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, July 8, 2009

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.


  1. Actually, I was one of the jurors that chose to release him and his lawyer was not Cochran.

  2. Kym, thank yhou for correcting me on this point.