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.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Disgraced business figure Kenneth Lay

An executive whose dishonesty or ineptitude, or both, cost thousands of people their livelihoods and/or their life savings was Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron Corporation.

Lay had a Ph.D. in economics, was once a university economics professor, and began his career with Exxon in 1970. He worked for a while for the Department of the Interior, rising to undersecretary, and next worked for Florida Gas.

In 1985, he was employed by Enron and the next year became its CEO, changing what began as a pipeline company for natural gas into a huge energy-trading firm--one of the nation's biggest companies.

Like most canny CEOs, Lay contributed to both political parties, but he favored the Republicans. He was in the inner circle of George W. Bush, who called him "Kenny Boy." Lay and Enron were most generous contributors to President Bush.

Like most CEOs of large corporations, Lay was wildly over-compensated, of course, but his troubles really began when, after he had just divested himself of a few hundred million dollars in Enron stock, and after he knew the company was headed for bankruptcy, he smilingly assured his employees that all would be OK and to keep buying the company's stock. Many did, and it cost them dearly.

He was charged in 2004 with securities and wire fraud plus other charges and in 2006 was found guilty. He faced as much as 30 years in prison but died by heart attack while on vacation prior to his sentencing.

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