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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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.

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