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What Happened to Vera?

In October of 1973, shortly after her disastrous final performance at the Folies Bergère, Vera Stark vanished from the public eye overnight. Theories abound as to what became of her; alleged Vera Stark encounters rival Elvis Presley sightings in number. This is not entirely surprising, as there is no substantive reason to believe that Vera has passed away.

The Vera sightings are as diverse as the roles she played on screen; she has been seen working as a maid in Florida, a crossing guard in Alabama, a homeless woman in California. Others claim she ODed in a hotel room and was buried anonymously, her body never claimed nor identified.

What is the truth behind Vera Stark’s disappearance? Perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Professor Mia Mask, author of Divas On Screen: Black Women in American Film, and associate professor of film at Vassar College, suggests that, “Whats more interesting than the truth is that the question exists in the first place, that we don’t know what happened to Vera.”

What does it say about our culture, willing to create a cult of personality around a thirteen year old girl who records a hilariously bad music video or an aging sitcom actor as he spirals into a tailspin of madness and drug abuse, that a premiere African American actress could disappear into anonymity so easily? Yes, this was almost forty years ago and the paparazzi-ization of the American public through ubiquitous cell phones with photo, video, and instant upload capabilities hadn’t even begun appearing in the collective nightmare. But the cultural obsession with celebrity has not changed much in that time.

Maybe we shouldn’t be asking, “What happened to Vera Stark,” but instead, “What’s happening to America?”

But, then again, if you do have any idea what happened to Vera, email me at Herb.Forrester@gmail.com. Perhaps we can sift some truth out of the rumor mill’s detritus.

© 2013