More Than Famous | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 20.12.2001
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More Than Famous

What would rock 'n roll be without Elvis Presley, or Physics without Albert Einstein? Some celebrities are more than just famous - one of many reasons for the recent publication of Germany‘s first Idol Encyclopedia.


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Whether legend, archetype, or icon – what would the world be without the idol? Idols are fascinating, interesting and are worshipped by teenagers and the elderly alike. Fans thirsty for more facts on their favourite figures can now look these up in an encyclopedia which is dedicated to the world’s idols.

But just what makes an idol an idol? According to co-author Michael Völker: "Idols are people who overshadow everything. They've brought something new into the world, they behave in an exceptional manner and that makes them unforgettable." But the reason for a cult to emerge around a popular figure also has a lot to do with their distance und unattainablity, making it hard to find any weaknesses.

The encyclopedia is proof of the important role idols play in people’s lives. But it is still not understood why people of all ages and in all countries express a need for idols. "People who have been through something extraordinary can give others who live duller lives a vicarious experience of it," Völker explains, "These are people who overshadow everything and give others a kind of strength".

In preparation for the book, authors Karsten Weyershausen and Michael Völker collected facts, figures and ancedotes on a hundred icons in history and present day. The anecdotes focus both on the idols themselves and on occurences linked to the various figures.

One of author Völkel’s favourite anecdotes has to do with Lady Diana’s tragic death: "There was a secretary who cried so much that she was fired and went to court and received 10 thousand dollars compensation on the basis that crying for four weeks after the death of your idol is no reason to lose your job."