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, April 16, 2009

Heroes Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn

On March 16, 1968, Army helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and gunner Lawrence Colburn were faced with a remarkable dilemma. With crew chief Glenn Andreotta, soon to be deceased, they were scouting the location of enemy troops, accompanied by two helicopter gunships.

When the three men noticed a lot of bodies that appeared to be civilians at a Vietnamese village, Thompson landed to have a look around. He was sickened by what he saw.

When the three asked U.S. troops what was going on, the answers made it clear that the slaughter of unarmed civilians would continue. Thompson directed the copters' crews to train their machine guns on the out-of-control U.S. platoon with orders to shoot if the slaughter continued. Thompson and crew saved 10 or 11 injured Vietnamese, but as many as 500 had already been killed.

Much to the Army's discredit, a classic coverup was the response to the reports filed by the helicopter crew. Later, former member of the company that had done the killings sent a leter about the My Lai massacre to President Richard Nixon and other government leaders. Most of these "leaders" chose to look the other way, continuing the whitewash.

Then journalist Seymour Hersh brought out a blockbuster story, with photos, and a proper investigation finally began.

A total of 14 officers eventually were charged, but only Lt. William Calley was convicted-- of murder. His sentence was life in prison, but he actually served little more than four months. His superior officer, Capt. Ernest Medina, got off totally.

The shameful episode helped anti-war forces to gain support and thus helped shorten American involvement in this unfortunate war. My Lai was one of the Army's darkest days.

Thompson worked as a Veterans Administration counselor and died of cancer in 2006. The video clip that follows shows Colburn revisiting the scene many years later.

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