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, July 21, 2009

Disgraced religious figure Jim Jones

Disciples of Christ minister Jim Jones went slowly from Christian to crazy. He became one of those religious leaders who was truly spoiled by his success, finally going way, way off the deep end.

Jones rose to prominence in San Francisco, where his ministry and later his People's Temple did good works for the poor and the sick. His ministry welcomed people of all races, but it gradually became more nearly a cult.

Jones taught his followers that the world would soon end in nuclear war. After he was charged with soliciting sex from a Los Angeles policeman, Jones moved his flock, or at least some of it, to the jungles of Guyana, where they built a self-sustaining commune/ compound.

Complaints surfaced about the dictatorial way Jones was running his People's Temple there, and Congressman Leo Ryan went on a fact-finding trip to see what he could ascertain.

Jones' followers shot Ryan to death and, knowing the jig was up, Jones decreed a mass suicide ritual. The cult's members died by drinking cyanide-laced drinks, by cyanide injection and by shooting. In the end, in November 1978, 638 adults and 276 children perished.

Disgraced religious figure Edgar Ray Killen

At age 38 in 1964, Edgar Ray Killen was charged with plotting the murders of three civil rights protesters in Mississippi--something Baptist preachers aren't supposed to do.

Killen, who also ran a sawmill, was a Ku Klux Klan kleagle (organizer)in his area of the state. He was fingered in the murder plot by an informant planted by the FBI. Mississippi being what it was in those days, his jury failed to reach a verdict, and the case died on the vine.

In 2005, despite our federal Constitution's guarantee of a "speedy and public trial," he was again brought to court for the same killings. By this time a far less frightening-looking geezer of 80, he pled not guilty. This time around, he was not so lucky, and the jury returned a guilty verdict on manslaughter charges. He was sentenced to 60 years; the sentence was upheld on appeal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Disgraced religious figure David Koresh

Born Vernon Howell in Texas, this religious cult leader changed his name to David Koresh in or around 1990, claiming to be the spiritual leader of the House of David.

In 1981 he had hooked up with a sect called the Branch Davidians, a group of well intentioned people who believed the end of days was near and that a new Messianh would come to escort them to glory.

This one-time loner convinced the sect's members that he was that Messiah and led his flock to a spot outside Waco, where they constructed a fortress-like compound and chapel on a hill. They also armed themselves to the teeth.

Allegations of weapons violations and child abuse were made, and when federal agents arrived in 1993 to serve Koresh a warrant, they were repulsed at gunpoint. It was reported that Koresh was requiring his followers to remain celibate while he was sleeping with their wives and daughters.

After a nearly two month-long standoff,officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to storm the compound. The Davidians fired back.

Federal agents lobbed tear gas cannisters into the wood-constructed compound, which caught fire. In the blaze, Koresh, 23 children and 53 other adults perished.

Some surviving Davidians reportedly still go to the site, patiently waiting for Koresh to come for them.

Disgraced religious figure Earl Paulk

No one is more admirable than an ordinary minister, priest or rabbi, but when one such person puts on such a good show that he or she gathers up an enormous flock, this individual bears looking at closely, and with suspicion.

Georgia man Earl Paulk, although admirable for being on the side of the angels during the Civil Rights Movement, appears to have always had an eye for the ladies. He resigned from the pastorate of one Atlanta church in 1960 over an affair he had had with a parishoner.

Later that year, he founded a new church in Atlanta, the Gospel Harvesters.

The church moved to an Atlanta suburb in the early 1970s, grew like holy heck, and built an enormous building that became known as the Cathedral at Chapel Hill. His charismatic, Pentecostal flock grew to around 12,000 until a variety of sex scandals brought him down. Some of the charges against him involved child abuse.

The frosting on this unseemly cake was applied when the huge church's new pastor, who had been thought to be Earl's nephew, turned out to be his son instead. Wow!
Even worse, Paulk's own granddaughter accused him of molesting her.

Paulk died of cancer in March 2009.

Disgraced religious figure Rembert Weakland

A minor figure in the disgraceful scandals of the Roman Catholic Church in recent years is Rembert Weakland, formerly Archbishop of Milwaukee.

Weakland's main offense was violating his vow of chastity and paying nearly a half-million dollars in church funds to his gay lover to keep the man quiet. Knowing he was found out, Weakland retired in 2002 at age 75.

An otherwise highly accomplished man, Weakland had become a Benedictine monk in 1945, had served as head of the Church Music Association of America, and had earned a Ph.D. in musicology.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Disgraced religious figure Tammy Faye Bakker Messner

The name Tammy Faye calls to mind a weepy face caked with mascara and eye makeup and a voice oozing Christian charity while all the while talking the elderly and simple-minded out of their cash.

No doubt Tammy Faye, born Tamara Faye LaValley to husband-and-wife Pentecostal preachers in Minnesota, had her good qualities, but without doubt those qualities were shoved conveniently aside back during the profitable heyday of the money-making TV evangelists.

While attending Bible college, she met fellow student Jim Bakker. They married and began a ministry of their own.

The happy couple learned the ropes in Tidewater Virginia with the Rev. Pat Robertson, helping him found the 700 Club and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. When Smiling Pat horned in too much on their territory, the Bakkers relocated to Charlotte, N.C., and went into business for themselves with what they named the PTL Club.

They intended PTL to stand for "Praise the Lord,: but cynics suggested it must actually stand for "Pass the Loot" due to the couple's constant appeals for "love gifts" from the faithful out there in television land.

The Bakkers then used some of the loot to establish a huge amusement park, Heritage USA, near Charlotte.

Alert reporters at the Charlotte Observer began to investigate some of their sordid activities and to probe their lavish lifestyle.

In 1980, Jim broke bad with a buxom young woman named Jessica Hahn, and before you could swing a dead cat, their empire came crashing down around them. Husband Jim was sentenced to 45 years, although he somehow was released after only six.

Tammy Faye divorced him and in 1993 married one of Bakker's former partners in Heritage USA, Rod Messner, who later was convicted of bankruptcy fraud.

In 2007, Tammy Faye died after an 11-year battle against cancer. In the years prior to her death, she became an icon to gays and cross-dressers. She had also had her own line of beauty products and had done some TV work, most notably on the reality show The Surreal Life.

Disgraced religious figure Fred Phelps

One of the most bizarre examples of recent times of that old-time religion run amok is the ministry of Baptist preacher Fred Phelps, whose message is that God hates gays.

Phelps hailed from Mississippi, the son of a railroad cop, or "bull." As a youth he kept to himself but became a good boxer. When he "got religion" at a 1946 revival, he got it bad. His leanings were decidedly Old Testament, and he deeply believed that wives should be totally subservient to their husbands--or else.

Phelps was admitted to West Point but chose not to go. Later he dropped out of Bob Jones University and a Canadian Bible institute, but finally graduated from Washburn University in 1962. Later he added a law degree.

A man of extremes at whatever he chose to do, Phelps zeroed in on gays as the target of his holy wrath. Whatever went wrong, Phelps would blame on America's harboring of gays. His often tasteless and hurtful picketing got him arrested numerous times and also got him disbarred.

One of Phelps' lowest blows was picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was beaten to death by homophobic good old boys. Phelps' pickets marched with signs claiming that Shepard had gone to hell. He predicted the same fate for Fred Rogers (TV's Mr. Rogers), which was not unlike the Rev. Jerry Falwell warning his flock not to let their children watch The Teletubbies because one of those amorphous cartoon creatures, Tinky Winky, was gay.

Phelps also preached that 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were the result of God punishing us for harboring gays. Oh, brother.

Disgraced religious figure Paul Shanley

Defrocked priest Paul Shanley,78 at this writing in 2009, was one of the most flagrant offenders in the Roman Catholic Church's sex scandals of recent years.

Shanley was born in Boston and was ordained at age 29. More than a decade thereafter, he became active in the North American Non-Boy Love Association, an organization that openly advocated sex between men and young boys.

Father Shanley practiced what he preached from the time he was a hip-style young priest until his imprisonment many years later. By himself, he cost the archdioceses of Boston a great deal of money that had to be spent to settle complaints about his pedophilia.

The larger question is how and why the church, which certainly knew about Shanley's dreadful activities, allowed such things to continue. The "princes of the church" who were his superiors would seem to have a great deal to answer for in this scandal.

Shanley was fired from his Boston parish in 1993, moved first to Connecticut and then to California, and was arrested in 2002 on charges of child rape.

In 2005 he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 to 15 years. In 2009, his case is set for review following his appeals.

If there is indeed a hell, one suspects that people who sexually abuse small children will eventually find that their final resting place is in its sub-basement.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Misc.: Patch Adams

Note: A number of the temporary and one-shot celebrities who make up this blog do not fit neatly into one of the blog's categories and hence have been listed below under Miscellaneous. Like all the others, they are a colorful lot.

Hunter "Patch" Adams is a most unusual physician--one who sometimes plies his profession dressed as a clown.

Adams came to the attention of most Americans in 1998 thanks to the movie "Patch Adams" starring Robin Williams as the good doctor.

A 1971 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia, Adams is one of those physicians who believes in the health benefits of humor, and he has worked on many fronts to help the sick, orphans and others in need in his unusual way.

Even when not dressed as a clown, Adams sports a ferocious, almost Salvidor Dali-like mustache that turns up obediently at the ends.

Adams in 1972 founded the Gesundheit! Institute to enlist the aid of other humor-friendly doctors. He and his cohorts have taken their caring, holistic message to many parts of the world since that time. What a guy!

Misc.: Louella Burr Allen

Eighty-six-year-old retired nurse Louella Burr Mitchell Allen of Philadelphia made some gentle waves in 2005 when she claimed kin with founding father Aaron Burr, America's third vice president.

Specifically, she reported that she is Burr's great-great-great granddaughter by way of a mixed-race illegitimate son of Aaron Burr, a man we remember most vividly for having shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

In stark contrast to the reception of similar news by the descendants of Thomas Jefferson, the Aaron Burr Association welcomed Louella Burr Allen into their midst. DNA tests have not been done, but the Association has accepted the oral tradition in her family line as sufficient proof.

Misc.: Winifred Bennett

A recently divorced Charlottesville, Virginia, resident, Winifred Bennett, found a modest share of temporary celebrity without really meaning to in 1993, when at a dinner party she made an offhand suggestion that one of Virginia's great lingering mysteries might be solved by DNA testing.

One of her dinner companions, a retired pathologist, was Eugene Foster, a man capable of conducting such tests. Foster assembled a team and went at it.

The team's conclusion was that at least one of Monticello slave Sally Hemmings' children and possibly all of them, had been fathered by either Thomas Jefferson or another male in his immediate family.

The Foster team's study was published in the journal Nature in 1998. It was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, the Monticello Association and some others who claim to be descendants of the remarkable Mr. Jefferson.

Bennett, who had been a Ford Agency model in her younger days, had read about how DNA had failed to support the claims of another Charlottesville resident, Anna Manahan, who claimed for many years to be Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Russia's last czar.

Bennett died in 2006 at age 71.

Misc.: Rosalie Bradford

The late Rosalie Bradford is thought to have been the heaviest woman ever and also the woman who lost the most weight.

Her actual peak weight is a matter of some dispute but probably was roughly 1,200 pounds.
She once brought suit for a writer's comments that likened her weight to that of a baby elephant or a small automobile.

Bradford was always heavy but before passing the 500-pound mark, married and had a son.

Eventually, her weight was such that she could hardly move. She finally convinced herself that she would have to shed some weight and went on a diet by which she lost around 700 pounds.

Bradford died at age 63 at Lakeland, Florida, in 2006.

Misc.: Louise Brown

Some Americans of sufficient age who have followed the news very closely may recall the name Louise Brown as belonging to the first baby known to have been born by in vitro fertilization.

This breakthrough took place in Oldham, England, in 1978. The new medical procedure has, since that time, helped more than a million infertile families have a child of their own.

The procedure was developed by a gynecologist, Patrick Steptoe, and two MDs at Cambridge: Barry Ravister and Robert Edwards.

Using a laparoscope, an egg is removed from the woman's ovary and is mixed in the lab with the father's sperm and then placed in a solution for two and a half days. The fertilized egg is placed back in the mother's uterus and if all goes well, voila! A baby shows up nine months later.

Brown, now grown, has worked as a mail clerk or carrier and in a daycare center. She married in 2004.

Misc.: Ward Churchill

At every U.S. university, there are a few professors more adept at getting headlines than most. Such a man has been Ward Churchill, iconoclastic professor of ethnic studies and defender of the Native American.

Churchill, whose dress, demeanor, ever-present sunglasses and long, mid-part hairstyle all projected the image of the gun-totin' campus revolutionary, made more claims to Native American heritage than he could support. In this, he was hardly alone, as many a campus has had faculty who, for whatever reasons, claimed to be of American Indian extraction but whose nearest connection to same was wearing a bow tie and an Arrow shirt.

Churchill, then at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found national celebrity--more of it than he might have wished--in 2001, soon after the 9/11 tragedy. He published an essay in which he opined that some of the Americans working in the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns" and got what they had coming to them. These comments about the chickens coming home to roost infuriated most Americans and put him in the position of being an embarrassment to his university, which began examining his scholarship for signs of academic misconduct.

The outspoken professor was fired in 2007 for a combination of what his university deemed falsification and plagiarism. Churchill sued for wrongful termination, and a jury found in his favor, although they awarded him nominal damages: $1.

That verdict was overturned by a judge in 2009.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Misc.: Paul Robert Cohen

The name, but not the face of young Paul Robert Cohen enjoyed brief celebrity in 1971 in the court case Cohen v. California.

Cohen, 19, had brought into a courthouse a jacket bearing words that suggested crudely what should be done to the military draft. He did not wear the jacket with its use of the big F-word in the courtroom itself, but once he left the room, he donned the garment and was arrested.

Cohen was convicted at trial, and an appeals court affirmed that judgment. The California Supreme Court refused to take the further appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and reversed, 5-4.

In one of the most oft-repeated lines to come out of the High Court in a long time, Justice Harlan wrote: "One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric."

The four-man court minority position was that wearing the jacket was more nearly conduct than speech and hence not protected under the First Amendment. At that juncture, the Supreme Court had not yet decided that darn near everything a person might do constituted symbolic, protected speech.

Misc.: Christopher Darden

The name Christopher Darden became well known across the nation during the 1996 murder trial of former football star O.J. Simpson.

Darden was prosecutor in that trial and may be most remembered for having Simpson try on the gloves that had been found with blood on them. It was an especially dramatic moment in that remarkable trial.

Darden, who was 39 at the time of the trial, left his job as an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles and turned to authorship, producing a couple of jointly-authored books; taught law; and in 1999 started his own law firm. He is shown below with Simpson defense attorney Johnnie Cochran.

Misc.: Eddie Favre

Few mayors achieve even temporary nationwide celebrity. One who did, by way of a symbolic gesture, is Eddie Favre, 8-term mayor of Bay St.Louis, Mississippi, a city hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina.

As was the case with so many of his fellow townspeople, Favre's house was destroyed by the storm, leaving the bachelor mayor, literally, with only the clothes on his back, and, one hopes, front.

When the storm struck, Favre was wearing Bermuda shorts. He promised not to wear long pants again until his town had returned to something approaching normal. The portly mayor appears to have been true to his word. To a Radio & Television Correspondents' Association banquet in Washington, D.C., in 2006, he wore his familiar shorts and a tux jacket, even though he was there with President George W. Bush.

Misc.: Larry Fortensky

Fans of movie goddess Elizabeth Taylor, arguably one of the very most perfect looking of all Hollywood's female stars, will likely have a small place in their memories for Larry Fortensky, Liz's 7th husband. (Actually, theirs was her eighth wedding, inasmuch as she had married actor Richard Burton twice.)

Liz and Larry met at the Betty Ford Clinic, where both had gone to be cured of substance abuse of one kind or another. She was 59. He was 39 and was a construction worker, but a virile-looking one. The union lasted for five years, ending in divorce in 1997.

Fortensky dropped from public view until 1999, when he fell at home, sans health insurance, and Taylor graciously paid his medical bills.

Misc.: Ralph Ginzburg

In the early 1060s, publisher Ralph Ginzburg, whose publications all dealt heavily in sex, became briefly a celebrity of the shady sort, especially when he was taken to court and charged with violating the Comstock Law.

Ginzburg, a former journalism student and Korean War vet, had worked for Esquire, Reader's Digest, Colliers and Look magazines before striking out on his own as a publisher.

He observed the success of Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine, which appealed mainly to younger men, and decided to produce periodicals and other printed matter to appeal mainly to older Americans.

His hardbound quarterly, Eros, lasted for only four issues, interrupted by his court action. It, his newsletter, Liaison, and the remarkably titled Housewife's Guide to Selective Promiscuity got Ginzburg charged with sending obscene matter through the mail.

When the U.S. Supreme Court examined his case, their conclusion in 1966 was that the material itself was not legally obscene, but that he was guilty of "the sordid business of pandering," in other words, promoting his products in a sleazy way to appeal to people's prurient interest.

What had casued the court's hackles to rise was that Ginzburg had attempted to have his products mailed out of Intercourse or Blueball, PA, but had settled for mailing out of Middlesex, NJ.

Pandering had never been a criterion in earlier pornography/obscenity actions. Its creation showed a Supreme Court fast on its feet.

Ginzburg was fined and sentenced to five years, of which he served only eight months, thereby proving the truth of the pre-revolutionary Russian proverb: "Be righteous before God; be wealthy before a judge."

Misc.: Farris Hassan

A most unusual young man is Farris Hassan, who, while a junior at a Florida prep school, took off alone to the war-torn Middle East.

In 2005, over his Christmas break, he flew to Kuwait, then to Lebanon, and from there to Baghdad. His reported purpose was to see for himself what was happening in that part of the world. His parents were Iraqi.

The boy was picked up in Baghdad by the 101st Airborne and put on a plane for the States.

Early stories about young Mr. Hassan and his excellent adventure reported that he was traveling alone and that his parents did not know about his sudden trip. Later reports disputed both those points. Apparently, his father had been in on the trip and had arranged for secutiry for the boy.

The trip was, nevertheless, gutsy and dangerous, and it captured the public's imagination for a time.

Since then, Farris has set up a charity to send supplies and funds to Iraqi schools and to foster understanding between various religious grops.

He made a similar, but less publicized trip to Afghanistan in 2007. As of 2009, he is enrolled at Amherst College.

Misc.: Joseph Heller

The late Joseph Heller was a one-hit novelist. This book, a fine satire of military life in World War II, is the darkly humorous Catch-22, which appeared in 1961.

Heller, a Brooklyn boy by birth and upbringing, had worked as an Air Force bombadier in World War II and had been a Fulbright scholar at Oxford, an English professor, an advertising copywriter, and a magazine writer prior to the appearance of his big novel.

Humor is a tough sell unless everyone knows a writer has a reputation as being funny. A great help to Heller and his book sales was favorable mention by the successful, urbane humorist S.J. Perelman.

In 1970, Mike Nichols brought out a movie version of Catch-22, which appears to have been one of the inspirations for the later TV series M.A.S.H., which shared the book's jaded view of military life.

None of Heller's other seven novels was remotely as popular as his first. Heller died of a heart attack in 1999.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Misc.: Julius Hoffman

The late Judge Julius Hoffman was the Chicago judge who allowed the antics of the group of defendants known as the Chicago Eight (Seven) and their lawyers to get to him on too personal a level.

Hoffman had been a judge since 1947, many years before the 1969 trial that gave him his temporary celebrity. Hoffman by that time was 74, and perhaps somewhat short of patience.

The group had been involved in protesting America's involvement in Vietnam, long before such protests had become "socially acceptable."

Most outspoken of the group was Bobby Seale, who hurled epithets at the judge and refused to be silent when ordered to do so. Contempt citations for disrupting the courtroom flew fast and furious, especially in Seale's direction. Finally, Judge Hoffman ordered Seale bound and gagged and tied to a courtroom chair. When not even that stopped Seale, Hoffman severed his case from that of the other defendants, making it the Chicago Seven. In the end, Hoffman gave Seale the longest contempt sentence ever given in a U.S. court.

In 1972, an appeals court reversed all contempt convictions issued during that infamous, wild and wooly case.

Hoffman died in 1983 at age 87.

Misc.: Lance Ito

The nation came to know the name and face of Judge Lance Ito during the 1995 murder trial of former football great O.J. Simpson.

Ito, who appeared to enjoy the heavy media attention, was a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles, where he had served in that capacity since 1989.

Since the Simpson trial, Ito has been lampooned on numerous TV shows. The black-robed, fall down funny "Dancing Itos" introduced on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno were seen by millions of delighted viewers.

Another high-profile trial in Judge Ito's courtroom had been the 1992 trial of Charles Keating Jr., which figured prominently in the savings and loan scandal. Ito's celebrity, however, came almost entirely from the Simpson trial.

Misc.: Leon Jaworski

Texas-born Leon Jaworski was long been a lawyer of distinction and good connections, but his 15 seconds of fame came from serving as Special Prosecutor during the Watergate scandal that brought down the Richard M. Nixon White House.

After World War II, Jaworski had helped prosecute German war criminals. He was an old confederate of Lyndon Johnson and, although a Democrat, hedged his bets and sometimes supported the candidacies of Republicans such as Nixon, George H.W.Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Nixon resigned in disgrace after Jaworski subpoenaed tapes of Oval Office phone conversations, some of which contained sensitive, damning references to Watergate.

The White House stonewalled, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the tapes to be turned over. Soon thereafter, Nixon tendered his resignation.

Gregory Johnson

Gregory Lee Johnson achieved a wee bit of national celebrity of the notorious kind in 1984 as leader of a group of young protesters angry at the Republican Party and its policies.

His group, which characterized itself as having Communist leanings, came to Dallas, Texas, to protest the Republicans and their hawkish corporate backers. The group had staged what they termed "die-ins," which they did to symbolize the deadly effects of war, especially nuclear war.

The youthful Johnson, wearing a ball cap and sunglasses, was handed an American flag by another protester who had climbed a flag pole to remove it. Johnson poured kerosene on the flag and set it ablaze while his companions chanted anti-U.S. slogans.

No violence occurred, but police came to the scene and arrested Johnson, charging him with violating a Texas statute by burning a U.S. flag.

The upshot of these events was that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988 ruled 5-4 that if flag burning was done to convey political protest, then it was symbolic expression and as such was protected by the First Amendment.

Johnson's case was one of the most influential early court cases involving what came to be called "expressive conduct." Earlier in America's judicial history, expression was a matter of the written or spoken work, and conduct was conduct.

Misc.: Kato Kaelin

Brian "Kato" Kaelin became familiar to all of America in 1994 during the celebrated O.J. Simpson murder case and trial.

The nickname Kato came from his youthful enthusiasm for the comic book and TV character The Green Hornet and the Hornet's sidekick, Kato.

Before the Simpson affair, Kaelin had married, had a child and divorced. He lived in the Los Angeles area and found small parts in a variety of movies and TV shows.

At the time of the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman, Kato was living in a guesthouse in the Simpson compound. He was on the grounds the night of the murders and gave evidence to police.

Kaelin, who was born in Milwaukee, had become the very picture of the California surfer dude, complete with appropriate long hairstyle and excellent tan.

Since the famous trial, Kaelin has had his own a.m. radio show in Los Angeles and has worked for National Lampoon. He even has had his own fan club.

Misc.: Arthur Kent

Accomplished journalist Arthur Kent was the dashing television reporter known as "The Scud Stud" for the risky reporting he did in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. His nickname was derived from the Scud missile attacks he had to dodge in covering that conflict.

The journalist, Canadian by birth, was very popular in America in his role as a Dateline NBC host, and even more so for his field work as a reporter.

Kent was less than happy with the move toward infotainment that was underway at his network and in 1992, he was fired. He sued on a variety of grounds and received an undisclosed, but large settlement from the network.

Kent has done well both in reporting and in court. He won another good-sized settlement in 2008 from material he claimed was used without permission for the movie Charlie Wilson's War.

Kent has been on the ground to cover many dramatic world events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Square protests in China, and the devastating conflict between ethnic groups in Bosnia.

He was less than popular during the administration of George W. Bush for his opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Misc.: Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee from Monroeville, Alabama, is one of America's best known one-shot novelists. Her masterwork is To Kill a Mockingbird, which took the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961.

Her famous novel was originally done as a series of short stories, but her publisher, Lippincott, encouraged her to rewrite her material as a novel. The book appeared in 1960.

Lee, who had studied at Oxford and had worked as an airline clerk, had the help of Lippincott editor Tay Hohoff as well as that of her childhood pal writer Truman Capote. Lee had worked as Capote's' assistant while he worked on his own famous book, In Cold Blood.

Lee has maintained a very private life since her initial acclaim and became a good friend of actor Gregory Peck, who so perfectly played the part of lawyer Atticus Finch in the film based on her novel. Book and movie dealt masterfully with life as lived in the segregated South where Lee grew up, and it encouraged people to consider the enormous injustices of racial discrimination.

Misc.: Maya Lin

Maya Ying Lin is an artist/architect whose sudden celebrity came in 1981 from one of her project designs: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital.

Lin was born in Ohio to parents who had immigrated here from China.

Remarkably, she won the design competition for this major memorial while she was a 21-year-old undergraduate student. The memorial is in the form of a big granite wall that displays the names of the 58,253 military men and women who died in the Vietnam War.

Since that time, Lin has gone on to design other major works, notably the Montgomery, Alabama, Civil Rights Memorial and a large piece of sculpture in San Francisco.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Misc.: George Lutz

Think George Lutz, and you think Amityville Horror.

Lutz, a surveyor, was the bearded man who in 1975 bought the Dutch colonial house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, on Long Island, where a horrible mass murder had occurred in 1974.

The murderer, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, shot and killed the other six members of his own family in that house.

Lutz and his family moved into the place, which they had bought for a bargain price, and claim that they began to experience stranger and stranger happenings. Places in the house, they reported, were unexplainably cold. Doors slammed, locks did odd things, footsteps were heard where no person was walking. Mrs. Lutz claimed that she had smelled perfume and was hugged from behind by a ghostly figure. The 4-year-old Lutz daughter reportedly saw a ghost named Jody. Beds banged up and down.

About a month later, the family moved out and relocated to California. Their story was the subject of a book and two movies.

Mrs. Lutz died in 2004, George at age 59 in 2006.

Misc.: Harriet Miers

One of George W. Bush's close personal friends and most outspoken admirers, Texas lawyer Harriet Miers was in 2005 nominated by President Bush to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by Sandra Day O'Connnor. Meirs was not confirmed.

As a lawyer, Miers had done very well. She was the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association, the first woman to lead the Texas State Bar, and the first woman president of the large Texas law firm Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell.

One thing that hurt her chances for Supreme Court confirmation was that she had never been a judge. Another roadblock was her personal closeness to Bush, who by that time had lost much of his popularity.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Meirs withdrew her name, and Bush then nominated Samuel Alito, who was confirmed in 2006.

Misc.: Walter Miller

Science-fiction writer Walter M. Miller wrote many a short story, but his one-shot celebrity came from the sole novel he published during his lifetime: A Canticle for Leibowitz. The book appeared in 1959 and met with considerable success.

Miller was a gunner and radio operator during World War II. He was a practicing Catholic, and it is said that he was traumatized by the bombing run that destroyed Europe's oldest monastery, the Abbey at Monte Cassino.

Miller became depressive and kept to himself much of the time. In 1996, he shot himself to death in Datona Beach.

Miller's sequel novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, was completed by writer Terry Bisson and came out in 2000.

Misc.: Roy Moore

Former Justice Roy Moore of Alabama became widely known around the nation in 2003 for his duel with higher authority about the presence of a granite Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state courthouse when he was chief justice of that state's Supreme Court.

The Religious Right loved Moore for his stand on the matter; his opponents thought that either he failed to understand the religion clause of the First Amendment or that he was simply showboating for political purposes.

Certainly, Moore did at least have aspirations for higher office. After his defiance of orders to remove the 5,200-pound monument, Moore himself was removed as Chief Justice. He ran unsuccessfully for Alabama governor in 2006, losing in a landslide. Undeterred, he announced that he will run again for that office in 2010.

Moore is a West Point graduate and served as a military police officer. He also worked as a cowboy and as a professional kickboxer.

Moore's first big religious controversy was over a wood plaque showing the Ten Commandments; he hung the plaque behind his courtroom bench when he was a circuit judge.

Misc.: Dow Mossman

Dow Mossman of Iowa is one of those rare individuals who writes a highly successful novel, then drops out of sight. Soon after earning an M.F.A. at the Iowa Writers' workshop, Mossman produced a coming-of-age novel published in 1972 under the title The Stones of Summer.

The effort that went into the book took a lot out of the thoughtful-looking, mustache-sporting writer, and he went into a sanitorium to recover, then became pretty much a recluse. He has variously worked in Cedar Rapids as a welder and in the circulation department of a newspaper. He is said to be working on other book projects, frequently writing on his home's porch.

In 2002, Mossman was the subject of a documentary, Stone Reader, filmed by Mark Moskowitz. This film revived interest in the book.

Misc.: Roy Pearson

A man who took righteous indignation to a new level was Judge Roy Pearson in the District of Columbia. The judge had his brush with celebrity of a sort when he sued a local dry cleaner for losing his suit pants--for $65,462,500.

The pants had been brought in for alteration and cleaning and had been misplaced. The proprietor offered his customer as much as $12,000 to settle the complaint, but Pearson went to court instead. He probably shouldn't have done so.

Public sentiment was heavily in favor of the Korean owner of the cleaning establishment, and Pearson, African American, was criticized for having filed a frivolous legal action, which gave the term "suit pants" a whole new, ridiculous meaning.

This strange affair ended with Pearson being financially sanctioned and, ultimately, stripped of his judgeship. His appeals have been unsuccessful.

Misc.: Phillipe Petit

A remarkably gutsy little Frenchman, Phillipe Petit, captured America's admiration, and temporary celebrity, in 1974 when he did an extensive high wire walk between the Twin Towers--the highest wire walk ever done.

Petit had begun his unusual career at age 15 when he ran away from home in France to learn magic, juggling, and rope walking. He came to New York City in the 1970s and worked as a street entertainer. In his home country, he had already achieved celebrity for a high-wire walk between the twin towers of Paris' Cathedral Notre Dame, and he had done a similar walk between the towers of Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge.

He was still unknown in the United States, however, until he and his helpers smuggled their equipment into the Twin Towers and up to their rooftops. They used a bow and arrow to shoot first a fishing line to the opposite tower, then passed successively larger ropes across the chasm. Finally, they secured a strong steel cable to link the skyscrapers.

Early on the morning of August 7, 1974, Petit, 24, performed on that 140-foot wire for 45 minutes, making eight trips back and forth--a quarter mile above the sidewalks. He left the wire only when rain started to fall, and was immediately arrested.

The charges were soon dropped, and the small, precise Petit was for a while the toast of the town.

He has continued to wire walk and for many years has been one of the artists-in-residence at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Misc.: Whil Piavis

Shiver me timbers, matey, if Whil Piavis wasn't the most gnarly buccaneer ever to thumb his nose at student government as it is usually practiced.

So often student government office seekers are so mannerly, so blend-into-the-middle, so... well, political. But in 2005, Piavis campaigned for the student body presidency at North Carolina State University not under his actual name, but as "The Pirate Captain."

Not only that, but he spoke only in pirate lingo while running his campaign. He also dressed the part, wearing a wispy blond wig, three-cornered hat, and eye patch and with a fake parrot perched on one shoulder. His "motley crew" of supporters also dressed the part. Piavis won the election, receiving 59% of the vote.

Serious-minded policy wonks on the campus were not amused, and to spite them, Piavis continued to conduct the business of his high office in pirate language and costume, even when representing his fellow students at Board of Trustees meetings. Arrgh, mate! That engineering major from Cary, N.C.,was one swashbuckling student politician, and one of the very few noticed by the national media.

Misc.: Catherine Pollard

Touched in the briefest way by celebrity in 1988 was Catherine Pollard, who was the first woman allowed to be an official scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America.

Pollard had taken over a troop in 1973 due to an absence of male volunteers, but she was refused official recognition by the Scouts' national office. As a result, the troop she had been leading disbanded.

Without much explanation, the national board of BSA changed its policy in 1988, and in Milford, Connecticut, Pollard, age 69, became one of America's firsts.

The kindly, grandmotherly Pollard died in 2006 at age 88.

Misc.: Francis Gary Powers

For a brief period starting in 1960, the name Francis Gary Powers was known by virtually every literate American who paid any attention whatsoever to the news.

Powers, who had flown for the Air Force in the Korean conflict, was a CIA spy-plane pilot who was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a mission. The high-altitude U-2, which had taken off from a base in Pakistan, was fling ususally low and was hit by a Soviet missile. Powers parachuted to safety but was picked up by the KGB, tried for espionage, found guilty, and sentenced to 10 years.

Less than two years later, however, Powers was exchanged in Berlin for a Soviet spy who had been captured by the West.

After his return to the States, Powers worked as a test pilot and later as a TV news helicopter pilot. Due to a faulty fuel gauge, his copter crashed near Burbank in 1977, killing him.

Misc.: Wilbert Rideau

Most journalism and law students should recall the name Wilbert Rideau due to his involvement in our nation's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

Rideau had grown up extremely poor and ill educated in Lake Charles, Louisiana, during the last decades of near-total discrimination against African Americans, of whom he was one.

In 1961, at age 19, he robbed bank in his hometown, kidnapped three bank employees, killed one of them with a knife and tried to kill the other two. He was quickly arrested and, without being offered a lawyer, confessed. He appeared on local TV that evening, being questioned by the sheriff and admitting to his crimes.

Rideau was found guilty by an all-white, all-male jury and was sentenced to be executed.

While awaiting his fate, he began to read and write to pass the time. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction due to lack of a fair trial.

In 1964 he was tried again, and again he was found guilty. Five years later, an appeals court reversed that conviction as well. His third trial, in 1970, also resulted in the death sentence, but in 1973, the Louisiana Supreme Court commuted his sentence to life without chance of parole.

All the while, Rideau continued to educate himself. He attempted to write for the Angola Prison's all-white magazine, The Angolite, but was refused due to race. Instead, he launched a new all-black magazine, The Lifer, and also began writing a column, The Jungle, for a number of newspapers outside prison walls. The quality of his writing was impressive, and in 1975, Rideau was made editor of The Angolite, which he turned into a fine periodical.

With two co-authors, he wrote a textbook on criminal justice, which appeared in 1991.

Remarkably, Rideau was granted yet another trial in 2000; one of his lawyers was Johnnie Cochran. A change of venue was granted, and this time, his conviction was for manslaughter. He was released from prison in 2005 since he had already 44 years, more than the maximum sentence for that offense.

Rideau has dropped out of sight and is often referred to as America's most rehabilitated prisoner ever.

Misc.: Rick Rojatt

A minor, temporary celebrity of the late 1970s was Rick Rojatt, a daredevil who was known as The Human Fly.

Rojatt, present whereabouts unknown, always appeared wearing a fly-like mask that completely covered his face and often sported a cape when performing his feats of daring. He apparently modeled himself after the comic book figure of the same name.

Rojatt was not remotely so well known as his rival daredevil, Evil Kneivel, but once broke a Kneivel record by jumping his rocket-powered motorcycle over 27 buses. Another of his stunts was wing-walking.

Misc.: Remy Rougeau

A really unusual one-time novelist is Remy Rougeau, a Benedictine monk who lives somewhere in the Midwest.

The good brother's book, All We Know of Heaven, appeared in 2001 and was a fictionalized treatment of the life of a young monk in a Canadian monastery. The fictitious noviate's monastery practiced silence, using only sign language to communicate with one another.

At his own monastery, Rougeau works as the bee keeper and is required by his oath to remain celibate.

Misc.: Samantha Smith

Cute little Maine schoolgirl Samantha Smith, age 10, enjoyed a brush with celebrity in 1982 when she became a sort of unofficial good will ambassador to the Soviet Union.

A fifth grader at the time, Smith wrote a letter to Communist Party chief Yuri Andropov asking why the two nations could not seem to get along. Andropov responded by inviting the girl and her parents to visit the Soviet Union as that nation's guests, which they did in the winter of 1983. For two weeks, young Samantha represented her country charmingly.

A book about the unusual visit was published, and the resultant publicity got Smith a job hosting a Disney TV special and later a role on the TV show Lime Street, starring Robert Wagner.

As Smith's plane was returning to Maine from filming for that show in 1985,it missed the runway and crashed, killing Samantha and her fellow passengers.

Misc.: William Kennedy Smith

In 2005, a civil complaint against William Kennedy Smith, nephew of Sen. Ted Kennedy, was thrown out of court. Audra Soulias, who had worked as Smith's assistant, claimed that in 1999 he had assaulted her sexually, but short of actual intercourse.

In 1991, Smith had beat a rape charge in Palm Beach, Florida. Single mother Patricia Bowman, 29, claimed that Smith had raped her on the beach after having had drinks with her in a local bar.

Aside from that matter of guilt or innocence, young Smith, known to his friends as Willie, looked to many viewers revoltingly cocky and arrogant.

Misc.: Gerry Studds

Gerry Studds, D-MA, was the first U.S. congressman to come out of the closet as gay.

The Yale graduate had worked in the Foreign Service and after that had worked in the Kennedy White House. He lost his first bid for Congress, but in his second attempt in the early 1970s, was elected. He ran into trouble in 1973 for having dallied with a male congressional page and was censured by the House.

Studds was reelected anyway and went on to further terms and was known as an advocate for gay marriage, cleaning up the environment, better funding for AIDS research, and the fishing industry. He lobbied for that industry after retiring from Congress in 1997. A marine sanctuary in Massachusetts was named in his honor.

Studds died at age 69 in 2006.

Misc.: Dennis Tito

Becoming the first civilian space tourist in 2001 made Dennis Tito's name temporarily familiar to the American media audience.

Tito, owner of a highly successful consulting firm in California, was no mere dabbler when he forked over an undisclosed multi-million dollar sum for a "ticket" to ride in a Soyuz spacecraft and to orbit for eight days in the International Space Station. Earlier in his career, he had worked with NASA and had earned a Master's in engineering in addition to a B.S. in aeronautics.

Misc.: Marie Torre

Hard-working journalist Marie Torre became an important part of journalism's history--and a temporary celebrity-- in 1959 when she became the first U.S. woman to be jailed for refusing to divulge a news source.

Torre was jailed for contempt of court when she defied a court's order to name the source of unflattering comments about singer Judy Garland that she had attributed to a TV executive to whom she had promised confidentiality.

Her sentence was 10 days, during which the nation's media came loudly to her defense. Hers was an early example of many later legal disputes over source confidentiality.

The Brooklyn native had worked in both television and newspapers. She had written a column, was an entertainment writer, and was one of the earliest female TV news anchors in the nation--at Pittsburgh's station KDKA-TV. At the time of her contempt sentence, she was reporting for the International Herald Tribune out of New York City.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Misc.: Michelle Triola

Asked the first word that comes to mind when they hear the name Michelle Triola, most older people would likely say without hesitation, "palimony."

Her suit against her longtime companion, actor Lee Marvin, netted her no cash, but influenced similar cases ever since the 1976 ruling of the California Supreme Court.

Among other things, that ruling established at unmarried people living together can make either oral or written contracts with one another.

Triola now lives with actor Dick Van Dyke, with whom she is shown below.

Misc.: Linda Tripp

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Surely Monica Lewinsky must have come to a rich, full understanding of this adage as it pertains to her former pal Linda Tripp.

Tripp had an important hand in the sex scandal that so tainted the Bill Clinton White House that the president was impeached.

A whole bevy of women have complained of being abused by Clinton over the years, but perhaps worst of these instances was the unseemly spectacle of the U.S. president having a sexual relationship with a 20-something White House intern.

The intern, Lewinsky, became close to Tripp, 48, who was reassigned from the White House to the Pentagon. Tripp recorded her phone calls with Lewinsky in which the two women discussed Lewinsky's odd affair.

Tripp provided copies of these tapes to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating possible perjury from the president's testimony in another sex-related action brought against him by Paula Jones.

Tripp lost her Pentagon job in 2001. She sued the Defense Department and Justice Department for leaking information from her personnel file and received a monetary settlement. Since that time, she has married and moved to Middleburg, Va., where she opened a shop.

Misc.: Jude Wanniski

Very few economists of any kind come even close to achieving celebrity. Jude Wanniski, who also worked as a journalist and commentator, was the exception.

Wanniski was an associate editor of the Wall Street Journal in 1976, when he came up with the descriptor "supply-side economics," which made him a darling of the Reagan White House. Wanniski published the influential book The Way the World Works in 1978.

Later, he broke with the Right by discrediting the George W. Bush administration's claims about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion of that country, and he continued to be anti-war where Iraq was concerned.

As far back as the mid-1990s, Wanniski began warning that America's biggest economic problem would be deflation, not inflation. At this point in 2009, it seems that he might just be right.

Wanniski died in 2005 at age 69.

Misc.: Mary Beth Whitehead

Mary Beth Whitehead was the surrogate mother who in 1986, gave birth to a daughter known to the U.S. public as "Baby M."

Whitehead, who became pregnant via artificial insemination, had second thoughts about her arrangement with the William Stern family and decided to keep the baby.

In a New Jersey trial, the court found for the Sterns. Whitehead appealed, and the Supreme Court of New Jersey overturned the rial court's decision. On remand, the ruling was custody for William Stern, with visiting rights granted to Whitehead.

This was a very sad case, and one that received heavy media attention at the time.

Misc.: Robert Williams

African-American psychologist Robert Williams is a very accomplished man, but most Americans who remember him at all will remember him for a word he coined in 1973: Ebonics.

Ebonics was a blend word, taken from the words ebony and phonics. Other scholars and writers have called this linguistic variety American black vernacular English.

Williams, a professor of linguistics at Washington University in St. Louis, published a 1975 book, Ebonics: The True Language of Black Folks, in which he spelled out the origins of black vernacular. The roots he traced were mainly from West Africa, and what he called Ebonics was contributed to by English as spoken in the Caribbean prior to 1800, with French and Spanish influences thrown in around the edges to form the Creole patois.

Some members of the public scoffed at the term Ebonics or feared that if it were taken seriously, black children's linguistic education might suffer. Such arguments were especially loud when the school board in Oakland, California, began teaching Ebonics.

Misc.: Frank Wills

Frank Wills had his brush with celebrity in 1972 as the security guard who was instrumental in the arrest of a band of political burglars at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. That arrest was the nail in the coffin for Richard Nixon's presidency.

Wills, African American, was working the 7 a.m. shift at Watergate when in the wee hours, he noticed a piece of tape covering a door lock. He removed the tape, but on his further rounds, saw that it had reappeared and called police.

Caught red-handed and arrested that night in the offices of the Democratic National Committee were former CIA operative James McCord and four cohorts. The trail of responsibility for the bungled burglary ran all the way back to the Oval Office and led to Nixon's resignation and the trials of several of his closest advisers.

Wills began charging for interviews, quit his job, but found his sudden celebrity short lived. He fell upon hard times, was twice arrested for shoplifting, and died an unhappy man--part hero, part victim-- at age 52 in 2000.

The role he played in history was recalled in the highly popular movie Forrest Gump (1994).

Misc.: Rose Mary Woods

For a short time in 1974, the name Rose Mary Woods was on every lip. Woods was the loyal secretary to President Richard Nixon and gave the mea culpa for 5 minutes of an 18 1/2-minute gap in an Oval Office audio tape that very likely held incriminating statements made by Nixon and his advisers regarding the Watergate scandal.

Woods demonstrated for the cameras how she stretched back to answer a phone, thereby taking her foot off a pedal that controlled the tape with which she was working.

Most people admired her personal loyalty but doubted her veracity.

Woods was born in Ohio and moved to the nation's capital after the wartime death of her fiance. She began working for Nixon in 1950 and remained with him until his 1974 resignation from the presidency.

Woods died in 2005 at age 87.