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, June 30, 2009

Reality TV Figure Rupert Boneham

Note: So-called reality TV swept the nation during the last couple of decades. It would seem to be proof positive of how absolutely bone-desperate many Americans are to be entertained. It also comes on the cheap for TV producers, who do not have to meet the wild salary demands of established stars. At base, the thing that makes this kind of programming so attractive to viewers more than likely is that it gives the audience a bevy of nice looking young people dressed--barely--in skimpy outfits and placed in circumstances that allow for some degree of fooling around with one another.

One of the most popular of all the many reality shows has been Survivor, which in the Untied States started in 2000. Its concept is that a load of contestants are plunked down in an exotic, remote location, divided into competing "tribes," and given a series of ridiculous tasks to perform.They then begin to vote one another off the show. The idea was taken from a similar TV show in Sweden.

One of the best liked of all the U.S. show's contestants was not just a pretty face. In fact, Rupert Boneham isn't pretty at all. He is a bearded, bear-like fellow who looks if though he really could survive if left on his own for real in a remote place.

The U.S. audience took to this American everyman, who had studied nursing and worked at many hard jobs, including gravedigger.

That he is a good fellow can be seen in his use for some of the money he won on the show: setting up Rupert's Kids, an organization in support of troubled kids.

Reality TV Figure Lorenzo Borghese

In stark contrast to their usual practice of selecting their male characters from the ranks of hunky working stiffs, ABC's reality show The Bachelor ran in an honest to gosh 34-year-old Italian prince, Lorenzo Borghese on its 9th season.

Young Borghese was the real goods, and surely the female contestants on the show must have considered him to be Lorenzo the Magnificent. He is dark and handsome and is descended from one of Italy's most noble families--one that was instrumental in building St. Peter's in Rome. Among his ancestors are a pope and an especially influential cardinal. More recently, one of his grandmothers founded a successful line of cosmetics in the 1950s.

Lorenzo was born in Milan but moved to America when he was a small boy. Now living in New York City, he holds an MBA and owns the pet spa company he founded, and also works with his father in the human cosmetics business.

By now he has made the usual round of talk shows, but his brush with celebrity came in 2006 by way of The Bachelor.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reality TV Figure Anh-Tuan Boi

Nail salon manager Anh-Tuan Boi, better known as "Cao Boi," ascended to temporary celebrity as a contestant on Survivor: Cook Islands.

The married Virginia Tech graduate and former member of the Army's 82nd Airborne was popular for his enormous smile and winning manner. He came to the United States at age 11 as a war refugee.

Reality TV Figure Jesse Camp

One of those aspiring performers who would likely make most older people wonder just why he might be popular is Jesse Camp, who was on MTV's show I Wanna Be a VJ.

Camp, way, way out there in dress, hairstyle and overall persona, ironically came from conservative roots in Connecticut. The punk-style drummer/singer/guitar player would seem to have fit in where he came from about as well as Liberace at the Southern Baptist Convention.

Reality TV Figure Sonja Christopher

Music therapist Sonja Christopher of Walnut Creek, California, gained a fleeting measure of celebrity in 2000 at age 63 by, despite her likable persona, being the very first contestant to be voted off the show Survivor. Christopher, a breast cancer survivor, was known for her happy smile and her ukulele.

Reality TV Figure Richard Hatch

Corporate trainer Richard Hatch was the first winner (survivor)on the popular reality show Survivor, set in Borneo. This series conclusively proves there is no limit to how silly a show can be, provided it offers its viewers a sufficiency of comely young people cavorting about wearing skimpy outfits.

Hatch himself was no youngster but did like to go about as nearly nude as possible. His work experience had been varied and included a five-year hitch in the Army. On Suvivor, he showed a political ability that might be the envy of politicians everywhere, taking home the $1 million prize.

He was less clever when it came to paying his income taxes, however, and he spent around four years in prison as a result. Hatch had been offered a deal if he would plead guilty, but he turned it down, hoping to win over the jury. He didn't. His appeals did him no good, and in the end, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari. An older but presumably wiser Hatch emerged from prison in May 2009.

Reality TV Figure William Hung

A 21-year-old Asian aspiring performer named William Hung found brief celebrity on the show American Idol in 2006.

Young Mr. Hung had a most unusual appeal. He was sort of an Asian nebbish, had strange hair and acted rather like Pee Wee Herman in that he seemed a sort of child-man. This engineering student took time off from his studies to sing and dance with an earnestness matched only by a Hollywood Elvis impersonator who calls himself Thai Elvis.

Hung emigrated from Hong Kong to Los Angeles when he was a boy.

Reality TV Figure Evan Marriott

Handsome, well-knit Evan Marriott made a big splash in reality TV-land in 2003 on Fox's Joe Millionaire, a show that latched onto America's utter fascination with the holy grail of $1 million, a sum that today does not actually make a person rich. (Still, better to have than not to have that iconic sum.)

Marriott, 28 at the time, was actually a construction worker who, on the side, had also worked as a underwear model. His sleepy eyes, tousled hair and devil-may-care smile, combined with an excellent, sturdy build, made him perfectly cast for his role in a genre that demands good-looking members of both genders acting more or less like alley cats.

The show's set-up was that the bachelor posed as a millionaire, and a bevy of comely lasses were brought in to compete for his affections. The last girl standing--this might be an example of less than accurate wording--was teacher Zora Andrich, who split the $1 million prize with Marriott, but also split with him after his real identity had been revealed. They parted ways, she said, because she thought he was too much in love with the cameras.

Reality TV Figure Colin Mortensen

Nice looking Berkeley student Colin Mortensen, a sort of "Every Dude," had his best brush with celebrity on the MYV show The Real World: Hawaii, in 1999.

Like the male cast of the popular sitcom Friends, Mortensen was reasonably good looking, bu basically a likable goofball who fell short of being a meathead. His celebrity, brief as it was, got a boost from his flirtation with another Real World case member, the fair Amaya.

Mortensen's initial notice helped him get a part on a short-lived NBC series, M.Y.O.B.

Reality TV Figure Kelly Purdew

Look into the eyeballs of Kelly Purdew and you can almost see little dollar signs in there. It seems likely that this intelligent, financially focused young man will do well for himself in business, but his fleeting celebrity has come mainly from being annointed by Donald Trump as the winner of The Apprentice 2.

Purdew was 37 at that time and had already accomplished much. He was a West Point graduate, had been a Rhodes Scholar finalist, had earned a law degree and MBA, and was head of a software development firm.

Since his big win, Purdew has hosed a show on the Military Channel called G.I. Factory and has moved into the business of advising on protection against terrorist acts.

Reality TV Figure Dat Phan

Vietnamese-American comic Dat Phan, who was born in Saigon but grew up in California, was the first winner of the show Last Comic Standing.

In 2004, he participated in that show's Battle of the Best, but was sent home after round five.

Reality TV Figure Mario Vazquez

Mario Vazquez, whose ancestry is Puerto Rican, got his temporary celebrity in an unusual way. He was a contestant on the fantastically popular show American Idol and had made it all the way to the finals. Then in 2005, he dropped out of competition, reasoning that further competition might hurt him more than it could help his in his quest to become a recording star.

In 2006, Vazquez had an album appear on the Arista label. The album failed to sell well, however, and Arista dropped him in 2008.

Reality TV Figure Tina Wesson

Knoxville, Tennessee, nurse Tina Wesson scored big on Survivor: The Australian Outback in 2001. Triumphing over her 15 competitors, she took home $1 million and a pretty good dose of short-lived celebrity.

Wesson came back for more in 2004 on Survivor: All-Stars, but this time was promptly voted off.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Whistleblower Ed Bricker

Note: The whistleblower, a person who reveals wrongdoing in business, government or elsewhere, usually has temporary celebrity of a very fleeting time. A few such people, however, extend their celebrity somewhat by joining the speaker's circuit. Once in a while, a whistleblower comes out of the initial period of turmoil well, but too often these individuals are viewed as snitches, traitors and troublemakers. All to often their lives are made very difficult, their careers ruined. Many are threatened with violence, and occasionally, one is even killed.

Ed Bricker is an example of the person who blew the whistle about unsafe practices in plants that deal in radioactive materials. In the mid 1980s, he began complaining to his bosses about radiation leaks, unsafe storage tanks and worn out equipment at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Seattle. The plant was an old one, which had been closed in the 1970s, then re-opened in 1983 during the Reagan administration. The material involved was plutonium.

Getting no satisfaction from management, Bricker contacted government investigators in 1986, and in the following year did interviews with newspapers and television. He also continued complaining to his bosses.

As so frequently happens when employees are not meek "team players," Bricker was harassed, required to see a psychologist, and given harsh performance reviews. On one occasion,he reported that someone tampered with his safety equipment, as well, which could have been fatal for him.

Whistleblower Cynthia Cooper

Cynthia Cooper was vice president for internal auditing at the WorldCom corporation in 2002, when she spilled the beans on the company's phony accounting practices, which made WorldCom appear to be making excellent profits, artificially inflating its stock price.

Cooper took her charges to the board's auditing committee. The firm's chief financial officer was soon fired, an unusual turn of events when higher-ups are shown to have done something wrong. (The usual chain of events includes denial, cover-up, fixing blame on underlings, and paying executives extra for having "managed" the crisis so well.)

Because of crooked leadership, the company very soon had to let go thousands of employees, and its stock dropped like a hot rock. CEO Bernie Ebbers was found guilty of fraud in 2005. The company passed into history, and Cooper started her own consulting firm in Mississippi.

This story is unusual in that the whistleblower came out of it well and the responsible executives above her did not. The WorldCom debacle proved to be the harbinger of many other sad episodes of gross dishonesty in U.S. business and finance and signaled a period in which the American economy was almost thrown into depression due to unchecked greed and gross dishonesty.

Whistleblower Joe Darby

Joe Darby was a sergeant serving with the 372nd Military Police Company at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and blew the whistle on torture and inhumane treatment of the prisoners there.

In 2004, he sent an anonymous message and a photo disc to Army higher-ups; later he revealed that he was the source of these materials. Darby was promised that, since he was providing evidence against his own unit, his name would be kept confidential, but he was outed by none other than Sec. of State Donald Rumsfeld.

As is the case with most informants, Darby was given the cold shoulder by his former friends and threatened bedly enough that he and his wife had to live for a time in protective custody.

He was the first to call attention to the deplorable state of affairs at Abu Ghraib, and the New Yorker magazine was the first publication to run the story, not the tame, cowed, embedded newspaper press.

And as usual, the whole scandal was blamed on a few enlisted men and their immediate supervisors--people who were very likely only following orders from above. The decision to use torture and humiliation no doubt came from very, very near the top of our military's chain of command, but heaven forbid that any such individuals be held accountable.

Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds

Turkish-American FBI translator Sibel Edmonds blew the whistle on her agency in 2001 not long after the 9/11 attacks. She charged that the translation of foreign-language documents and messages had been deliberately slowed in order to make the language division appear overworked and understaffed in a bid to increase its funding. She contended that more competent, responsible management might have helped warn of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She also said that some of her own translation work had been erased from her computer.

Edmonds, then 32, had also told her bosses about another translator who she thought might be a security risk.

As usual, the complainer was fired, but she testified to Congress and the Justice Department and gave her account to CBS correspondent Ed Bradley, as well.

Edmonds had lived in both Turkey and Iran before coming to America in 1988 as a college student studying criminal justice.

She was hired by the FBI for her ability to speak Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg

Highly celebrated as a well intentioned whistleblower is Daniel Ellsberg, who was the Rand Corporation military analyst who in 1971 tuned over the so-called Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other large U.S. newspapers in an effort to shorten our nation's war in Vietnam.

A Harvard Ph.D. in Economics, Elleberg had spent two years working for the State Department in Vietnam. He saw that the U.S. war effort there was doomed to failure and took note of how the U.S. public was being fed optimistic lies about our progress there.

He returned to Washington and became part of a team doing a study of classified materials about the war. With the aid of another Rand Corporation analyst, Anthony Russo, Ellsberg managed to make photocopies of some 7,000 pages of documentation. Unable to find a senator bold enough to introduce this material of the floor of the Senate, he instead turned the documents over to the New York Times, which assigned a team of its own to review them.

In 1971, the Times published what was intended to be the first of a series of articles based on these papers. The Nixon administration quickly got a court injunction that prevented the paper from publishing further installments.

The copy was turned over to the Washington Post, which immediately published story #2. Again came a government injunction. Eventually 15 more newspapers were involved in bringing out all the facts from what by then had become known as the Pentagon Papers.

Thwarted, President Nixon authorized the ill-starred group called the White House Plumbers (burglars) who did the celebrated Watergate break-ins that brought down his administration.

Ellsberg and Russo were charged with espionage, but in the midst of the administration's many embarrassments, the charges were dropped.

Ellsberg still is a protester. He was arrested in 2005 for trespassing while taking part in a protest of the war in Iraq.

Whistleblower Mark Felt

Perhaps the most anticipated and highly publicized whistleblower of modern times was Mark Felt, who after 30 years' silence finally revealed that he was the mysterious "Deep Throat," the news source who had fed information about the Watergate scandal to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. This information was instrumental in bringing down the strange, corrupt presidential administration of Richard Nixon.

Felt obtained the two reporters' promise that they would not reveal his identity until his death. He met with Woodward on various nocturnal occasions in a Washington parking garage and passed tips or verified leads about a presidential administration that had become paranoid and out of control. The nickname Deep Throat had a double meaning. In part it came from the journalistic term "deep background," and also called to mind the well known porn movie Deep Throat.

In 2005, Felt revealed his secret identity via a Vanity Fair story written by John O'Connor.

The suave and worldly Felt had served for many years as second in command at the FBI. He was twice passed over to become the agency's director, which perhaps soured him toward authority. He had been with the agency since 1942, originally working under its founder, J.Edgar Hoover. Felt became deputy director in 1971.

Felt himself got into legal trouble in 1980 for his part in authorizing warrantless break-ins and wiretaps of members of the violent protest group called the Weather Underground. He was convicted at the trial level, but during his appeal, he was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

After being passed over as director for the second time, Felt retired in 1973. He died at age 95 in 2008.

Whistleblower Sammy Gravano

Whistle blowing is very likely at its most dangerous when it is directed at the Mafia, and it is truly remarkable that Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano is still among the living.

After a long and thoroughly despicable career of crime that began in Brooklyn for the Colombo family and continued with the Gambino organization, Gravano became convinced that a hit would be put out on him by his boss, John Gotti. Gravano had served as Gotti's consigliere and really knew where the bodies were buried (no pun intended, of course).

By that time, 1991, Gotti, formerly known as "The Teflon Don" and "The Dapper Don," was in prison for life, and Gravano himself, having confessed to numerous murders, had been sentenced to 20 years.

Gravano turned state's evidence on many of his fellow mobsters, however, and he was "sprung" and placed in the Witness Protection Program, which he left in 1995 to return to further criminal activity. When next he was arrested, he had been dealing in the drug ecstasy. He was again sent to prison in 2002 and still, incarcerated, has become quite ill.

Whistleblower David Graham

Longtime Food and Drug Administration epidemiologist Dr. David Graham blew the whistle on his own agency in 2004 after becoming ever more convinced that the FDA had climbed into the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.

He had been cautioned by his superiors that the way to advancement was not by finding fault with harmful, but highly profitable drugs. Already in his career he had taken part in having quite a number of such medicines jerked from the market.

Examples were Warner-Lambert's Rezulin, Wyeth's Fen-Phen and Redux, and Abbott Laboratories' Omniflox.

Things had gotten out of hand during the pro-business, anything-goes era of the George W. Bush administration, and Dr. Graham went so far as to suggest that in the present climate, the FDA was unable to protect Americans from the unfortunate side effects of various medical drugs.

The medicine that occasioned his whistle blowing was the pain medicine Vioxx, use of which had been associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Whistleblower Katharine Gun

The name Katharine Gun enjoyed brief celebrity in America in 2003 when she passed top-secret material to the media that detailed the George W. Bush administration's dissembling prior to the occupation of Iraq.

Gun, who grew up in Taiwan, was working as a translator of Mandarin for GCHQ, the British equivalent of our National Security Agency.

Her hope was to derail plans for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The straw that broke the camel's back was a classified NSA email she read that asked for her agency's help in bugging the UN offices of six nations. The goal of this operation was to influence those countries' votes on approval of the coming invasion.

Gun was fired and in 2003 was charged with violating Britain's Official Secrets Act. The case was dropped, however, presumably to avoid embarrassment over Britain's docile agreement with the Bush administration's war plans.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whisteblower Henry Hill

A Californian with a truly checkered past, Henry Hill is known for having ratted on the Mafia--something not just anyone can get away with doing.

Hill grew up poor in Brooklyn and in his teens fell in with the Lucchese mob. His Irish ancestry kept him from being a "made man." He did Army service as a member of the 82nd Airborne and then returned to New York and an extensive criminal career with the Mob.

Hill was imprisoned for extortion for six years and, having been sprung, differed with his bosses over the matter of selling drugs, which his crime family opposed but he supported and practiced. After being arrested on drug charges, he feared his former associates would have him killed, became a very valuable informant, and in 1980 went into the Witness Protection Program.

He was unable to shake his proclivity for crime, however, and was kicked out of the program sometime after 1990. He then went into the restaurant business in two or three different states.

Americans got to know much more about Hill when the book Wiseguy and the movie Goodfellas dramatized his criminal career. In the movie, he was played to ever-menacing perfection by actor Ray Liotta.

Whistleblower Christoph Meili

A thorn in the side of Jewish Europeans and others whose families were robbed by the Nazis was the sealed-lip policies of Swiss banks.

In 1997, Meili, a 29-year-old night guard at Switzerland's Union Bank in Zurich, found documents that the bank was going to shred. These documents contained records of funds that rightfully belonged to deceased Jews. To destroy such documents would have been a violation of that nation's laws.

Meili turned the documents over to a Jewish organization in Zurich, and the matter soon received heavy international publicity.

Embarrassed authorities launched an investigation of Meili for violating banking confidentiality laws. Encouraged by prominent New York lawyer Ed Fagan, Meili and his family left Switzerland and took up residence in the United States, where they were granted asylum. They appear to have been the only Swiss citizens ever to receive political asylum in the U.S.

The class-action suit against Swiss banks led by Fagan ended in 1998 with an enormous $1.25 billion judgment against the banks. For his part, Meili reportedly received $750,000. He also became a U.S. citizen, but after being divorced, he returned to Switzerland in reduced financial circumstances.

Whistleblower Catherine Mulkerrin

Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, while working for the Archdiocese of Boston, did her best to persuade her bishop, John B. McCormack, that something needed to be done about predatory pedophile priests.

Like the rest of the church, the bishop was slow to act, following the ill-advised lead of his own boss, Cardinal Bernard Law. The archdiocese's inaction eventually cost the church hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sister Mulkerrin testified in lawsuits in 2002 and 2003 that finally led to the Cardinal Law's resignation.

Mulkerrin, who also had been a teacher, died in 2008 at age 72.

Whistleblower Jesselyn Radack

An opponent of the George W. Bush administration's ends-justify-the-means policies, federal Department of Justice ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack blew the whistle on how the U.S. government failed to follow ordinary, constitutional legal procedure in questioning John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban" who was caught in 2001 in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban.

At issue was whether Lindh had been allowed legal representation before being questioned. Lindh's father had hired a lawyer to represent his son, but not knowing this, Lindh made self-incriminating admissions. Later, Radack complained that a number of her emails about this case had been destroyed.

Radack advised that the man's confession would not be allowed as evidence in court, which was not what her bosses wanted to hear. She was advised to find another job elsewhere.

Radack then joined a private law firm but lost that job when her former government department began investigating her. This criminal investigation was later dropped.

Whistleblower Coleen Rowley

Our government's actions regarding the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, are still the matter of much debate and lingering mystery. The best known whistleblower associated with this tragic matter is Colleen Rowley, who at the time was an FBI special agent working as the Minneapolis field office's legal adviser.

Following the attacks, Rowley sent a detailed memo to the agency's director, Robert Mueller, criticizing the way the agency had handled information available to it prior to 9/11 on terorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui. She complained that FBI top brass had prevented Minneapolis agents from investigating Moussaoui's activities, and about what she considered the agency's overly bureaucratic, politicized policies in general.

Soon thereafter she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the same matters.

Further, she said publicly that for the United States to invade Iraq would have the effect of increasing terrorism, which has since proved to be an inconvenient truth.

Having been branded as less than a "team player," Rowley left the agency in 2004.

In 2006, Rowley was defeated in a Minnesota congressional election, losing to the Republican incumbent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whistleblower Karen Silkwood

As so often happens in America, a country that frequently prefers movie reality to the actual thing, public memory of the name Karen Silkwood likely comes mainly from the film "Silkwood," starring the incomparable Meryl Streep in the title role.

The real Karen was a bargaining committee member for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union who was working as a technician at the Crescent, OK, plant of the company Kerr-McGee.

Silkwood did not like the company's handling of employee safety and health problems and in 1974, testified before the Atomic Energy Commission. Her charges included falsified inspection reports and improper handling of radioactive plutonium.

In November 1974, she was seen leaving Crescent in her car with a stack of docmuents to drive to Oklahoma City for a meeting with New York Times reporter David Burnham.

On her way there, she was in a one-vehicle wreck and was found dead at the scene. No documents were recovered from the car, and although the accident was a head-on collision, there was evidence of her car having been pushed or run into from behind.

Silkwood's estate sued Kerr-McGee in 1979. The suit was successful. The trial court awarded her estate $10,500,000. The amount of the award was reduced on appeal to a mere $5,000, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with her estate. In the end, a $1.38 million out-of-court settlement was reached. Kerr-McGee folded its nuclear fuel plant in 1975.

Whistleblower Frank Snepp

Frank Snepp had been the CIA's top analyst of North Vietnamese strategy in Saigon and was one of the last Americans airlifted out of that city before its April 1975 fall to the communist North.

In the American forces' inglorious and embarrassing departure, many South Vietnamese who had worked for our side were left to be killed or imprisoned, which Snepp could not stomach. He was convinced that the entire evacuation was botched from one end to the other and wrote a book detailing his complaints. The CIA went to court to prevent the book's publication.

The CIA's position in court prevailed because of the employment contract that all CIA employees sign when they join the agency. The agreement states that they will not discuss their agency work without the prior approval from agency brass. The courts denied Snepp any royalties from his book.

Although Snepp lost the battle, he might have won the war by writing a second book about his legal wrangles with the agency. He also taught journalism in California and became a television producer in Lost Angeles.

Whisleblower Herb Stempel

Older Americans might well recall the name Herb Stempel, the man who revealed the the TV quiz show Twenty One was rigged.

Stempel himself had been dressed to look nerdish and square, was fed the answers to questions, and was allowed to win show after show for weeks until the show's producers decided that upper-crustish Columbia University professor of English Charles Van Doren would be a better draw.

The 29-year-old Stempel, who had a high IQ and an unusually fine memory, did not like the new arrangement and spilled the beans. It came to light that several of the contestants who occupied the show's corny "isolation booth" had been coached or provided the answers before the show, which was for a while popular to bbeat out I Love Lucy in the ratings.

Twenty One was taken off the air and the industry was strongly encouraged to clean up its quiz show act.

Whistleblower Sherron Watkins

Sherron Watkins, who was vice president of corporate development at the late, unlamented Enron Corporation in Houston, became a sort of indirect whistleblower when in 2001 she presented CEO Kenneth Lay with a long, detailed email that cast doubt on the corporation's future viability.

Her fears were entirely justified. The failure of Enron became the first wave of savings destroying, career ending practices that by 2008 had nearly crippled the American economy. Revelations about Enron's shady practices foretold many another example of laissez-faire capitalism run amok.

Watkins, 42 when she wrote the famous email, left Enron in 2002. It is ironic that her email to Lay had warned him about colleagues who might become whistleblowers when she herself is usually identified as the whistleblower who helped bring the company crashing down. The confident, brashly outspoken Watkins has enjoyed a good career since 2002 as a well paid speaker and consultant.

Whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand

Very likely more Americans remember the name Jeffrey Wigand because of the movie "The Insider" than because of Wigand's real-life role in outing the tobacco industry in 1996.

The part of Wigand was played by popular actor Russell Crowe.

Wigand was for about six years vice president of research and development at the large tobacco company Brown & Williamson. His hope was to find ways to decrease the health-harming properties of cigarettes, but, according to him, the corporation had other ideas. Wigand, who was interviewed in February 1996 by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, claimed that the company had actually boosted the amount of addictive nicotine in its products.

Wigand's complaints cost him his job and his marriage. The company sued him, but the suit eventually was dismissed because it had become entangled in the 1997 settlement (more that $350 billion) to resolve the legal dispute between the tobacco industry and 40 U.S. states.

Wigand became a teacher of Japanese and chemistry in Louisville, Ky., and has since lived in South Carolina and Michigan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Christiaan Barnard

Note: Among the least known of all celebrities despite their immense importance are our innovators and inventors. As a people, we could justly be criticized for showing far more interest in big muscles and big breasts than in big brains. Still, the individuals who appear below in this section of Celebrityblogsburg undeniably have gained celebrity among certain subsets of Americans. Presented here are a sample of men and women who are celebrated for one reputation-establishing invention or innovation, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Among the really important innovations since the end of World War II is the human heart transplant, a surgery first performed in 1967 in Pretoria by South African cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard.

Donor of the heart for this novel procedure was Denise Darvall, who was being kept alive by respirator. Her heart was transplanted into patient Louis Washkansky, who had been in an automobile accident.

Leading a large team of doctors and nurses, Dr. Barnard performed the operation successfully, although Washkansky died 18 days later of an infection. The second recipient of a transplanted human heart, Dr. Philip Bleiberg, lived for two years after his surgery.

Barnard was an ideal international celebrity. He was a handsome young doctor who appeared to like the attention from the media, and from such beautiful women celebrities as Gina Lollobrigida and and her screen rival Sophia Loren.

Barnard died in 2001 at age 78.

Inventor/Innovator Tim Berners-Lee

London-born Tim Berners-Lee's innovation was enormous indeed: the World Wide Web.

This Oxford University graduate, whose parents had worked on some of the very earliest computers before him, conceived of the Web and put it online in August 1991. In 1994, he also became founder of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. He became the Consortium's director, although he has chosen to make personal wealth a low priority.

As with a good many inventors and innovators, Berners-Lee made his celebrity-producing innovation early in his career. His ideas about establishing a global web of information date from the mid 1980s. In 1990, he created Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, his means of providing Internet addresses.

Inventor/Innovator Jeff Bezos

Always an over-achiever, Princeton Phi Beta Kappa Jeff Bezos ensured both celebrity and humongous wealth in 1994, when he founded online shopping site Amazon.com.

This online retailer began with selling books. Succeeding with that product, Bezos gradually widened the scope of his products and today sells a wide array of things worldwide.

Bezos' cautious approach enabled his company to survive the great dot.com bust and to establish enormous profitability, with headquarters remaining in Seattle.

This pioneer of online marketing has become one of the nation's wealthiest businessmen.

Inventor/Innovator David Chang

A board game innovator whose controversial new game eventually was ruled a trademark infringement is David Chang.

In 2003, Chang began selling a take-off on Monopoly that he called Ghettopoly. His concept was to make money by satirizing African-American stereotypes. In place of the usual elements on Monopoly, his version made use of pimps, prostitutes, thugs, car jacking, protection rackets, massage parlors, drugs, crack houses, loan sharks,liquor stores and the like.

The game sold well, but many people found it offensive--no big surprise there.

In an attempt to do damage control, Chang introduced Redneckopoly, and he had plans for other variations, such as Latinopoly and Hiphopoly.

Then the wheels of the law began to grind. Hasbro, owner of Monopoly, brought a trademark infringement suit in 2003. In 2006 the court ruled that Ghettopoly was too similar to Monopoly, finding against Chang and ordering him to cease producing any such games that traded on the original product name Monopoly.

Inventor/Innovator Gary Dahl

An enterprising California advertising man named Gary Dahl in 1975 came up with one of the oddest and, well...silliest of inventions: the Pet Rock.

His whimsical idea became an overnight sensation, especially after Dahl's appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Dahl hawked his rocks on the basis that they made great pets: no feeding, no biting, no messes, no misbehavior, no walks, no litter boxes. He offered the Pet Rock in a carrying case similar to those used to transport cats and small dogs, and sold them with a "training manual."

Just as every dog has his day, so, apparently, did the Pet Rock. Although the new "pet" made Dahl wealthy, sales predictably dropped when the novelty wore off.

Only in America.

Inventor/Innovator Charles Dotter

Physician Charles Dotter's medical celebrity came with his development of angioplasty as a means of helping heart patients without the necessity of surgery.

Working with Melvin Judkins, he introduced this innovation in 1964, using catheters to improve the flow of blood by widening partially blocked arteries. At first, the procedure was termed "dottering."

Dotter's innovation caught on more readily in Europe than in the United States, where at first doctors did more dithering than dottering.

Dotter worked for years at the University of Oregon Medical School. He died in 1985.

Inventor/Innovator Ermal Fraze

In 1963, Indiana native Ermal Fraze got a patent on the pop-top aluminum can, thereby making a huge impact on the beer and soft drink industries.

At a 1959 picnic, Fraze had wanted a beer but could find no "church key" opener. Inspiration struck. The former tool and die worker by that time owned his own company, Reliable Tool and Manufacturing.

He sold rights to the removable pop-top can to Alcoa as soon as the patent was approved. Iron City Beer of Pittsburgh was the first company to use the innovation, which from there found rapid acceptance. A non-removable opener was introduced by Continental Can more than a decade later.

The handsome, cheerful looking Fraze died in 1989 at age 76.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Art Fry

Some of the most delightful innovations are the simplest. A fine example is the Post-It Note, invented in the early 1970s by a 3M Company development researcher named Art Fry, who also was a Presbyterian church choir leader.

When marking pages in his hymnal, he noticed how often the markers would fall out, losing his place. A fellow 3M employee, a research scientist, had in 1968 developed an unusual glue, one that stuck, but could be easily pulled off without leaving a mark and reused. This scientist, Dr. Spence Silver, had covered a bulletin board with this glue. Pieces of paper could be stuck to it and could easily be removed.

Fry envisioned the process working in reverse. The company tested the Post-It Note pad by giving a few to their own secretaries, who loved the things. With proper promotion, the little yellow pads soared into popularity with the public.

Eventually, the pads also were produced in colors other than yellow. The clever, cheerful looking Fry is now retired and surely must take great delight in how his innovation has sold.

Inventor/Innovator Roy Jacuzzi

When one's name is attached to one's most popular invention or innovation, one's celebrity is more lasting. Such a case is that of Roy Jacuzzi, who in 1968, introduced the earliest self-contained whirlpool bathtub, which he initially called the Roman Bathtub.

He had earlier made a portable pump, the J-300, that could be used in any tub. This 1950s innovation was motivated by his young son's arthritis. It was sold to the public, using comedian Jack Benny as the commercial spokesman.

The shapely Suzanne Somers did that job for the Roman Bathtub, easily beating out Jack Benny in sex appeal.

The Jacuzzi family immigrated to California from Italy soon after 1900. The first pumps the family manufactured were for farm use.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Buckminster Fuller

Visionary inventor, architect, engineer and more, R. Buckminster Fuller achieved considerable celebrity with his innovative geodesic dome structures.

Fuller, called Bucky by those who knew him, wrote 28 books and lectured all over the world about what amounts to "green living." He himself is credited with coining the terms synergistics, ephemeralization, and spaceship earth.

Many of his inventions, such as his Dymaxion car, were commercially unsuccessful, but his futuristic dome buildings and houses captured the public's imagination.

Fuller came from a line of non-conformists in Massachusetts and twice was kicked out of Harvard. He served in the Navy during World War I and worked a variety of jobs before moving to the North Carolina mountains and working at Black Mountain College. There he created his first domed structure made from lightweight plastics. Construction of his very large geodesic domes in America and elsewhere began in the 1950s and made his name a household word.

Fuller died of a heart attack in 1983 at age 88.

Inventor/Innovator Wilson Greatbatch

Prolific inventor Wilson Greatbatch holds a great batch of patents: more than 150 of them. His celebrity, however, comes from just one of them: the implantable cardiac pacemaker, which he invented in 1958, just one year after having received his Master's in electrical engineering.

He has remarked that he always liked studying electricity because it was a thing you cannot see.

Greatbatch began his studies after having served in the Navy during World War II. He did instrumental work with monkeys that were being used in the U.S. space program until he happened upon a way to make a pacemaker that would help patients keep their hearts beating properly. With the help of two physicians, his device was tested on animals and later on humans. It was licensed to the Medtronic Company in the early 1960s.

The kindly looking, bow tie wearing Greatbatch also set up his own research/engineering company, Greatbatch Enterpsises, where he developed improved batteries for the pacemaker.

Inventor/Innovator Robert Jarvik

Dr. Robert Jarvik is familiar to millions of Americans because of his activities as front-man for Lipitor commercials on TV, but his initial celebrity came around 1980 for his part in building the first successful artificial heart.

While a teenager, Jarvik invented a new kind of surgical stapler and a few surgical tools. His father was a surgeon, yet Jarvik never intended to follow in his dad's footsteps until the older Jarvik needed open heart surgery.

Turned down for admission by several U.S. medical schools, he studied medicine in Italy.

Eventually he worked with Dutch physician Willem Kolff, who had tested prototype artificial hearts on animals as far back as 1957. With Kolff's help, Jarvik designed and built the first artificial heart intended for permanent implantation into humans, the Jarvik-7.

The Jarvik-7 was tested in 1982 on a volunteer, terminally ill dentist Barney Clark. The operation was led by famed heart surgeon William Devries. The patient lived for 112 days and was considered a success.

In 1988, Jarvik also came out with the Jarvik 2000, a device designed not to replace the human heart, but to assist its function.

In 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley had implanted another type of artificial heart designed for temporary use. The patient lasted for three days after the operation.

Since the Barney Clark surgery, Jarvik's invention has been used with considerable success.

Shown below is TV commentator Rush Limbaugh bloviating in defense of Dr. Jarvik, who was under fire for his work in Lipitor commercials.

Inventor/Innovator Alec Jeffreys

English geneticist Alec Jeffreys gained international celebrity in the early 1980s when he developed DNA fingerprinting/ profiling while working at the University of Leicester.

Ironically, soon after his breakthrough, in 1986, a young woman was raped and killed only a few miles from his lab. A man confessed, but DNA testing showed his innocence. Later the same test proved the guilt of another suspect.

Since that time, DNA fingerprinting has been used as conclusive proof by both prosecution and defense in many a court case. Its use has been especially valuable in freeing wrongly convicted prisoners from death row.

Jeffreys was honored with knighthood in 1994.

Inventor/Innovator Stephanie Kwolek

DuPont researcher Stephanie Kwolek gained a measure of celebrity among that subset of Americans interested in innovation in 1966 when she patented a spun polymer called Kevlar, which she had created in 1965.

Kevlar is a lightweight, strong, non-corrosive, water and fire-resistant fiber created from long parallel polymeric chains.

Probably its best-known use has been in bulletproof vests, used mainly by the police and the military. Other applications have been in tires, sails, ropes, gloves, protective outfits for firefighters, kayaks, skis, helmets,drum heads, and aircraft shielding.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Edwin Land

The truly remarkable Edwin Land held more patents than any other American with the one exception of Thomas Edison: 500+. Yet he will be forever remembered for just one: the Polaroid instant-developing camera.

Land was a Harvard "dropout" who went into research as a business with his physics professor in 1932. In 1937, Land founded his own firm, the Polaroid Corporation, using his breakthroughs for sunglasses and for filters, goggles and target devices for military use.

Soon after the end of World War II, Land introduced his most popular invention, the Polaroid camera. Kids today, whose digital photos are, of course, instantly available, cannot picture (no pun intended) the fun people my age had being able to instantly develop the shots we took and share them with friends.

The Polaroid Land Camera began being sold in 1948 and was immensely popular in the 1950s.

Land received many, many awards and recognitions before his death in 1991 at age 82.

Inventor/Innovator Robert Ledley

When medical patients need imaging more sophisticated than the common X-ray, they can thank Robert S. Ledley, a dentist who became a professor of physiology, radiology and biophysics at Georgetown University, where he invented the whole-body CAT (CT) Scan scanner.

This new kind of scan provided three-dimensional images and was first used for cancer patients. This technology allowed physicians to look at their patients' internal organs without surgery. It has been of particular use in finding tumors and blood clots or other obstructions.

Dr. Ledley got his patent for the CAT-Scan in 1975. He now holds more than 60 patents.

The photo below shows a very literal CAT-scan.

Inventor/Innovator Edward Lowe

Yet another semi-accidental success story was Kitty Litter, introduced to the market by Edward Lowe. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Lowe was working at his dad's company, which dealt in industrial absorbents. A friend asked for some ashes to use in her cat's litter box, and at Lowe's suggestion, tried using clay instead.

Soon Lowe was hawking his new clay-based product out of his car trunk at cat shows.

As big oaks from little acorns grow, Kitty Litter took off and became the nation's favorite product for this use, as part of Edward Lowe Industries, Inc. Lowe came out with a new version, Tidy Cat, in 1964.

The successful Edward Lowe funded his own foundation to encourage entrepreneurship. He died in 1995.

Inventor/Innovators Noah and Joseph McVicker

A fortunate happenstance gave the McVicker brothers wealth and celebrity among people interested in inventions. A clay product the two men wanted to use to clean wallpaper turned out to have excellent properties for replacing modeling clay as a toy for children.

Play-Doh modeling compound was first sold in the great Washington, D.C., department store Woodward & Lothrop in 1956. At that time it was available only in white--sort of the reverse of the old story about Henry Ford's Model T, of which Ford is reputed to have said, "You can have it in any color you like, as long as it's black." Today Play-Doh can be bought in many colors.

Play-Doh doesn't stain, isn't toxic, and stays pliable if kids can remember to keep the can sealed after use.

The happy product has sold hundreds of millions of pounds. Its rights were sold to General Mills in 1965, then to Tonka in 1987 and finally to Hasbro in 1991.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Robert Moog

The late Bob Moog's great, eye-catching contribution to music was the piano-style electric Moog synthesizer, which made its appearance in 1963. An earlier mechanical synthesizer, the Theremin, had been introduced in or around 1900 by Thaddeus Cahill.

The first Moog synthesizer was large and heavy, but by 1971, the new Minimoog was being sold.

The device was used by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Byrds and other groups, but the recording that really made it a hit was Wendy Carlos' 1968 "Switched-On Bach," done entirely on the synthesizer. The instrument was also used in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange and in various horror movies.

Moog died in 2005 of a brain tumor.

IInventor/Innovators Walter Morrison & Warren Franscioni

One of the great toy innovations of the second half of the 1900s was the Frisbee, which was designed by Walter Frederick Morrison and his boss at that time, Warren Franscioni, who ran a family-owned bottled gas business in California.

Both men had been pilots during World War II.

The inspiration for their new toy was the metal pie tins that children had sailed through the air for many years prior to the plastic Frisbee, which was, literally, a garage invention.

The downward tilt in the Frisbee's surface allowed air pressure to give it the lift needed for smooth flight, and unlike a metal pie tin, the Frisbee was less likely to hurt when caught.

The two men's 1948 innovation couldn't have happened at a better time: during the UFO craze when seemingly everyone was seeing flying saucers.

The pair drifted apart after the gas business went under and Franscioni moved to South Dakota. Morrison kept producing the Frisbee under a different corporate name and eventually sold rights to the Frisbee to Wham-O, an established toy company that had started with the wooden slingshot. The flying disc soon became that firm's big seller.

When Franscioni found out what had happened, he began efforts to secure some of the money for himself but died in 1974 before any division of the profits could be made.

The name Frisbee was inspired by a Connecticut pie company, Frisbie Pies, whose tins were flung in prior times.

Inventor/Innovator Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar's great coup was the establishing of eBay, an innovation that made a sea change in the way Americans and others shop.

Omidyar was born to Iranian parents; the family came to the United States in 1973 and settled in Washington, D.C.

Pierre graduated college with a degree in computer science and soon became an entrepreneur. He created eBay, which he first called Auction Web, in 1995 when he was only 28. The company began selling stock in 1998, making Omidyar very rich--a multi-billionaire.

Like many other important innovations, eBay came about for an odd, offbeat reason: because Omidyar's wife had wanted some way to buy and sell Pez dispensers by computer.

Inventor/Innovator Eugene Polley

What American couch dweller would not like to shake the hand of Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control?

Polley was an engineer working with Zenith in 1955 when he invented the Flashmatic, the earliest remote-control TV device. The "clicker" is said to have appealed greatly to Zenith's founder, Eugene McDonald, who liked to use it to mute commercials.

An earlier device, the Lazy Bones, also came out of Zenith, but it used a cable that users found problematic. Polley's light-activated device was far more popular and to an extent, changed the way Americans watched the flickering tube.

Inventor/Innovator Xavier Roberts

Georgian Xavier Roberts created a sensation in 1979 when he introduced a remarkably popular toy: the Cabbage Patch Doll.

First marketed in the late 1970s as Little People, odd-looking, pudgy, round-faced dolls made of cloth, yarn and vinyl, the product was sold in an innovative way--out of "maternity wards" from which children could select their doll and "adopt" it, complete with birth certificate and adoption papers. Each doll was at least a little different from all the others--not easy to do when you are selling tens of millions of them.

The popular dolls first sold under the Cabbage Patch label in 1982. In that year, Roberts sold his innovation to Coleco. In 1989, rights to the dolls went to even bigger toy company Hasbro, and in 1994 to the still larger company Mattel.

Inventor/Innovator Jonas Salk

A major one-shot celebrity among inventor/innovators was Jonas Salk, inventor of the Salk vaccine to prevent polio (infantile paralysis).

Salk was born in New York City to parents who had immigrated from Russia. He went to medical school in New York and in the late 1930s began working on a vaccine to combat influenza. By 1947 he was heading the University of Pittsburgh's Virus Research Lab, where he turned his attention to the poliomyelitis virus. In 1952, he tried out the vaccine he had developed on himself and his family, plus other volunteers. At that time, polio had become a major problem in America, and people were very, very afraid that their children would contract it.

Salk's vaccine was a huge success, which propelled him into worldwide celebrity.

In 1961, Albert Sabin introduced his own vaccine against polio; its difference was that it could be taken orally, which most people preferred to the needle.

Salk, who refused to patent his vaccine, died in 1995 of congestive heart failure.

Inventor/Innovator Percy Spencer

Grade school dropout Percy L. Spencer, holder of around 300 patents, is largely remembered as a one-shot celebrity for having invented the microwave oven.

Spencer worked for many years at Raytheon Company. His first microwave oven, completed in 1945, was large and bulky. It was initially used in restaurants, ships and trains.

A small model for home use, the Radarange, was first offered to the public in 1965.

The prolific Spencer died in 1970.

Inventor/Innovator Ralph Teetor

Ralph Teetor, although blind, became a mechanical engineer and in 1945, invented cruise control for automobiles. Actually, a number of earlier names for his speed control device were used before the product name cruise control was thought up in the mid to late 1950s. Chrysler was the first company to offer cruise control, which in 1958 was available on the Imperial model. Cadillac began offering it in 1960.

Indiana-born Teetor had never let blindness stop him. By age 12, he had built his own car. And most people have trouble just driving one safely.

Inventor/Innovator Ray Tomlinson

Working as a computer engineer/programmer at BBN Technologies, the firm that created ARPANET before the Internet had been created, Ray Tomlinson in 1971 created email as we now know it.

The ability for different people to leave messages for one another on the same computer had existed since the early 1960s, but Tomlinson came up with the @ symbol and how it could be used to allow us to send messages to other computers all over the world.

Tomlinson is one of those innovators whose ideas, however important, did not make them wealthy. Even so, his innovation has radically altered the way we communicate.

Inventor/Innovator Gerry Thomas

The late Gerry Thomas worked in marketing at Swanson & Sons when he conceived of the commercial viability of a practically effortless dinner that busy Americans could eat while watching television.

Thomas got the idea for heat and eat "TV dinners" from the way airlines served their in-flight meals. The Swanson TV Dinner was launched in 1954, selling for just 98 cents. The first such dinner sold was turkey with gravy and stuffing, peas and sweet potatoes, all held on a disposable aluminum tray sealed in foil. The original dinners in this pre-microwave era were popped into the oven to heat.

Some contend that brothers Gilbert and Clarke Swanson deserve credit for originating the TV Dinner, but most sources credit Thomas. The company Maxson Food Systems deserves credit for having made and sold similar dinners as early as 1945 to airlines and to the military.

The cheerful Thomas died in 2005 at age 83, a victim of cancer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Inventor/Innovator Earl Tupper

Like most inventors, Earl Tupper of New Hampshire patented numerous inventions, but his only one to score a major success and cause his name to be remembered was Tupperware.

Tupperware products are durable plastic containers having a watertight lid. Before succeeding in making these products in 1945, Tupper had worked in plastics for DuPont.

Store sales were disappointing, but in the 1940s, Tupper hired consumate Florida saleswoman Bonnie Wise, making her his marketing vice president. Her approach, selling Tupperware via the home party plan, worked enormously well, and Tupperware parties swept the nation in the 1950s.

In 1958, however, Tupper fired Wise, sold the company to Rexall, left his wife, and moved to a Central American island he had purchased. He died in 1983.

Innovators James Watson and Francis Crick

Working together at King's College, Cambridge University, this pair of scientists unraveled the mysteries of the structure of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid.

Crick was a 35-year-old Englishman, Watson a 23-year-old American. Despite their youthful ages, their combined scientific acumen was broad and deep, enabling them to identify the ladder-like double helix structure of DNA, a discovery that has led to great advances in medicine and in the solving of crimes.

Inventor/Innovator Joseph Woodland

Mechanical engineer Joseph Woodland,age 27, working with his Drexel University graduate school friend Bernard Silver,invented the now-familiar bar code and code reader, initially used in supermarkets. The patent was submitted in 1949, but bar code wasn't used commercially until 1966, four years after Silver's death.

Inventor/Innovator Ed Yost

Who has not wanted to ride in one of the colorful hot-air balloons so often seen today? The modern-day version of this old invention was developed by the late Ed Yost, who in the 1950s came up with the now-familiar teardrop shape, used stronger synthetic fabrics, and, most importantly, used an on-board propane burner to heat the air that gives the balloon its lift.

His first flight in such a balloon was made in 1960 from Bruning, Nebraska. That flight went only three miles, but later, Yost set distance records. The jolly-looking inventor died of a heart attack in 2007 at age 87.

Inventor/Innovator Frank Zamboni

The late Frank Zamboni patented a number of inventions but is remembered for the one that bears his last name: the Zamboni, a large, mobile machine that resurfaces the ice in ice rinks.

The Utah native, son of Italian parents, came to inventing by way of first owning an electrical supply business serving the dairy industry and later a plant that made block ice. The patent for his Zamboni was submitted in 1949 and granted in 1953.

These big, effective machines are still in use today. Zamboni died of cancer in 1988.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sports/Outdoors: Roger Bannister

Note: Athletes and outdoorsmen provide convincing proof that a celebrity is not merely someone famous for being famous. To become a celebrity athlete, one must train extremely hard in order to stand out from the herd. Shown here is a sample of athletes and outdoorsmen whose celebrity is tied to one great or unusual accomplishment.

Such a man was Roger Bannister of England, the man who broke the 4-minute mile.

The slim, thoroughly English-looking Bannister was a student at Oxford University when he began training as a runner. His results at the 1952 Olympics brought him little recognition, but in May of 1954, at a track meet in Oxford, he became an instant international celebrity by running the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Less than two months later, Australian miler John Landy broke Bannister's record with a time of 3 minutes 58 seconds, but such is the nature of celebrity that Bannister, as the first person ever to break the long talked-about 4-minute barrier, has been far more celebrated than has Landy.

Bannister went on to become a neurologist and educator at Oxford.

Sports/Outdoors: Ernie Davis

A triumphant yet very sad story was that of football star Ernest "Ernie" Davis, who in 1961 was the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Davis was a two-time All American at Syracuse University and was the No.1 pick for the 1962 NFL draft. The early 1960s was still a time of rampant racial discrimination and segregation, and Davis was excited to be joining earlier African-Amefican great Jim Brown on the Cleveland Browns.

It was not to be. Davis developed leukemia and died in 1963 at age 23 before ever getting to play a pro game.

Sports/Outdoors: James Douglas

Boxer James "Buster" Douglas' great moment came in February 1990 in a bout with undefeated heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. Douglas was a more than 40-1 underdog and very nearly was knocked out in the eighth round, yet he came roaring back, winning by a knockout in the tenth.

Glory was short-lived, however. Douglas lost his next match, and the heavyweight crown, to Evander Holyfield, in October of that same year. The short-lived fought gamely on until retiring from the ring in 1999.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sports/Outdoors: Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards

Who could forget Eddie the Eagle? This intrepid Brit found at least temporary celebrity in a most unusual way: by being relatively bad at a sport.

The lanky, pleasantly goofy-looking Edwards, originally a plasterer by trade, came to public notice as a ski jumper in the 1988 Olympics. Despite being the best ski jumper in the UK, the near-sighted Eagle came in last in both the 70- and 90-meter events in Calgary.

One disadvantage was his lack of financial backing. Another was that he could not see without his glasses, which would fog up during the jumps, badly endangering his safety.

Despite his lack of competitive success, Edwards became the most popular competitor of the 1988 games. His ironic nickname was partly accountable, and probably his happy, undeterred demeanor contributed as well.

Edwards made the talk show circuit, and in Finland, where ski jumping is really big, someone recorded a very successful song, "My Name is Eddie."

The Eagle worked in tv advertising, went bankrupt, earned a law degree and worked as a tv show host.

Sports/Outdoors: Les Henson

A major one-shot sports celebrity (no pun intended), especially here in "Blogsburg," is former Virginia Tech basketball forward Les Henson. His unusual feat was grabbing a rebound and flinging the ball 89'3" to score in the last second of the game against Florida State University.

The "Henson Heave," done right-handed even though Henson usually shot left-handed, at the time (January 1980) was the longest field goal ever scored in college basketball. In 1985, however, Bruce Morris of Marshall University exceeded that record with an 89'10" shot.

Henson's incredible heave was the more dramatic of the two because it happened in the last seconds of the second half and won a tied game.

Sports/Outdoors: Harvey Haddix, Jr.

Leftie pitcher Harvey Haddix, whose unlikely nickname was "Kitten," had his moment of sports glory on May 26, 1959, while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. The cause for his 15 minutes of fame was that he pitched a perfect game against the Milwaukee Braves until the 13th inning--yet lost the game.

Braves pitcher Lew Burdette also pitched a shutout, and because of a fielding goof, the Cardinals lost 1-0.

Haddix ended his sports career as a pitching coach and died in 1994.

Sports/Outdoors: Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand was a one-shot celebrity only in that his "career high" that made him famous was being the first mountain climber to reach he top of the world on Mt. Everest, 29,028 feet up. With Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, the tall, lanky, 33-year-old Hillary made this iconic accomplishment on May 29, 1953.

Since that time, and until his death from heart failure in 2008, Hillary was the world's best-known mountaineer/explorer. He also made it to both poles and eventually conquered 10 other Himilayan mountains. Norgay died in 1986.

Until his famous climb, Hillary had been, like his dad, a beekeeper. Growing up, he had been strong, but non-athletic, with the exception of boxing.

The Everest climb was made as part of a climbing party led by John Hunt, who also was knighted by the then-young Queen Elizabeth II, whose coronation happened to be on the same day that word of Hillary's triumph reached Britain.

Sir Edmund liked to be called Ed and had the reputation of being shy and modest about his accomplishments.

Sports/Outdoors: Dan Larsen

Baseball pitcher Don Larsen's great, shining moment came in the 1956 World Series, where this normally workmanlike but unspectacular player pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees against their great rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 6'4", 200+ pound Larsen played pro ball for 14 years, with eight different teams.

Sports/Outdoors: Ellen MacArthur

Seagoing Englishwoman Ellen MacArthur, 28, gained a measure of international celebrity in February 2005 when she broke the speed record for circumnavigating the globe solo.

She accomplished this 26,000-mile feat in a specially designed 75-foot trimaran.

Three years later, the record was recaptured by French sailor Francis Joyon--by roughly 14 days.

Just the same, MacArthur's bravery and skill were recognized in 2005, when she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2008, when France awarded her the Legion d'Honneur.

Sfports/Outdoors: Aron Ralston

Mountain climber/hiker Aron Ralston came to instant celebrity in May 2003 in a most painful way. He was climbing alone in the Robber's Roost area of Blue John Canyon near Moab, Utah, when an 800-pound boulder fell to one side and pinned part of his right arm.

Ralston, a Phi Beta Kappa engineering student, remained pinned there for five days, exhausted his supply of water, and had to resort to drinking his own urine to survive.

Finally, in a desperate move, he snapped the bones in his forearm and with his all-purpose tool's knife blade,cut off his arm below the elbow.

Although starving, dehydrated and disoriented, he somehow managed to rappel down the rock wall he had been climbing and to hike until he encountered two hikers who helped him.

Ralston, who earlier that year was almost killed in an avalanche, has been much in demand on the motivational speaker circuit. He has continued climbing and now has climbed all of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains.

Sports/Outdoors: Mary Lou Retton

The toast of America during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles was tiny, compact Mary Lou Retton, our nation's first gymnast ever to take the overall gold medal at the games.

Not only did this tiny (4'8"") 15-year-old girl with the huge smile do that, but at the same Olympics, she won silver in vault and team competition and bronze in both uneven bars and floor exercise.

To be fair, Retton's success was helped by the boycott of the LA games by the Soviet Bloc countries during the last throes of the Cold War.

Retton's Christian conservatism, added to her success and beaming,positive attitude, made her a darling of the Reagan years. She retired from competition in 1985 and began fronting for the Revco drug store chain in addition to endorsing other products and services.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sports/Outdoors: Renee Richards

Renee Richards, born Richard Raskin, had been a good amateur male tennis player, but spent four years on the pro tour as a woman player. Richards' celebrity, however, came chiefly from having become the first transgendered tennis player on the tour.

Richard Raskin was captain of the Yale tennis squad, went to medical school, was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, married, had a son and was divorced prior to having gender-change surgery, which was done in New York.

In 1976, Richards was denied entry to play in the U.S. Open. She sued the U.S. Tennis Association, and in 1977, the Supreme Court of New York sided with her. She had reasonable success as a player, but never achieved significant celebrity status other than as the first transgendered player.

Richards practiced ophthalmology in both California and New York.

Sports/Outdoors: Bobby Riggs

Robert Larimore "Bobby" Riggs was actually a very fine tennis player and in the late 1930s was ranked No.1 in the world. His reputation as a star of the game faded badly, however, and in 1973 at age 55, he achieved a new and, oddly, more widespread and lasting celebrity when he challenged one woman too many to a "battle of the genders" tennis match.

The colorful Riggs, who liked to gamble on tennis, including his own matches, made headlines like never before when he challenged reigning women's champ Billie Jean King. King declined, but Margaret Court agreed to play him. Riggs told the media that even the highest-ranked woman could never beat a male player. He won this Mothers Day match, after which Billie Jean King agreed to play him.

The world was watching this September 1973 match, in which King, age 30, easily beat Riggs. He was gracious in defeat, as was she in victory, and the two became very good friends from then until Riggs' death from cancer in 1995 at age 77.

Sports/Outdoors: Ross Rebagliati

Canadian athlete Ross Rebagliati's instant celebrity came from his having won the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in giant slalom snowboarding, at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.

The young boarder almost lost his medal as soon as he won it when tests showed he had marijuana in his system. In the end, however,the Court of Arbitration ruled that he could not be stripped of his medal since pot is not considered a performance-enhancing drug.

Sports/Outdoors: Wilma Rudolph

Sprinter Wilma Rudolph's celebrity moment came at the Rome Olympics in 1960, where she became the only American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics.

Born prematurely in Tennessee, she was an unlikely sprinter. To make matters worse, she contracted polio as a child and was unable to walk without a leg brace until she was 11 or 12.

Rudolph, who was African American, fully recovered-- to the surprise of her doctors-- and became a standout basketball player in high school.

As an Olympic competitor, she had won a bronze medal in the 1956 games in Melbourne. By 1960 she was at her peak. The events in which she took the gold in Rome were the 100-meter, the 200-meter, and the 4x100-meter relay (with Martha Hudson, Barbara Jones and Lucinda Williams).

Rudolph retired from competitive running in 1962, became a school teacher/track coach and also did some track commentary for television. The great runner died of cancer at age 54 in 1994.

Sports/Outdoors: Erik Weihenmayer

The truly remarkable Erik Weihenmayer has done many things, but his premier celebrity-ensuring accomplishment was becoming the first blind person to reach the top of the world's tallest mountain, Mt. Everest.

Weihenmayer, who lost his sight to an eye disease by age 13, was 35 in 2001 when he conquered Everest. He had already been a skydiver, scuba diver, ice and rock climber,wrestler and marathon runner.

By the end of 2002, he had scaled all the so-called Seven Summits (the highest mountains on the seven continents), which include Mt. McKinley, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Denali and Kosciusko.

Weihenmayer has published two books about his exploits and is an active motivational speaker.