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, January 18, 2010

Mass/serial killers: David Berkowitz

Note: Many kinds of criminals and miscreants have had their 15 seconds or minutes of fame in the United States. It is hard to say which varieties of criminals are the worst, but surely among that number would be those who become serial killers or spree killers, visiting their hate or disappointments with the world on large numbers of their fellow humans.

The role model for such behavior is the still mysterious Jack the Ripper of London, England. Sad to say, the instance of serial or mass killings has been on an upward trajectory in America during the last few decades--for whatever reasons.

The individuals who follow provide not a census of these evil-doers, but a pretty good sample.

The serial or mass killer's temporary celebrity gains extra shelf life when the killer is given a nickname that resonates with the public. Such a person is David Berkowitz, who murdered six and harmed others in the New York City area. The nickname the press gave him was "Son of Sam." The name came from Berkowitz's assertion that his landlord, whose name was Sam, sent his Labrador retriever to instruct the demented Berkowitz to kill.

This serial killer was born David Falco, but he took the last name of his step-father. The number of his victims was modest compared to some of the killers who followed in his deranged footsteps, but just the same he managed to terrorize New York until he was captured. Part of the suspense of his case came from the letters he sent to the media prior to his capture.

Berkowitz, whose killings took place in the 1970s, was at the time a Satanist, but became an avowed Christian in prison.

He was convicted and sentenced to 365 years. Fearing that he would profit from his misdeeds by selling his story to morals-free media outlets, the State of New York passed the first "Son of Sam Law," which sought to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes in this way. Some other states followed suit, but in 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court found these laws unconstitutional.

No comments:

Post a Comment