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 24, 2009

Hoaxers Birdie Jo and Becky Hoaks

The Hoaks sisters certainly have the perfect last name for what they seem to have selected as their life's work: hoaxing kind, generous people in the name of sweet charity.

Birdie Jo and Becky were born into very difficult circumstances in the small town of Hoopeston, Illinois. The two girls stuck together to the extent that their local nicknames were Bread and Butter. Following their high school years,in 1988, they joined the National Guard. By 1991,they left Guard service and lived for a time in New York City.

Exactly when the pair began their life of hoax-driven crime is unclear, but they appear to have used the same general scam in many states. Their modus operandi was for Birdie Jo to show up in a small town dressed as a teenage boy and for Becky to appear later in the role of his "Aunt Becky." Kind, generous locals would be readily taken in by the hard-luck stories the two women told and would provide them support until it finally came to light that Birdie Jo was female. Embarrassed, most such communities let the two go rather than press charges and spread their embarrassment abroad.

Birdie Jo came to the nation's attention in 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she pretended to be a 13-year-old boy named Mark born during a Christmas Day blizzard and abandoned by uncaring parents. Money poured in, as did a few offers of adoption.

Finally it came to light that he was a she, and 25 years old, at that. This time Birdie Jo got an 18-month sentence.

Reports of the pair's similar capers in other states filtered in. Even so, the wily Birdie Jo and Becky struck again in Galena, Kansas, where in 2003, Birdie Jo, then 33, assumed the identity of 13-year-old Chris Gomez, child abuse victim. Here, the two bilked the well-meaning congregation of the Galena Assembly of God church. People finally became suspicious due to Birdie Jo's claim of being only 13, and the cat was once again out of the bag. Charges were dropped, however, and goodness only knows where these inventive "thesbians" will appear next.

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