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.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Victim Oliver Sipple

A husky ex-Marine named Oliver "Billy" Sipple saw his personal life go down the drain in the strangest way.

In September 1975 he joined a crowd outside San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel, hoping to get a glimpse of President Gerald Ford, who was there giving a speech.

When the president emerged, Sipple noticed next to him in the crowd a hand holding a gun that was pointed at the president. The would-be assassin, deranged woman Sara Jane Moore, got off a shot, which missed its target, but Sipple's quick intervention very likely saved the president's life.

When such things happen, one expects to see the hero on every talk show, his face on every cover. Yet these things did not happen.

The press very quickly learned that Sipple was gay, and that his family and employer did not know this fact. At first the media sat on the story. Then gay rights activists, including Harvey Milk, wanting to destroy the stereotype of gay men as limp-wristed sissies, wanted his homosexuality made public. Finally the story broke in a column by gossip columnist Herb Caen.

The upshot was that Sipple was fired, and his own father refused ever to speak to him again. (Keep in mind that this was a time when gays were very nearly all still in the closet.)

Sipple, who lived on disability checks from his service in Vietnam, became morbidly obese and despondent. He died alone and broke in 1989.

How sad that someone who did a heroic act that saved the life of a U.S. president would come to such a sorry end.

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