on October 8, 1948. “Definition of a celebrity: one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses in order to avoid being recognized” was printed in The Livingston County Press (Howell, MI) on October 13, 1948. “Definition of a celebrity: A person who works all his life to become famous then goes around in dark glasses so no one will know who he is” was printed in the McHenry (IL) Plaindealer on March 30, 1950.

“A celebrity is a person who works all his life to become well known and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized” was written by Fred Allen in the Boston (MA) Traveler on June 3, 1952. “WISH I’D SAID THAT: ‘A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.’—Fred Allen” was printed in Earl Wilson’s syndicated entertainment column on June 16, 1952.

Authorship of the saying is unknown. Fred Allen was a celebrity at this time, and it’s unlikely that he wouldn’t have been credited for the saying in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 and earlier in 1952 (see the citations below) had he originated it.


Wikipedia: Fred Allen
John Florence Sullivan (May 31, 1894 – March 17, 1956), known professionally as Fred Allen, was an American comedian. His absurdist, topically pointed radio program The Fred Allen Show (1932–1949) made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humorists in the Golden Age of American radio.

8 October 1948, The Daily Journal-Gazette and Commercial-Star (Mattoon, IL), pg. 7, col. 1:
“A celebrity is one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses in order to avoid being recognized.”—Mundo Argentino

13 October 1948, The Livingston County Press (Howell, MI), “That’s the Way We Heard It,” pg. 14, col. 6:
Definition of a celebrity: one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses in order to avoid being recognized.

31 March 1949, Evening Herald Shenandoah, PA), “The Staff Sarge,” pg. 6, col. 2:
A celebrity is one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses to avoid being recognized. See you next Thursday, fellow veterans.
GEORGIE MARTZ
Veterans Employment
Representative, PSES

19 July 1949, The Evening Sun (Hanover, PA), “With the Paragraphers,” pg. 4, col. 1:
A celebrity is one who works all his life in order to be well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses to avoid being recognized.—Algona (Ia.) Upper Des Moines.

30 March 1950, McHenry (IL) Plaindealer, “So I Hear” by Earl R. Walsh, pg. 4, col. 1:
Definition of a celebrity: A person who works all his life to become famous then goes around in dark glasses so no one will know who he is.

27 February 1951, Princeton (IN)( Clarion-News, pg. 7, col. 1:
(The comic strip is not identified. A father speaks to a son.—ed.)
“A celebrity, son, is one who works all his life to be well known—and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.”

31 January 1952, Enterprise (Riverside, CA), “TV-Radiologic” by Tom E. Danson, pg. 19, col. 6:
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY...A celebrity is one who works all his life to become famous enough to be recognized—and then goes around in dark glasses so no one will know who he is.

3 June 1952, Boston (MA) Traveler, “Neal O’Hara on vacation, so take it from Fred Allen,” pg. 71, col. 1:
A celebrity is a person who works all his life to become well known and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.

16 June 1952, Scranton (PA) Tribune, “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 11, col. 2:
WISH I’D SAID THAT: “A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.”—Fred Allen.

Google Books
The Encyclopedia of Etiquette:
A Guide to Good Manners in Today’s World

By Llewellyn Miller
New York, NY: Crown Publishers
1967
Pg. 80:
CELEBRITIES
“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. “ — Fred Allen, Treadmill to Oblivion (1954—ed.)

Google Books
The Mammoth Book of Comic Quotes
By Geoff Tibballs
London, UK: Constable & Robinson Ltd
2004
Pg. ?:
A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognised. FRED ALLEN, Treadmill to Oblivion

Google Books
Celebrity:
A Novel

By Thomas Thompson
New York, NY: Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
2016
Pg. ?:
“Somebody, Fred Allen I believe, once said a celebrity is a person who breaks his ass to get recognized, then puts on dark glasses so he won’t.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Monday, May 13, 2019 • Permalink