The A-list is part of a larger guide called The Hot List, which ranks the bankability of 1,400 movie actors worldwide, and has become an industry-standard guide in Hollywood. American entertainment journalist James Ulmer, the guide's creator, has also developed a version including directors, the Hot List of Directors. The Ulmer scale categorizes the lists into A+, A, B+, B, C, and D listings. Similarly, in India, there is three-tier strategy, tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3, which are based on the saleability and box office collection capability of a star.
In popular usage outside the film industry, an A-list celebrity is any person with an admired or desirable social status. Even socialites with popular press coverage and elite associations have been termed as A-list celebrities. Similarly, less popular persons and current teen idols are referred to as B-list celebrities – and the ones with lesser fame as C-list ones. In the year 2000, Entertainment Weekly interpreted a C-list celebrity as "that guy (or sometimes that girl), the easy-to-remember but hard-to-name character actor".
The D-list is for a person whose celebrity is so obscure that they are generally only known for appearances as celebrities on panel game shows and reality television. In the late 20th century, D-listers were largely ignored by the entertainment news industry; for example, Paul Lynde, by this point in his career best known for being on the daytime game show Hollywood Squares, went largely unnoticed by the supermarket tabloids, and his homosexuality (which would have drawn attention for bigger celebrities) went largely unreported. Kathy Griffin, an American comedian who became widely known for her frequent appearances on such programs, used the term in a tongue-in-cheek manner for her 2005 TV special The D-List and her 2005 TV series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. The term "D-list" is derived from the lowest rating used for the Ulmer scale. Other successive letters of the alphabet beyond D, as in the terms E-list and Z-list, are sometimes used for exaggeration or comic effect but effectively have the same meaning as D-list.
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