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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

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.

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