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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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.

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