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Users Flock To Cameo To Celebrate Life's Events During The Pandemic

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROL BASKIN: Hey, all you cool cats and kittens. It's Carol Baskin from Big Cat Rescue. Diana (ph), you are one special, cool kitten. Paul (ph) tells me that you are turning 40 soon.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A birthday greeting from Carol Baskin goes for $299 - a pep talk from Mia Hamm, the soccer great, $125. There are now thousands of actors, singers, athletes, celebrities and whatever you would call Chevy Chase and Rod Blagojevich offering special messages on Cameo, but not BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. As Naomi Fry, a culture writer for The New Yorker, recently reported, the pandemic has been good for Cameo.

NAOMI FRY: When I spoke to Steven Galanis, who's the CEO of Cameo, he told me that from the beginning of the pandemic, or at least when it hit the States, you know, in March, until May, business was up 1,000%.

SIMON: Why? Well, because if you can't be there to say HBD to your boo, you want one of Bravo's Real Housewives to do it or Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray.

FRY: So it's people who are extremely famous, you know, to a certain subset of the population but kind of niche and, one would say, maybe kind of a C-, D- or Z-list, even.

SIMON: For the most part.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SNOOP DOGG: What up, dog? It's big Snoop Dogg coming at you live on Cameo. I'm here to give you some shoutouts for you, your crew and whoever want to do what we do.

SIMON: Bolder-faced names are appearing now, and they charge accordingly - $750 for a shoutout from Snoop Dogg. Celebrities fix their own prices. Cameo's cut is 25%. Naomi Frye suspects there may be a greater cost.

FRY: The whole point of being someone's fan, worshipping someone, is that there is a kind of unfathomable gap between the civilian and the star.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: Hi. I'm Gilbert Gottfried.

FRY: You're like, wait; you know me? How do you know my name? How do you know that it's my birthday today? Who told you?

SIMON: And who's to say if the Cameo boom eventually fades away. But for now, they're there, A-list to Z, ready to wish you a merry Rosh Hashana.

FRY: It's almost like high comedy - reality stars and, like, YouTubers and, like, singers of the past. It's just, like, the debris of popular American culture.

SIMON: Think of it as recycling celebrities for fun and profit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.