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.

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.

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