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, October 30, 2009

Spies/traitors: Larry Wu-Tai Chin

Note: Particularly revolting among the various types of miscreants who achieve at least temporary celebrity when their misdeeds come to light are those who betray their country. Some traitors who spy for foreign powers rationalize their actions by saying they acted for the greater good, given some of the ill-advised foreign-policy decisions that have been made by our government over the years. Most of these individuals, however, were in it for the money. A few of the people appearing in this section of the blog realized significant amounts of swag for their treachery, but most spies, like so many politicians, can be bought cheaply.

Peking-born Larry Wu-Tai Chin spent more than 40 years in sensitive U.S. government jobs, all the while selling information to China. He is thought to be among the elite group of only five spies who were paid more than $1 million for the intelligence they traded for cash.

It is also thought that Chin was a trained spy for China when he got his first U.S. government job in 1951, translating Korean prisoner of war interviews for the State Department.

In 1952, he went to work in Japan for the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, and in 1961, he took a new CIA job in California. Chin became a U.S. citizen in 1965.

Having been promoted, he moved to a higher-level job in Arlington, VA. Reportedly, no one in the agency suspected him of being a mole. Chin cultivated a reputation as a successful gambler as cover for his more lavish than normal lifestyle.

He retired in 1981 and was given the CIA's career intelligence medal for distinguished service. Meanwhile, Chin had a wife in Virginia and a mistress in Chicago.

Chin was arrested in 1985 by the FBI and was held without bail as a flight risk. He admitted to spying for China and in 1986 was convicted. Prior to his sentencing, however, he apparently placed a plastic bag over his head and committed suicide in his cell.

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