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, September 7, 2009

Disgraced business figure Richard Scrushy

Note: Wherever there are huge sums of money to be made, temptation also dwells. Most of us--professors for example-- work in jobs that offer scant opportunities for graft and corruption, and perhaps we are honest because there is little opportunity to do otherwise. Corporate titans, on the other hand, sometimes succumb to the desire not simply to be rich, but mega-rich, and do things they, the ones who get caught, are terribly sorry about later. Others serve a little time in stir but emerge from prison still in possession of most of their ill-gotten gains.

Some of these figures simply appear to be larcenous from top to bottom. Others make illegal use of inside information to enrich themselves. Still others buy politicians to help them get what they want. (Sadly, the higher up influence-peddling politicians are, the less likely that the public is to believe that he or she could be so slimy.)

In our present misguided, polarized era in which major corporate CEOs often make perhaps 300 times the compensation of the mean compensation of their employees, the crooked business figure can absolutely ruin the lives of a lot of people with their various schemes for self-enrichment.

In addition, the occasional business titan, like some of our powerful politicians, brings trouble down upon himself for non-financial reasons of a more personal nature.

A good example of what's wrong with the current system of health care in the United States is Richard Scrushy, who founded and ran HealthSouth Corporation, one of the nation's biggest health care firms.

As this is being written, many well-meaning Americans are howling like wounded wolves about the idea of creating a public option in health insurance. Saddest are those ranting that they "don't want the no-good socialistic fed-rul gumment" getting involved in Medicare, apparently not realizing that Medicare is and has always been a government program.

After doing a little college teaching, Scrushy went to work for the Texas health care firm Lifemark, for which he eventually became CEO. In 1983, he founded his own such company, Amcare, and only a year thereafter started HealthSouth, a company he grew into a corporate giant. Scrushy soon was said to be one of that nation's highest-paid CEOs.

When a HealthSouth auditor called attention to suspect company practices, the auditor was fired. Fraud accusations were raised anyway, and the firm's profit picture darkened. Improper Medicare billing was charged, and Scrushy found himself facing multiple counts of fraud. In 2005, however, an Alabama jury acquitted him.

Soon thereafter, both he and an ex-governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, wer indicted in federal court for bribery, racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Scrushy pled not guilty, but both he and Siegelman were convicted. Scrushy's appeal was unsuccessful and Siegelman's only partially successful.

Scrushy lost again in a subsequent civil trial to settle damages to HealthSouth stockholders, and in 2009, he was ordered to pony up $2.87 billion. Locating his assets, however, is proving difficult for officials.

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