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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Advertising icon Gunilla Knutson

Back in the days when Marilyn Monroe was America's chief sex goddess, when such persons tended toward the big and buxom and blonde, along came blonde Swedish model Gunilla Knutson, a very worldly looking age 18, in a truly delightful TV commercial.

The ads were for Noxzema Instant Shave Cream. The ads, produced by the William Esty agency, showed the sexy Knutson urging men to "take it off...take it all off," with double meaning as obvious as a pie in your face. The commercial was camp rather than sleezy, however, and was done with a raucous rendition of the song The Stripper playing in the background.

Both male and female viewers loved the commercial, and variations of it ran through 1973. Only some members of the U.S. Congress, obviously playing to their more devout and humorless constituents, raised any objections to these commercials' sexual innuendo. (These were some of the same "leaders" who wanted to get braille copies of Playboy magazine off the shelves of the Library of Congress--until they were embarrassed by being informed by librarians that only the words were in braille.)

The comely Knutson had been Miss Sweden prior to coming to America. She appeared on the cover of Life magazine in December 1970, did later ads for a skin cream product, worked for a wine business and taught gymnastics. She also published a few books about massage, beauty and health.

Knutson was last in the news when she broke a leg while skiing in the Italian Alps.

After her one iconic TV ad, one suspects that she has never, ever had to buy her own drinks.

Advertising icon David Leisure

Versatile David Leisure has done well enough as an actor in movies and TV series, but his celebrity got an enormous boost in 1986 when he began appearing as pathological liar Joe Isuzu in Isuzu car commercials.

Said to have been inspired by the similar character Jon Lovitz played on Saturday Night Live, the Joe Isuzu character told transparently untrue whoppers that made use of the writing device called hyperbole (purposeful exaggeration, not meant to actually mislead).

Joe Isuzu continued to appear into 1990, then made a brief comeback in 2001.

On TV, Leisure was a regular on the show Empty Nest, and he made appearances on other such shows as Touched by an Angel and Caroline in the City. Prior to his Joe Isuzu role, he had appeared in the movie Airplane!

Advertising icon Andy Lambros

In public memory, Andy Lambros will forever be that dangerously cute, curly-haired kid with the fishing pole, singing the Oscar Mayer Bologny jingle.

Ad agency J. Walter Thompson gets credit for producing the jingle, but the commercial's enormous success couldn't have occurred without little Mr. Lambros, who played his part to perfection.

The ad first appeared in 1974 or perhaps 1975.

Few of us stay as cute as we once were, and like all flesh, Lambros moved on to other things. He got into computers and the aquarium business while still a teenager, went to college, ran a pet shop business, and started an Internet firm. He has continued to act on the side. His appearances have included a child part in the 1980 movie Fatso, starring the hilarious Dom Deluise, and, in 2005, a part in a Chicago production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Mostly, though, we will picture Lambros as a 4-year-old kid telling us, in song, about his favorite bologny's first and last names.

Advertising icon Jan Miner

Character actress Jan Miner's face, if not her name, was well known in the United States and Europe for many years due to a single TV commercial role.

Miner played Madge the manicurist in commercials for Palmolive Dishwashing Detergent. For 27 years, she was shown soaking her customers' hands in this dish soap, convincing customers out there in TV-land that they could soften their hands while washing the dishes.

These commercials ran from 1966 until 1992. As a commercial spokesperson, Madge was easy for women to relate to and non-threatening--a regular good old girl.

Much earlier, Miner had appeared on the radio detective show Boston Blackie. She had done a limited amount of TV and movie work, as well, and had acted on Broadway. She died in 2004 at age 86.

Advertising icon John Moschitta, Jr.

In 1982, professional speed talker John Moschitta became one of those individuals destined to be remembered for a single commercial role. That iconic role was Mr. Spleen, white-collar office manager, who was pictured sitting at his desk engaged in a phone call and talking at a dizzying rate.

Most of us have a hard time just saying "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." Moschitta, who has competed in speed-talking contests, went at it at roughly 450 words a minute--very, very fast, even for a New Yorker like himself. Good thing he hadn't been born in the South.

The commercial was for Federal Express; it was meant to convey the notion that shipping by that service was also very fast. The company eventually did around 80 versions of this commercial using Moschitta.

Moschitta also appeared on a number of TV shows, including Matt Houston, The A-Team, Ally McBeal, and Hollywood Squares. He put his talents to work in several movies, too, such as Young Doctors in Love, Transformers, and Dick Tracy.

Moschitta's claim to celebrity, however, overwhelmingly comes from his Federal Express commercial role.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Advertising icon Clara Peller

Talk about your "little old lady in tennis shoes." Tiny Clara Peller, age 81, hit the ad-world big time in 1984 in a Wendy's commercial.

She and two other elderly ladies were looking at the non-Wendy's burgers they had just purchased from a fictitious hamburger chain that advertised its big bun. Peller, in her miraculously gruff and raspy old lady voice, growled out the line "Where's the beef?" This phrase became a metaphor for all that was not as it should be in American life.

Other versions of "Where's the beef?" were made for Wendy's using the suddenly famous Peller--that is, until she uttered a variant of her famous line in a Prego pasta sauce commercial.

Peller, who had worked as a Chicago manicurist, died in 1987 at 85.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Advertising icon Orville Redenbacher

One-time farm boy Orville Redenbacher found celebrity in his role as the spokesman for his own brand of dependable, fluffy popcorn.

Wealth came earlier, in the fertilizer business. His interest in developing a better variety of corn for making popcorn led him to begin marketing Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn in 1971.

Someone talked him into appearing in his company's TV commercials, and, like Colonel Sanders of KFC and Dave Thomas of Wendy's, he "fit the product" perfectly. He was a tall, thin, slightly corny older man with white hair parted in the middle, a bow tie, suspenders, heavy-rimmed eyeglasses, and a distinctly Midwestern manner. He looked like someone who would be named Orville. A glamour boy he was not, but he had good credibility. Prior to ending his long string of commercials in 1995, he sometimes brought his grandson Gary in to appear with him.

Redenbacher sold out to Hunt-Wesson in 1976, and the popcorn brand was bought in 1990 by ConAgra. Redenbacher himself died by drowning due to a heart attack he suffered while taking a whirlpool bath in 1995 at his California condo.

Advertising icon Terry Rhoads

Character actor Terry Rhoads has appeared on a long succession of TV shows since the early 1990s but must surely be most recognized and remembered as the obnoxious "office jerk" Cooper in Expedia.com commercials aired in 2001.

Cooper's appeal might well be that just about everyone actually has known some Cooper-like individual-- loud, brash, self-satisfied, cheesy of dress and manner, and given to spritzing breath spray right in front of other people.

As an actor, Rhoads' many, many credits include such shows as Perry Mason, Murphy Brown, Seinfeld, Cybill, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Ally McBeal, and Cold Case. It is, however, hard to become an instantly recognized celebrity from character roles, and thus far in his career, his biggest claim to fame is his commercial role as Cooper.

Advertising icon Harland Sanders

Harland Sanders' life is surely one of America's great success stories, but most Americans will see in their mind's eye Col Sanders, advertising icon for his fried chicken empire.

Born in a small Indiana town, Sanders spent much of his life making a living doing whatever jobs came his way, as do many Americans. Then at age 40, while running a Corbin, Ky., filling station, he began serving fried chicken on the side. People liked his recipe, and in the mid 1930s, he opened his first restaurant. One happy customer was that state's governor, who in 1935 made Sanders an Honorary Kentucky Colonel.

In 1952 the portly Sanders began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken and serving as the chain's front man, wearing his white suit and string tie and sporting a full head of white hair, a mustache, a goatee and a walking stick.

The commercial history of America is full of unfortunate examples of business owners who decide to front for their own company but do an absolutely awful job of it, running off more customers than they attract. Sanders, on the other hand, was perfect for the role. TV commercials made him one of the nation's best-known individuals of any kind. In them, he assured viewers that his secret recipe of 11 different herbs and spices made his chicken "finger-lickin' good."

Bolstering the TV image of the Colonel was a life-sized plastic statue of Sanders that was placed at the entrance of all his restaurants. The statue showed him holding out his arms in a welcoming gesture, similar to the gesture so often used by clergymen as they preach, prompting wisecracking onlookers to call KFC "The Church of Saint Harland the Divine."

Sanders sold his chain in 1964, staying on as front man. Those owners sold to Hublein, Inc., in 1971, and in 1982, the restaurants became part of the R.J. Reynolds family of companies. In turn, Reynolds sold the chain to PepsiCo in 1997.

When Hublein began selling an extra-crispy alternative, the Colonel snorted to the press that all it was was "a damn fried doughball" and, further, said the gravy tasted like sludge. Hublein sued for libel, but the feisty old Colonel prevailed.

Having become one of the most recognized TV icons ever, Sanders, 90, died of leukemia in 1980.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Advertising icon Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas was a modest, unassuming, ordinary-looking fellow who, after working in a Tennessee barbecue restaurant when he was a boy, decided to make his living in the restaurant business.

And did he ever! After working for Arthur Treacher's and for Harland Sanders of fried chicken fame, and after owning three KFC franchises of his own, Thomas started his own restaurant, Wendy's, in Columbus, Ohio. The restaurant was named for his daughter.

By the time of Thomas' death from cancer in 2002, the Wendy's International chain had roughly 6,000 restaurants.

Thomas might be remembered simply for having been a great American success story in business, but the way most of us will always picture him is as the Wendy's fry cook in the company's TV commercials and print ads. Somehow, America just liked him. He is said to have appeared in roughly 800 Wendy's commercials, starting in 1989 and ending not long before his death.

Advertising icon Michael Vale

Fred the Baker was the claim to fame of longtime character actor Michael Vale, who died in 2005 at age 83.

Most Americans watching TV in the 1980s and 1990s would have recognized the double-chinned, baggy-eyed, smiling Vale as the front man for Dunkin' Donuts. He was a prototypical regular guy who had to roll out of bed at an ungodly hour to go to work, yet always managed a cheerful "Time to make the donuts." His big smile and small black mustache gave him a endearing image. Police, well known donut lovers, are said to have on occasion pulled him over to ask for his autograph.

Vale came from Brooklyn and had done character acting in a half-dozen movies, appeared on Broadway in "California Suite" and was on episodes of a few TV shows, such as The Cosby Show and Car 54, Where Are You?

He was reportedly in at least 1,000 commercials, more than 100 of which were for Dunkin' Donuts prior to his 1997 retirement, which was commemorated with a parade in Boston and a giveaway of free donuts to 6 million customers. Thereafter, he worked with the company's charities. Happily, nice guys do not always finish last.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Advertising icon Jim Varney

The late Jim Varney's name is not all that well known to the U.S. public, but his commercial persona, Ernest P. Worrell, is.

Varney gained a bizarre celebrity in this one role,, which was used in advertising a number of different products. The elastic-faced Varney, eyes bugging out and mouth agape, would introduce a commercial by slurring, "Hey, Verne." Verne remained off-camera-- to let viewers use their imagination. These commercials would usually finish with, "You know what I mean, Verne?"

The Ernest P. Worrell character was that of a goofy good old boy, one who usually did something clumsy or stupid in the ad. For reasons hard (or scary) to explain, a lot of peeople seemed to indentify with, or just like Ernest P. (The P is said to have stood for "powertools.")

Kentuckian Varney parlayed his success in commercials into a TV series and a number of less than stellar movies, but his real claim to fame came from his several hundred TV ads.

Varney had trained at Virginia's famous Barter Theater and first put his southern accent to work in ads because of an actors' strike in the late 1970s. He died of cancer in 2000.

Advertising icon Dick Wislon

Some older TV viewers might remember character actor Dick Wilson as the garrulous Col. Gruber on Hogan's Heroes or as a likable drunk on Bewitched, but many, many more will always associate him with his iconic commercial role: toilet tissue squeezing grocer Mr. Whipple.

Don't squeeze the Charmin" was his stock line, uttered as he wagged a finger at women shoppers who were absent mindedly doing just that. Then Wilson, with a knowing smirk, would do some Charmin squeezing of his own when the ladies were no longer looking.

Granted, this is an odd thing to be remembered for, yet the Mr. Whipple commercials ran from 1965 until 1989, then in 1999 made a comeback.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Advertising icon Jesse White

He was in vaudeville, on Broadway, in movies, and on many a television series in the capacity of a character actor, but Jesse White's most lasting claim to fame comes from his 1967-1988 run as the lonely, sad-faced Maytag repair man.

The idea behind this long series of commercials was to encourage the buying public to believe that this appliance brand was so reliable that repair service would seldom be needed. White, born Jesse Weidenfeld, played his part well.

But for Harvey (1950) and Death of a Salesman (1951), the movies in which White appeared were pretty much B-grade. His TV career was more noteworthy, beginning in the mid-1950s and ending in 1996 (on Seinfeld). Though his parts were small, he appeared on The Jack Benny Show, Bonanza, The Addams Family, The Andy Griffith Show, 77 Sunset Strip, That Girl, Hawaii Five-O, the Jackie Gleason Show, Happy Days, Love Boat and many other shows that live in the memories of older viewers.

White's death came in 1997, from a heart attack.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Femme fatale Patricia Allen

Homme fatale Golan Cipel

The name Golan Cipel was temporarily familiar to a lot of Americans in 2004 due to his part in a New Jersey sex scandal.

Cipel is an Israeli who came to the Untied States to work as security advisor to New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who had met Cipel in Israel in 2000.

McGreevey had assumed that high office in 2002 after having served in other offices of political prominence in his state. Cipel had been an officer in the Israeli Navy and had worked in media relations for his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but had very limitied credentials for the security post he was given in New Jersey.

Cipel broke with the governor and took a public relations job. Later, Cipel initiated a sexual harassment suit against McGreevey, and in 2004, the governor resigned and admitted that he, during his second marriage, had been in a sexual relationship with Cipel.

McGreevey, once again single, went on to write a memoir, The Confession, flog it on the Oprah Show, teach law and ethics at a New Jersey college, and enter studies at an Episcopal seminary. Cipel works in marketing.

Homme fatale Marc Christian

It is ironic but understandable that movie and TV masculinity icon Rock Hudson should have been sued for possibly passing AIDS to his companion of two years, Marc Christian, before Hudson’s own 1985 death from that terrible disease.

In Hudson’s day, gays still were firmly in the closet, although rumors had circulated for years regarding the dashing Hudson’s off-movie set proclivities.

By the time of the suit, Hudson was dead, but the court found in favor of plaintiff Christian in the amount of $14.5 million, to be paid by the movie star’s estate. Christian had not actually been diagnosed with AIDS, but argued successfully that he should have been informed of Hudson’s medical condition. He also went after Hudson’s personal secretary, Mark Miller, for not having informed him of the situation.

Due to Hudson’s prominence in Hollywood during his long career, the AIDS menace at least became easier to discuss in public. In a manner of speaking, this case helped the disease itself to come out of the closet.

Hudson, who was born Roy Scherer and was given his stage name by an agent, had also been involved with talented San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin, who outed Hudson in that city’s paper the Chronicle.

Femme fatale Tai Collins

Perhaps the best-looking of all recent femmes fatales, Roanoke, Va., native Tanquil (Tai) Collins is the blonde who tarnished the good-guy image of her state’s senator Chuck Robb, who, at the time of their encounter at New York’s Hotel Pierre, was married to Lynda Byrd Johnson, younger daughter of former president Lyndon Johnson.

Collins, the 1983 Miss Virginia USA, revealed that she had an almost year-long affair with Robb beginning that same year, when he was Virginia’s governor. Robb never admitted to the affair but verified that she had been in his hotel room at the Pierre—but only to give him a massage and share a bottle of wine.

Anyone who actually believed his account should have later invested with Mr. Madoff or in Georgia swampland. There are plenty such people, however, and Robb won reelection in 1994, not long after the spicy story had appeared. The story was not the only thing that had appeared. Collins capitalized on her temporary celebrity by doing a spectacular and presumably profitable spread in Playboy. In the 2000 race, however, Robb lost his Senate seat, his credibility damaged.

Robb aides had threatened Collins if she testified against the senator, but she had cleverly taped them doing it.

Robb’s wife forgave him, and he later became a law professor.
Collins did some acting—some of it on Baywatch, for which she also has done writing. In addition, she has helped set up and run a foundation-sponsored camp to benefit needy inner-city children on the West Coast.

Femme fatale Ashley Dupre

Ashley Dupre enjoyed temporary celebrity in 2008 in connection with the political fall from grace of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, who as his state’s attorney general had taken a hard line on prostitution and corruption, was outed as a client of Dupre and other call girls.

The indiscretion that ended Sptizer’s political career involved a February 2008 $4,300 transaction with Dupre at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. He had reserved the room under the name of a friend—not the most friendly of gestures. To his credit, however, Spitzer resigned as governor when the sordid facts came out.

Dupre was born Ashley Youmans and had adopted Dupre as a stage name for a hoped-for career in music. She recorded a couple of songs but found there was a quicker, more reliable way to make money: working for the Emperors Club VIP “escort service.”

The shapely, brown-haired Dupre was also involved in a controversy with the Girls Gone Wild business of Joe Francis. She had appeared on the show when she was 17 but under the name she found on a lost driver’s license. The actual owner of the license sued her for defamation in 2008 due to this use.

This story of “Client 9” and “Kristin” in one of many hard-to-explain episodes in which a wealthy and powerful man in the public eye somehow convinces himself that he can do whatever he wishes and get away with it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Femme fatale Judith Campbell Exner

A femme fatale who covered a lot of ground was Judith Exner, who died of cancer in 1999. She is remembered mainly for her affair (if that is the best term) with John F. Kennedy, both before and after he was president.

Exner first had become involved with crooner Frank Sinatra. It was "Old Blue Eyes" who in 1960 introduced her to Kennedy during a get-together in Las Vegas. He also introduced her to Mafia kingpin San Giancana at about that same time. Enterprising young woman that she was, she began sleeping with both men and by her own account, became a go-between for dealings between them in a plot to murder Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Her account of all this high-powered hanky-panky came out in Exner's 1977 memoir, "My Story," in which she claimed that JFK was active as a jack rabbit in messing around with women who "were not his'n." According to Exner, he dallied with strippers, prostitutes, a likely Danish spy, and Marilyn Monroe. Her own involvement with Kennedy, she wrote, lasted around two years. The beautiful brunette also claimed to have aborted JFK's baby around a year before he was assassinated.

Exner's life quieted down when she married golfer Dan Exner in 1975. The couple split more than a decade later, and she lived out her life alone in California.

Femme fatale Amber Frey

Pretty 28-year-old Amber Frey simultaneously became an American femme fatale and a victim in 2002 after she had fallen for the smooth-talking charm of a married man named Scott Patterson. He had told her that he was single and that he had never been married. Later, he admitted that he had been married but had "lost his wife."

When informed by police that Patterson was actually married at the time and that his pregnant wife, Laci, was missing, Frey cooperated with authorities in taping her subsequent phone calls with him.

A mutilated female corpse and a fetus washed ashore at San Francisco Bay and were identified as Laci and her unborn child. Patterson was convicted of murder, although he has never admitted guilt. Frey did not court the limelight off temporary celebrity but tried to live as privately as possible Later, nude photos of her taken at a modeling agency years earlier surfaced on a website, giving her desire for privacy a temporary setback.

Frey later formed a relationship with a California chiropractor and lives a quiet, private life, while Paterson remains on death row. Frey is a good example of the temporary celebrity who would much rather not have become one.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Femme fatale Jessica Hahn

Big-hair 1980s girl Jessica Hahn has faded into the private obscurity that most of us enjoy, but for a while her name was on every tongue. One-time church secretary Hahn was the comely lass who figured prominently in the undoing of TV evangelist Jim Bakker in the mid-1980s.

Bakker and wife Tammy Faye had begun their rise to prominence as ordinary evangelists. In the mid-1960s, they took it to a new level by working for Pat Robertson's 700 Club at that enterprising instrument of the Lord's Christian Broadcasting Network in Tidewater Virginia. The Bakkers next hosted their own program, the Jim and Tammy Show, after which they moved to California and started another new show called Praise the Lord. They then returned to the East Coast and abbreviated their program name to the PTL Club.

Critics, and there were many, opined that PTL must stand for "Pass the Loot" due to the shameless hustling done on-air by the smarmy couple. The devout, the simple-minded and the elderly hoping to make advance reservations in Heaven poured forth their bounty. With these "love gifts," the Bakkers did what any thoughtful minister would do: they opened their own theme park, Heritage USA, in Fort Mill, S.C. By selling "partnerships" (meaning hotel rooms), they bilked the faithful out of a very great deal of money, some of which they applied to their favorite worthy cause: themselves.

Alert reporters at the nearby Charlotte Observer began investigating the Bakkers, and Atlanta humor columnist Lewis Grizzard, mincing no words, called Jim Bakker a weasel.

One of the items uncovered by the press was a hush-money payment made over to Jessica Hahn, who admitted to having slept--on one occasion--with both Bakker and another evangelical preacher. She claimed that she had been drugged and raped by the two lusty clerics. Bakker eventually admitted to the sex but denied that it was rape.

Bakker had to resign from running Heritage and was replaced by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Instead of closing preacherly ranks with Bakker, however, Falwell denounced him every way from Sunday.

Eventually, Bakker was convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy and was sentenced to 45 years. Our court system being what it is where well-to-do white-collar miscreants are concerned, he actually ended up serving roughly five years. Tammy Faye divorced him. Now free and remarried, Jim Bakker is back at the business of salvation in a well-chosen spot--Branson, Mo.

Hahn went with what she had to work with, which of course means she posed nude for Playboy. She has made sporadic appearances in the media, notably on The Howard Stern radio show.

Femme fatale Fannie Foxe

The truism "There's no fool like an old fool" was proved with laser-like clarity in 1974 in a remarkable incident involving the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and a D.C. stripper who danced as Fannie Fox, the Argentine Firecracker.

The woman in question was born in a community south of Buenos Aires and married a nightclub piano player named Eduardo Battistella, with whom she moved to the Untied States in 1965. The Battistellas were neighbors of Wilbur Mills and his wife Polly and sometimes played bridge together. Clearly, Wilbur wanted to play more than bridge (No wisecracks will be allowed here using the term "rubber.")

On the fateful night, Wilbur and Fannie had been observed dining and arguing loudly at a D.C. restaurant. Mrs. Mills was home nursing a broken foot.

Five hours later, in the wee small hours of the morning, U.S. Park Service officers on patrol near the Tidal Basin noticed a car without its headlights on and pulled it over. An upset woman, Fannie, jumped from the car and into the Tidal Basin. Inside sat a pickled Mills, bleeding from the nose and from facial scratches, the driver and another woman, who apparently was Fannie's cousin.

News of the episode got out, and at first Mills did what most white-collar rascals do: he denied everything, and in the most comical terms. Unlucky for him, a TV cameraman had caught the incident on videotape, and three days later, Mills 'fessed up--to some degree, at least.

Later, further details emerged about Mills, who had great clout in Congress, having been seen frequently with Fannie (divorced in 1973 and at the time mother of two teenage children) at a strip club, the Silver Slipper, where he lived it up and bought magnums of champagne for his chums. Sadly, Fannie apparently really loved the old fellow and, in an interview with Sally Quinn, called him "a young man in an old man's body." Ah, the indiscretions of youth...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Femme fatale Fawn Hall

Striking blonde Fawn Hall was not a femme fatale in the usual sense in that she was not romantically linked with the powerful political figure she served as secretary. She was merely a glamorous looking young woman who stood by her boss despite the legal risks involved.

Specifically, she doctored and shredded documents linking her boss, Lt. Col. Oliver North, and other conservative government figures to the tangle of deceptions that came to be known as the Iran-Contra scandal.

In brief, the Reagan administration was playing fast and loose with the U.S. Congress regarding the sale of weapons to Iran after which some of the money was diverted to support the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua, which was illegal but suited the conservative agenda just the same.

Hall, who had a mane of blonde hair second only to that of actress Farrah Fawcett, testified under oath, with immunity, in Oliver North's 1989 trial. He was found guilty but his conviction was later overturned upon appeal on constitutional grounds. The other government figures involved also escaped punishment either on appeal or by being later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. North became a syndicated columnist and pundit.

Hall, who had left North's employ in 1986, moved to the West Coast and worked as a secretary for MP3.com. She married Danny Sugarman in 1991. Sugarman was manager for The Doors and later for Iggy Pop and also published five books. The couple had trouble with illegal drugs, and Sugarman died of cancer in 2005. It is doubtful that Fawn Hall would have lingered in the public memory had she not had such striking good looks.

Femme fatale Nolanda Hill

Conspiracy theorists are still buzzing about the circumstances of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown's death in 1996 amidst the general sleaze of the Clinton administration.

Brown, a prominent African-American political figure of whom much was expected, died in Bosnia when his plane went down on a hillside. Quite possibly, the cause was purely accidental, but two years thereafter, Brown's colleague Nolanda Sue Hill, who also turned out to have been his long-time lover, gave court testimony that seats on government trade mission planes were being sold to people who wanted a buy influence in exchange for campaign contributions. (ruly we do appear to have the best government that money can buy.)

Hill fingered Brown for using drugs while in his high office and for taking money to help business interests. She also testified that he Clintons had been "renting" rooms in the White House to well-heeled rascals wanting something something in the way of a quid pro quo. No standard-issue bimbo, Hill was the wealthy owner of a couple of television stations before meeting and going into business with Ron Brown.

Hill herself got into trouble with the IRS for contributing to the filing of false tax returns and was indicted by a federal grand jury. Brown, too, had tax troubles and was set to make a deal with independent counsel then investigating the Clinton administration. By that time, the FBI was onto him for his dealings with Vietnamese interests. When Brown's plane went down, rumors flew about sabotage to ward off embarrassement to the administration. No evidence came to light, however. Hill dropped out of sight, and the roiled political waters soon were still again.

Femme fatale Rielle Hunter

An extramarital affair that left an especially bad taste in the mouth of America was carried on between Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards of North Carolina and a woman named Rielle Hunter, whose birth name was Lisa Jo Druck. For a politician to jump into bed with a blonde is nothing new, but in this case Edwards, who had cultivated a boyish, squeaky-clean image, did the naughty deed while his wife, Elizabeth, was fighting breast cancer.

The name Hunter came by way of Lisa's 1994 marriage, which ended in 2000. The new first name, Rielle, was probably picked to stand out. Hunter had acted in a couple of movies just before and just after 1990, and a few years later she moved from acting to running her own film production company. It was through this company that she met the smiley, mop-haired Edwards, whose fame came from his remarkably successful career as an attorney.

Hunter began producing campaign videos for Edwards, and soon was producing more than that. Their affair came to public light in 2007 in the National Enquirer tabloid. Hunter was pregnant at that time and cited Edwards staffer Andrew Young (not THE Andrew Young) as the child's father. Inquiring minds wanted to know more, and suspicious minds assumed that Young, also a married man, was "taking the bullet" for the boss.

Edwards finally fessed up to the affair but denied paternity of Hunter's daughter. Celebrity Blogsburg has no idea which version is correct but suggests checking out the child's hair when the tyke gets older.

Elizabeth Edwards showed great strength during this ordeal and deserves considerable admiration. The disgraced John, who had just built his family the biggest house in the county while campaigning as an advocate for the "little people," also appears to have ponied up to finance a new life for Hunter and her baby in, as V.P. Dick Cheney liked to put it, an undisclosed location.

The snares of political power can be awfully ugly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Femme fatale Paula Jones

It is unclear whether to consider Paula Jones a femme fatale or more nearly a victim. She held a state job in Arkansas during Bill Clinton's time as that state's governor. According to her testimony, she was propositioned by the governor in his office, and he underlined the point he was trying to make by dropping trou.

Jones filed a sexual harassment suit in the amount of $750,000. A sort of witness was a state trooper who was stationed outside the governor's door at the time. Clinton's legal advisors argued that since he had become the nation's president, he was (as were a couple of major corporations in the 2008-2009 banking collapse) "too big to fail." The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and allowed Jones' civil suit to go forward. In the end, Clinton settled out of court with Jones for $850,000, most of which reportedly was gobbled up by her lawyers, as is the usual custom.

But for the Jones suit, Clinton's later affair with Monica Lewinsky might never have become public.

As for Jones, she posed for Penthouse magazine, had a badly needed nose job and in 2002 was briefly back in the public eye in a celebrity boxing match, which she lost to former skater Tonya Harding. At last report, Jones was making her living more quietly, in real estate sales.

Femme fatale Rita Jenrette

Mega-beautiful Rita Jenrette's rise (or fall) to temporary celebrity was accomplished by an unusual route. Instead of beginning her working life as a model, club dancer, or stripper as do some especially attractive female "shooting stars," she entered through the possibly less respectable door of politics in her home state of Texas. Two years after getting her B.A., she was hired as Director of Research for the Republican Party in Texas. Next she moved to Washngton, D.C., to work with the Republican National Committee.

In 1976, she married up-and-coming political luminary John Jenrette , a lively young Democratic congessman from South Carolina. The two celebrated their nuptials with by enjoying late-night sex on the steps of the nation's Capitol. The wonderful D.C. comedy troupe The Capitol Steps took its name from this unusual honeymoon event.

Things were fine until John was caught taking a bribe in the admirable ABSCAM sting operation that caught some of our nation's leaders doing what they do best. The lovely Rita distanced herself from her disgraced hubby, did some talk show appearances, and shored up her finances by posing nude for Playboy. The couple soon divorced.

The fair Rita has published two books, one an account of her adventures in the political high life, the other a not-so-successful novel. Around 1990, she was working for Fox TV as an interviewer, and since that time, the still-gorgeous blonde has sold commercial real estate.

Femmes fatales Christine Keeler & Mandy Rice-Davies

For a short while in the early 1960s, the names of two good-looking Brits were known to virtually every American having the IQ and awareness of a radish. Leggy, sultry brunette Christine Keeler and seductive blonde Mandy Rice-Davies brought the Conservative government of British Prime Minister Harold McMillan low in 1963 when it was learned that Keeler was sleeping with both British Secretary of State for War John Profumo and a Soviet naval attache named Yevgeny Ivanov--perhaps a classic case of trying to have it both ways.

Both girls had grown up in humble circumstances and to get on in the world, used what they had, namely, good looks and a giving attitude. Both began their quest for the glamorous life as store models, then became club dancers.

Keeler was befriended by English osteopath Dr. Stephen Ward and for a while lived with him, apparently platonically. At a party thrown by the playful peer Lord Astor, Ward introduced Keeler to John Profumo and the two struck up an affair. Meanwhile, Keeler had lined up Rice-Davies with one of her former lovers, slumlord Peter Rachman.

Details are unclear, but another Keeler lover, John Edgecombe, fired shots at a house in which the two girls were talking, and his trial caused many a sordid detail to become public.

As age took its inevitable toll, both Keeler and Rice-Davies published their autobiographies, and both were featured in the 1989 movie Scandal, in which Joanne Whalley was Keeler and Bridget Fonda played Rice-Davies. Rice-Davies tried her hand at recording pop music but met little success, later marrying an Israeli and becoming a nightclub owner in Tel Aviv.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Femme fatale Monica Lewinsky

Far the biggest sex scandal of recent times involved 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewisnky and the sitting ( perhaps "standing" would be more accurate here) president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

The year the ill-advised relationship appears to have begun was 1995, and this relationship, which apparently involved oral sex only, lasted into early 1997. After rumors turned into news stories, the president was impeached by the House of Representatives (in 1998), but he was found not guilty of perjury and obsruction of justice that same year by a forgiving Senate.

Bill Clinton was not known as "Slick Willie" for nothing. His "unusual intern policy" was excused with the rationalization that his personal life had nothing to do, really, with his job performance. Women especially were willing to look the other way because his general policies were favorable to women as a whole, even if his personal shortcomings were harmful to Miss Lewinsky and the other young women with whom he earlier had dallied.

The affair came out into the open after Lewinsky, dispatched to work at the Pentagon, made the mistake of confiding in her work-mate Linda Tripp, who recorded phone conversations and spilled the beans.

By Lewinsky's account, her trysts with Clinton were nine in number. Nevertheless, wronged wife Hillary stood grimly by her bad-boy husband, absurdly trying to deflect the blame to the media and a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

The president at first lied through his teeth about having sex with Lewinsky. Later, when DNA tests confirmed his guilty pleasures, he defined his way out, arguing about the meaning of the word "sex." Given his earlier misadventures with Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, his wriggling free of trouble yet again gave cynical onlookers the suspicion that probably he could rape a bus load of nuns in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue in full view of press and public and still get away with it somehow. Truly he is a man who has a steel-trap mind, but who lacks the zipper to match it.

After the scandal died down, Lewinsky dropped out of sight for a while, then resurfaced as a designer and seller of women's handbags. She had a brief fling at reality TV hosting in 2003 with the show Mr. Personality, and in 2006, earned a master's in social psychology from the London School of Economics. An account of her experiences can be found in the book Monica's Story.

Femme fatale Megan Marshak

An unlikely femme fatale was Megan Marshak, an attractive young woman yet not possessed of the kind of spectacular bombshell looks one expects of women who become involved with extremely wealthy, powerful men.

Just the same, Marshak was linked romantically, or at least sexually, with one of the wealthiest of them all, Nelson Rockefeller, a grandson of the great John D. Like so many men of enormous wealth, Rocky wanted to become president, an office he sought for three consecutive campaigns (1960, 1964, and 1968). Although he never realized that dream, he did serve as vice president under Gerald Ford (1974-1977).

Rockefeller lost the 1964 race in part due to public disapproval of his divorce and remarriage to second wife Happy (Margaretta). It would appear that all was not happy with Happy, and in the late 1970s, he took as mistress a member of his office staff, the 20-something Miss Marshak.

Billionaire though he was, Rocky had his wild and unpredictable side, which surfaced in 1976 when he was photographed gleefully giving the celebrated one-finger salute to hecklers at a speech he was trying to deliver.

Much bigger news came in January 1979 when Rockefeller suffered a heart attack while having sex with Marshak. All possible attempts were made to cover up what had happened. Rocky died en route to a hospital, however, and the salacious news came out, making Marshak a temporary celebrity.

To her credit, Marshak did not follow the lead of so many other young women who suddenly found themselves in the public eye due to illicit liasons. She did not pose for Playboy, nor did she sell her exclusive story checkbook-journalism style. Instead, she dropped out of public view as quickly and completely as if she had been placed in the Witness Protection Program.

Femme fatale Paula Parkinson

There is something about national politics that imparts to the successful male politician the notion that he should not be bound by the usual social conventions. This "I gotta be me" outlook has landed many a politico in hot water, and such was the case with Delaware's golfing Republican congressman Thomas Evans, Jr.

In 1980, Evans and fellow Republicans Tom Railsback of Illinois and Dan Quayle of Indiana were doing the public's business at a Florida golf course, accommpanied by good-time agricultural insurance lobbyist Paula Parkinson, whose favorite crop appeared to be successful Republican politicians.

Questioned by the Justice Department, Parkinson admitted to innumerable flings , but only with Republicans. The Department decided not to prosecute anyone, but news of the junketing good time boys is thought to have cost Evans the next election, in 1982. The affair may also have been a major factor in the unseating of 8-term congressman Railsback. Quayle escaped the bad publicity and went on to exhibit his boyish charm and lack of spelling ability as U.S. vice president.

Parkinson did the expected and posed for Playboy magazine before disappearing from public view.

Femme fatale Donna Rice

A classic case of the girl who lapses into bimboism in her early years, then finds God and does something good with the rest of her life is that of Donna Rice. Older Americans who remember her sudden media celebrity will have in their mind's eye the photo of Rice, showing a lot of leg while sitting on the lap of a smiling (and married) Sen. Gary Hart, a leading candidate for the presidency, while aboard a yacht called (and I am not making this up) the Monkey Business.

Growing up, Rice had been truly outstanding--popular, highly itelligent, graduating with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa from the Unversity of South Carolina. She was also blessed with blonde good looks and had been that school's head cheerleader. She became Miss South Carolina World, discovered the advantages of dating older guys and moved to New York City to seek her fortune in that most empty-headed of job fields, modeling.

A few older guys later, she moved to Miami to work in commercials and there met the handsome, horny Mr. Hart (born Hartpence). The self-confident Hart had made a run at the White House in 1984 and was the apparent Democratic leader in the 1988 race at the time he and Rice met. Rumors of his JFK-like womanizing circulated among the press, and not long after the merry voyage of the Monkey Business, reporters began asking embarrassing questions.

As politicians will, Hart denied all wrongdoing and, absurdly full of himself, challenged reporters to follow him if they liked. They did, and soon they spotted Rice emerging from Hart's D.C. townhouse. As high-placed politicians' wives so often do, Mrs. Hart stood by her man, but as a presidential candidate, he was toast. Hart soon dropped out of the running.

Hart, who already had degrees in law and, of all things, theology, added an Oxford doctorate in politics in 2001 and became a celebrity professor.

Rice lay low for quite a while but turned to religion and married in 1994. She went to work for Enough Is Enough, a non-profit that combats child pornography. Then in 1998 she published a book, Kids Online, and in 1999, started her own website (www.protectkids.com).

Now Donna Hughes, she is an example of the old truism "It's not how you start but how you finish."

Femme fatale Blaze Starr

Blaze Starr (born Fannie Belle Fleming in West Virginia) is one of our native land's most famous strippers. Even more than for her burlesque act, she is remembered for her affair with one of America's most colorful politicians, Earl Long of Louisiana.

Starr became known for her work at a Baltimore nightspot called the Two O'Clock Club, which she later bought. The voluptuous redhead was doing her act in New Orleans in 1959 when she met that state's governor, Mr. Long, and the two struck up a long-lasting romance.

In a move that seemed just right in the wonderful world of Louisiana politics, Long's wife, Blanche, had the old boy commited to a mental facility, a place where many a politician would fit right in.

Starr published her memoirs in 1974, and the movie "Blaze," starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich, appeared in 1989.

The law of gravity being what it is, Starr departed the stage in the early 1980s and studied gemology in addition to owning her old Baltimore club.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Femme fatale Mirthala Salinas

Many a pretty young woman gives in to the lure of the powerful man, especially if he is good looking too. Such appears to have been the case with Los Angeles television reorter/anchor Mirthala Salinas, who in 2007 lost her job at Spanish-language channel KVEA-TV for having an affair with the city's mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, while also covering him as a news source.

Her initial punishment was a 2-month suspension, but at the end off that time, the station announced that she would not be back. Salinas returned to the air in 2008 as a host of a magazine-format show on W Radio 690 in Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa, a charming, charismatic young man with ties to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has enjoyed a stellar career, one slowed little by his fondness for the ladies. His last name at birth was Villar, but when he married Corina Raigosa in 1987, he adopted a merged version of their last names.

His public reputation took at least a temporary hit in 2007 when his affair with the lovely Miss Salinas came to light because at the time, his wife was receiving treatments for cancer.

He has survived politically, however, in the same way President Bill Clinton did following the Lewinsky affair. So long as a powerful political leader's general policies are on the side of the angels, most Americans don't really demand that he act much like one. (The rest of us would be well advised not to "try this at home.")

Fenmme fatale Kay Summersby

A lingering mystery of World War II is the matter of did or did not General, later President Dwight Eisenhower have an affair with his driver, perky Irish lass Kay Summersby while his headquarters was a house south of London. The answer remains unclear to this day and likely will remain so.

In those days, rumors circulated as they always do, but the media were more inclined to give the great and the near great more space than do today's ravening tabloids. Extra-marital hanky-panky went on, of course, but was not so avidly pursued by the media, which by today's standards were pretty conservative and discreet.

A few years after the war, Summersby published a memoir in which she made no mention of any sort of romantic connection with the General. Nearly 30 years later appeared a second book with Summersby listed as author; in it, a wartime romance was hinted at, but not spelled out in detail. In it, she more or less claimed romance minus actual sex.

What is fairly well established is that during Ike's long wartime absence, his wife Mamie had understandable periods of jealosy regarding Summersby and probably other young women. All in all, though, Ike's public image has remained rock solid. Most people find it hard not to like Ike.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Homme fatale Scott Thorson

A man who has led an unusual and confusing life is Scott Thorson, entertainer Liberace's live-in lover who met the pianist when only 16. Officially, Thorson was Liberace's chauffeur and bodyguard, but in private, much more. Those Americans who remember him at all will see in their mind's eye a blond man who looked like a younger, bigger Liberace.

Liberace, born Wladziu Liberace, began his piano career mainly playing serious music but found he could make far more money playing popular songs while dressed in outfits of ferocious gaudiness, his fingers obscured by enormous rings, and his grand piano tricked out with a candelabrum.

The era of Liberace's popularity was before the great coming out for gays, and he maintained a policy of denial, winning modest settlements from tabloids that ran stories intimating he was homosexual. Most colorful of these journalistic attacks were those of British journalists, who, among other things, claimed that the rainy weather in London was actually caused by the angels weeping over Liberace's arrival there, or a story that described the enertainer's sequined outfits as appearing to have been "spun out of frog spawn."

It was some time after that period in the late 1950s that Thorson came into his life and to the attention of his army of fans. Liberace had taken his pet dog to a vet clinic where Thorson was a helper. By the time Thorson was 17, he had moved in with the exotic pianist and had begun to be showered with lavish gifts, which eventually included heaps of garish jewelry and around 25 luxury cars. Despite all, Thorson has claimed to be basically a heterosexual.

In or around 1981, Thorson had facial plastic surgery to more closely resemble his boss and partner. By this time, Thorson was on cocaine and in that same year, while buying drugs witnessed a savage beating in a hotel room, allegedly at the behest of a gangland strip club owner. Thorson agreed to testify.

Soon thereafter, he was thrown out of Liberace's penthouse by two private detectives. He then filed a palimony suit in the amount of $112 million. Changing lawyers, he went instead for breach of contract and eventually settled with a by then AIDS-ravaged Liberace for a reported $95,000.

Thorson was placed for a while in the federal Witness Protection Program for fear of gangland retribution for testifying in what was being called the Wonderland Gang case. At last report, he was out of protective status and living on disability.

Homme fatale Clyde Tolson

Seldom has there been such a buzz of gossip about any prominent person's love life as that which circulated for decades about FBI director-for-life J. Edgar Hoover and his life's companion, Clyde Tolson.

Hoover began his government service in 1919 as an assistant to then-attorney general Alexander Palmer. This was the time of America's great Red Scare, and Hoover's work centered around deporting suspected Communists. He compiled a large database of charges against Americans on the political left and in 1921 became assistant director of the FBI, rising to director in 1924--a post he held until his 1972 death.

Hoover had no women in his life, and rumors circulated early on about his sexuality. Tolson, who, like Hoover, had a George Washington University law degree, joined the agency in 1927 and after a short tenure as its chief clerk, was promoted to assistant director. Tolson and Hoover were inseparable companions from that time on.

It is claimed that the Mafia had photos of Hoover in drag, which were used to minimize agency interference with organized crime. For his part, Hoover is said to have had "dirt" on virtually every important political figure at the national level, which he used to remain in office throughout many presidential administrations.

Tolson suffered a stroke in 1964. Waiving normal policy about fitness and age, Hoover kept Tolson in office. Upon Hoover's death, Tolson spend about one day as director, until President Richard Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray to take over. At that point, Tolson retired, to be replaced by Mark Felt, who, ironically, later came out as "Deep Throat," Woodward and Bernstein's secret source in uncovering the Watergate scandal that ended Nixon's presidency.

Hoover, whose reputation among trusting Americans was one of no-nonsense incorruptability, apparently was a cross-dresser in his spare time, but like Hoover hismelf, those dresses remained in the closet during his powerful, influence-abusing lifetime.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One-hit wonder Thurston Harris

Note: In this post and the more than 50 others about recorded music's "one-hit wonders," keep in mind that this designation should not be taken as an insult to a performer.

Many such people have had long, multi-faceted careers and rich accomplishments. Most were not merely a flash-in-the-pan. Even so, they did indeed have only one big hit recording and are one-hit wonders in that particular sense.

Pop music listerners of my own vintage might well remember Thurston Harris and his one really big hit song, Little Bitty Pretty One, which made it to No. 6 in 1957. The song, written by Bobby Day, had a doo-wop chorus that two college pals and I would often loudly "perform" as we returned to our dorm from our liquid adventures.

A year later, Harris had a second, but far more modestly successful rock recording, the suggestive, grammar-defying Do What You Did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One-hit wonder Tommy Heath

As lead vocalist for the rock group Tommy Tutone, Tommy Heath had a 1982 killer hit with the oddly named song 867-5309/Jenny, which refers to a phone number to "call for a good time" as found on a men's room wall. Despite the unlikely sound of this set-up, the recording hit No. 1 on the rock chart.

The song's co-writer Jim Keller, also sang and was lead guitarist on this recording.

As might be expected, a lot of dim people and jokesters actually called this number looking for Jenny (and, presumably, a good time). A few lawsuits resulted, for a variety of reasons ranging from harassment to trademark infringement.

One-hit wonder Shannon Hoon

Singing lead with the rock group Blind Melon, Shannon Hoon had a single big hit: No Rain, in 1992, which made it to No. 1 on the U.S. rock chart. The song played on youth's belongingness needs.

Hoon had drug troubles and died of an overdose in 1995.

One-hit wonder Vicki Lawrence

Fans of the old Carol Burnette Show and its spin-off Mama's Family remember her as Vicki Lawrence. Others know her by her married name, Vicki Lawrence Schultz. Quite possibly her best work was as feisty, steely-eyed Momma on the Burnett Show, viciously putting down her hapless daughter Eunice, played by Burnett.

Lawrence's musical claim to fame is a song written by her then-husband Bobby Russell: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, which reached No.1 in 1972. It tells the sordid story of serial small-town infidelity, the fallout from which results in a lynching, gleefully participated in by local "upholders of the law."

Later, Lawrence was host of TV's Win, Lose or Draw and also appeared on various other quiz and game shows.

One-hit wonder Barry Mann

Among the funny novelty songs that have risen high in the U.S. charts is the parody number Who Put the Bomp, which pokes fun at doo-wop lyrics. The bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop and the ram in the ram-a-lam-a ding-dong add to the good-natured ribbing.

This 1961 success was co-written and recorded by Barry Mann (born Barry Imberman) and his wife, Cynthia Weil. The couple never had another hit record of their own but wrote some really good songs for The Drifters, Dolly Parton, The Righteous Brothers and many other artists.

One-hit wonder Bobby Bloom

Montego Bay is both a place in Jamaica and a one-hit wonder song containing a near-record number of uses of the word "oh." The lyrics, written by Bloom and Jeff Barry, appear to reflect the daydreams of a Jamaican exile longing to be back home drinking rum and getting high.

Bloom, who earlier had sung with The Imaginations, was shot to death in an altercation in 1974.

One-hit wonder Curtis Lee

Doo-wop singer/songwriter Curtis Lee's big success came in 1961 with his recording of Pretty Little Angel Eyes, which reached No.7 that year. The song, co-written by Lee and Tommy Boyce, repeats the title phrase over and over (It does flow trippingly from the tongue) and contains more than its share of wow-wows and ooooo-oooos. It is the kind of song that demonstrates that one never knows what will become a hit. Or that a good beat can trump compelling lyrics.

No further hits came along for Lee, and by the end of the 1960s, he had departed the music scene.

One-hit wonder Michael Sembello

Guitarist Michael Sembello's day in the pop chart sun came in 1983 with Maniac, which went all the way to No. 1. The song's popularity and profitability were ensured by its appearance in the movie Flashdance, in which the comely dancer does indeed appear to be "dancing like she's never danced before," as the lyrics have it. Who wouldn't like to share her ability to dance like crazy?

Sembello has written for and performed with many a major musical star, from Barbara Streisand to Stevie Wonder, and he has done a lot of work on soundtracks for Hollywood movies.

One-hit wonder Ditta Zuser

Little is known in the United States about Ditta Zuser, who in 1960 took her song Sailor, Your Home is the Sea (in German, Seeman, deine Heimat ist das Meer) to No. 5 in America.

This cute brunette, who hails from Austria, performed most of the number in German, adding some English lyrics toward the end of the recording. Although she has been popular in Europe, she has never again scored big in the States.

One-hit wonder Taco Ockerse

A singer of Dutch nationality and who sings mainly in German and English is Taco Ockerse, usually billed simply as Taco. His niche in the music business was the permormance of old standards, and his one big hit song in the U.S. was Puttin' on the Ritz.

Although older Americans associate this Irving Berlin number with dancer/singer Fred Astaire, or with the 1930 movie of the same name, Taco gave the song his own twist and in 1983 found it as high as No.4 on the U.S. charts. Today, Taco lives and sings in Germany.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One-hit wonder Eddy Grant

Born in Guyana, reggae lead guitar player and songwriter Eddy Grant's one big U.S. hit was the 1983 song Electric Avenue. This recording reached No. 2 in the States.

Grant first gained celebrity in the United Kingdom with his song Baby Come Back, recorded with his group The Equals (No. 1 in the UK in 1968. He moved from Europe to Barbados, and in part, he is known for his songs opposing racial discrimination.

One-hit wonders Antonio Monge & Rafael Ruiz

Although these two Spanish musicians were never all that famous by name in the United States, the name of their duo act was : Los del Rio (the river people, or those from the river). Their one big hit in the United States was a 4 million seller dance song: Macarena, from 1996.

The song was about a sexy woman in the Spanish city of Seville. It as written for a flamenco performer, and the name in the song was originally Ma'dalena, from Spanish slang that intimated sexuality and was an oblique reference to the Biblical figure Mary Magdalene, said to have been a one-time prostitute. Its U.S. popularity reached its peak in 1996 after the Engish-language cover done by the Bayside Boys. Just the same, this dance number is said to have made its two originators an enormous amount of money.

One-hit wonder Toni Basil

Philadelphia-born Toni Basil, actually Antonia Basilotta, whose main claim to fame has been her choreography, had a hit on her hands in 1982 with the song Mickey. This song, which had remarkably trite, repetitive lyrics, was based on the earlier song Kitty, which had been popular in Britain. Basil did the MTV hit version of the number wearing a chearleader sweater and skirt. The lyrics consisted largely of the words "Hey Mickey" and assured the aforesaid Mickey that he was "so fine."

Basil went on to appear in such moves as Easy Rider, in which she played a prostitute, Five Easy Pieces, and The Last Movie. She had her own dance group and also worked as a director for music videos.

One-hit wonder Richard Berry

A song of great and lingering mystery is Louie Louie, written in 1955 and first recorded in 1957 by doo-wop singer Richard Berry. His version of the song, recorded ith his group The Pharaohs, has been recorded by a near-record number of performers since that time and reached its senith in popularity in 1963 when The Kingsmen brought out its cover of the song.

The song is done from the point of view of a lonely sailor who is telling a friendly batender, Louie, about his sweetheart waiting in Jamaica. The Kingsmen 1963 version was so hard to understand, however, that rumor had it the lyrics were vulgar. It is said that the FBI even investigated, but was unable to discover what the song's slurred lyrics were saying. Berry never had another big hit and died in 1997 of heart trouble.

One-hit wonder Debby Boone

It seems sort of mean to call Debby Boone a "one-hit wonder" since she has had a long and rather successful career in music, yet in pop music, she has indeed had one big success: You Light Up My Life, a major success of 1977. Boone is the daughter of nice-guy crooner Pat Boone and as a teen, performed with her family before striking out on her own. Like her dad, her musical interests gradually turned from popular--in her case, pop country-- to religious, and much of her work has been in recording Christian music.

In addition, she has appeared on stage in many musicals and has made TV appearances, as well. In 1979, she married Gabriel Ferrer, son of Jose Ferrer and singer Roosemary Clooney, whose singing Boone much admired.

One-hit wonder Mark Dinning

Of all the one-hit songs, Teen Angel, which was NO. 1 in 1960, must surely be one of the most mawkish. The song, recorded by Mark Dinning (born Max Dinning), was written by his sister and brother-in-law and told of a teenage girl whose car stalled out while crossing a railroad track and how she made it out in time, but ran back to retrieve the high school ring her boyfriend had given her-- and was squished. Remarkably, she was found with the ring clutched in her lifeless hand.

Dinning, who grew up on a Tennessee farm, came from a musical family. His three older sisters performed as The Dinning Sisters in the 1940s and had a big hit of their own in 1948, Buttons and Bows.

Dinning made a few more records, but none succeeded as had Teen Angel. He died of a heart attack in 1986.