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, September 4, 2009

Digraced business figure Billie Sol Estes

Billie Sol Estes--a wonderfully Southern name if ever there was one--has known the inside of the prison system for his wheeling and dealing in Texas. He is also known for the explosive charges he has leveled at the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Back in the 1940s, Estes made money by selling irrigation pumps that ran on natural gas. He added the fertilizer business to his holdings, adding to his wealth.

A big supporter of then Texas Senator LBJ, Estes concocted a scheme that used non-existent cotton and later fertilizer tanks as collateral for loans. The scheme took advantage of federal farm subsidies for cotton production.

In 1962 and 1963, Estes was confronted with multiple fraud charges, was found guilty, and was sent to prison for what might have been a good long stay, even though three individuals who were expected to testify against him kept turning up dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. This is not to suggest that Estes was responsible for their deaths, but the chain of events was odd indeed.

In 1965, in Estes v. Texas, Billie Sol's sentence was overturned because TV cameras had been allowed in his court trial; 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the cameras' presence had deprived him of a fair trial.

It was then that the freshly sprung Billie Sol claimed that he had shared a good bit of his cotton scam loot with LBJ, that Johnson had had a hand in the deaths of the three witnesses, and--most sensational of all by far--that LBJ had been in on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Due to his record as a felon, Estes and his various charges were not taken very seriously by authorities, although they provided conspiracy theorists a field day.

He has been a rascal, to be sure, but Billie Sol has been the stuff of Southern legend: a convicted scam artist who was at the same time a Church of Christ lay minister and a colorful Texas character of the first order.

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