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 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.

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