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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Iconic TV role: Jay Silverheels

Radio and TV fans of long, long ago remember "those thrilling days of yesteryear" when out of the past rode...the Lone Ranger and his "faithful Indian companion" Tonto. Every little boy in those days wanted to be like the Lone Ranger, or, failing that, at least like Tonto, who, although only a sidekick, was also brave, resolute, "trail smart" and straight shooting. Also, he wore a really cool buckskin outfit.

The part of Tonto was played by a Canadian Mohawk whose birth name was Harold J. Smith, but whose adopted stage name, Jay Silverheels, sounded far more appropriate in Hollywood or New York.

The young Mohawk went from being a gifted athlete and Golden Gloves boxer to work as a movie stunt man. Early movies in which he had small parts include "Key Largo," "Broken Arrow," and "War Arrow."

His claim on celebrity, however, derives entirely from "The Lone Ranger" TV show, which appeared from 1949 to 1957 and to a lesser extent, its radio predecessor. It was a great job, even though he was required to speak in the manner that show biz producers liked to assume Indians might speak: "See-um fresh tracks. Me track-um, Kemo Sabe," for instance.

Silverheels had small movie parts and made other TV appearances after that time, but never again had a role that re-ignited his celebrity. He died in 1980 at age 67, following a stroke.

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