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, August 31, 2009

Disgraced media figure Armstrong Williams

Note: At least some Americans still look to their news media to perform their watchdog function, looking over the shoulder of government to help keep things reasonably honest. Sometimes, however, our journalists fall down on this part of their job, usually for money. Others fall prey to the tensions of their work, the need to constantly produce, and slip into fabrication and/or plagiarism--firing offenses for reporters. A few others, in the manner of self-important politicians, develop heads so big it's a wonder they can get in the office door; some such individuals are given to ill-advised romantic trysts. Some journalists who undergo disgrace recover quickly; others are forever finished in the news business.

In the years leading up to 2005, nationally syndicated columnist, conservative television commentator and PR agency owner Armstrong Williams appeared to have the word by the tail.

Williams, one of only a few prominent conservative African American media figures, who liked to introduce himself as a third-generation Republican, was doing well financially and was a darling of the Far Right.

Tribune Media Services dropped his column in 2005, however, after reports that Armstrong had accepted $240,000 from the George W. Bush administration to push Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative. Williams took in these funds, which were of dubious legality to begin with, through his PR agency, but his greater mistake was not revealing it to his newspaper and TV audiences. What he did was a blatant conflict of interest.

The Bush administration, of course, got away with paying a journalist to be a shill, but Williams' career as a columnist came to a screeching halt. Radio and TV, having fewer qualms about journalistic ethics, stuck by him, and needless to say, his Graham Williams Group PR firm rolls on.

Other reports revealed that around the same time, two more columnists had accepted smaller amounts of Bush administration money to push for Bush's marriage initiative, which should have been called W's "Just Say I Do Plan." These individuals were Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus (whose column, ironically, was titled "Ethics & Religion"). These two columnists managed to survive their indiscretions.

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