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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hoaxer Kitty Wuerl

Katherine "Kitty" Wuerl, age 30 in 1993, was only one of as many as 60 people who in that year reported finding a syringe, needle, or some other foreign object in a can of Pepsi. Her case, however, very likely got the most press of all these copycat hoax stories.

Two factors help account for this sudden rash of hoax reports. One was the very real Sudafed tamperings of two years earlier, which had killed two people. Also, fear of needle-related cases of AIDS was very much on the public's front burner at that time.

These hoaxes cost Pepsi a great deal of money, and at least 50 people were arrested for product tampering or filing false damage claims.

Wuerl, who was working as a telemarketer for the parent company of the Milwaukee Sentinel, falsely reported finding a syringe and needle in a can of Pepsi. She later admitted that her story was a fraud, was fired and had herself committed to a mental health facility.

The Sentinel had egg on its face for running the hoax story before checking it out carefully. Shortly thereafter, this paper was again red-faced after it ran a freelance review of a Dolly Parton concert--one that had been canceled due to rain.

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