About this Blog

"In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes." So said the bleached-out, late lamented artist Andy Warhol. Having lived and worked in New York City, Warhol came to fully grasp the hold celebrity has on us. In this very famous sentence, he meant to point out that in a culture fixated on fame, many people will suddenly flash brightly onto the public screen, then--poof--will just as quickly disappear from public view--like shooting stars. Other individuals derive their celebrity from one stellar accomplishment (one hit song, one iconic role, etc.) that they never again match.

This blog is devoted to the one part of our celebrity culture that no one has written much about: temporary/one-shot celebrities.

The pace of modern life has quickened, and now we hear people speaking of someone's 15 seconds of fame. These "celebrities with a lower-case c" who will appear in this blog sometimes come to us from the world of entertainment, sometimes from the world of news. All are fascinating.

The need of our communications media for a continual stream of new material assures that we will have no end of colorful people who go quickly, where celebrity is concerned, from zero to hero (or villain) and back to zero. Now you see 'em, now you don't. What a crazy world, eh?

Temporary celebrities coming from the world of entertainment include one-hit recording artists; TV and movie icons who, although they might have had a great many accomplishments in their career, are remembered for one big role; standouts of reality TV; sports figures remembered for one remarkable accomplishment; and people whose celebrity came from one big role in a commercial or print ad.

News-based temporary celebrities come in many forms: mass/serial killers, other murderers of special note, sex-crime offenders, disgraced figures of government/military/business/media/religion, spies/traitors, hoaxers, femmes/hommes fatale, heroes, whistle blowers, inventors/innovators, and victims.

Celebrity Blogsburg will consider each category in turn.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One-hit wonder Bobbie Gentry

Having one of those voices that is perfectly suited to country music, pretty Roberta Lee Streeter of Chickasaw County, Mississippi, found sudden celebrity in 1967 under her stage name, Bobbie Gentry. The new last name, Gentry, was taken from the 1952 film Ruby Gentry, featuring Charleton Heston and Jennifer Jones, and the song that made her immediately famous was Ode to Billy Joe. Gentry, who had done some acting and dancing prior to her big hit, wrote this song, which in its original form was far too long for radio play. Having to shorten it, she succeeded in making what really happened in the song mysterious, and the object of much public speculation.

The song centered around something that happened at theTallahatchie Bridge on a sleepy, dusty Delta day. The way she constructed the song's lyrics was clever and original, alternating a dinnertime conversation at a young girl's family farm with mysterious events up on Choctaw Ridge and on the bridge, from which something reportedly had been thrown into the water. In the end, Billy Joe McAllister committed suicide by jumping from the same bridge, and the girl who is relating the action in the lyrics took to passing her days picking wildflowers on the ridge and dropping them into the river from the bridge.

Bobbie Gentry never repeated her initial success, worrked for a while for Armed Forces Radio, and then moved to California, apparently out of the music business.

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