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, December 4, 2009

Murderers: Byron De La Beckwith

Note: Among the most notorious temporary celebrities are individuals who suddenly become household names by murdering someone. News values being what they are, the murderers who stand out from the herd and hence receive heavy publicity tend to be those whose cases offer some entertaining or titillating element, such as prominence, beauty, or wealth. Poor people who kill other poor people for very poor reasons are not usually accorded this kind of "celebrity," of course.

Mississippi Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted in 1994 of the 1963 murder of African American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, field secretary of the NAACP.

It has been remarked that the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly, which certainly was true in this case. When Beckwith's fingerprints were found on the rifle used to shoot Evers in the back, Beckwith was twice tried in 1964 for the murder; both attempts to convict him ended in mistrial.

Beckwith apparently thought he had beaten the system and widened the scope of his hatred to not only blacks, but foreigners, Jews, Catholics and the Feds. Beckwith was something of a rarity in that he himself was an Episcopalian, a demonination usually known as progressive and liberal.

In 1973, Beckwith was hauled into court and charged with conspiring to murder a leader of the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation League. He was found guilty and spent roughly three years in prison.

Then in 1994, he again was tried for the Evers murder, but this time, the jury had both black and white members. At age 74, he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Beckwith died in 2001.

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