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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iconic TV role: Judy Carne

People old enough to remember watching "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" will remember Judy Carne as the English lass whose stock phrase was "Sock it to me," after which she would be pelted or soaked with water.

She was born Joyce Botterill. After getting a few acting roles in her native England, she moved to the States and did the same. She also was for two years married in the early to mid 1960s to actor Burt Reynolds.

In 1968 she became part of the "Laugh-In" cast, where she gained her own bit of celebrity. After the show closed in 1970,her career hit the skids. She developed a drug problem, was in a near-fatal wreck, and in that same year, 1978, was arrested on a drug charge in London. She now lives in England.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Iconic TV role: Christian Clemenson

Well educated and highly talented character actor Christian Clemenson has had one iconic role: attorney Jerry Espenson on "Boston Legal," one of the cleverest, best-written comedies ever to hit television.

Clemenson is a graduate of Phillips Academy; Harvard, where he began acting; and Yale's School of Drama. Before landing his celebrity-producing role as a multi-challenged yet brilliant lawyer, he had appeared on TV in "The Paper Chase" and "Family Ties" and in a few movies, including "The Big Lebowski" and "And the Band Played On."

As Jerry, often referred to as "Hands," he brilliantly played an Asperger sufferer whose hands were usually glued to the front of his legs just above the knees. He also made curious and unpredictable popping sounds and whoops suggestive of someone with Turette's syndrome. The Jerry character was about as socially adept as a fence post but was hired by the firm Crane, Poole and Schmidt because of his matchless legal acumen and ability to research a case.

Some of Clemenson's funniest moments as "Hands" came when he whipped out a wooden cigarette, a simple prop that somehow allowed him to break free of his usual diffidence, and turn into a fast-talking, dominant courtroom shark.

Thanks to Clemenson's talent, the Jerry character deserves to be remembered as one of TV's best.

Iconic TV role: Yvonne Craig

Gorgeous brunette Yvonne Craig began performing on stage as a ballet dancer, got a few movie roles, and made a few TV appearances before landing the part that brought her a measure of celebrity: Batgirl in the series "Batman."

Her a part in "Batman" came in the 1967 and 1968 seasons. Before then, Craig had appeared on "Star Trek," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E," " The Wild Wild West," and "The Big Valley."

One aspect of the fun in her Batgirl role was that Batman and Robin did not know her identity, nor she theirs. In fictional reality, she was mild-mannered librarian Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, the man on the other end of the famous Batphone.

After "Batman" folded, Craig appeared in a few more shows and movies, then went into real estate work.

Iconic TV role: Ken Curtis

Ken Curtis, born Curtis Gates, was a cowboy actor who in his younger days was a dashing, square-jawed, lady-killer leading man in Westerns, but whose real celebrity came from one role: the grizzled,illiterate sidekick Festus Haggen on TV's "Gunsmoke."

Before acting in Westerns, Curtis sang with the Sons of the Pioneers and with Tommy Dorsey's big band. He dropped out of show biz to serve in the Army during World War II. Soon after the war's end, he appeared on Jo Stafford's radio show singing "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," which became a big hit.

Curtis acted in a number of Western movies directed by John Ford and, in addition, married Ford's daughter.

In 1964, he replaced Dennis Weaver as Marshall Matt Dillon's deputy on the highly popular series "Gunsmoke." He played the rough-around-the-edges yet dependable middle-aged coot Festus until the show closed in 1975. That character was patterned after an actual man Curtis, the son of a real-life Colorado sheriff, had known in his youth.

Curtis died at age 74 in 1991.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Iconic TV role: Calvert DeForest

Related to radio pioneer Lee DeForest, Calvert DeForest achieved his 15 minutes of fame as the enigmatic Larry "Bud"Melman on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

DeForest began his career working for Big Pharma firm Parke Davis. The short, roundish, gnome-like man with a big, happy smile became interested in acting and found roles in a few less than notable movies before ending up on Letterman's show in the early 1980s. He was such a contrast to the svelte, toothpaste model-like celebrities who so often appear on that show that he was an immediate hit with the audience.

DeForest appeared on that show until 2000, when, at 81, he retired. He died in 2007 at age 85. As an actor, he didn't really do much, but we were happier just from having seen him.

Icconic TV role: Diane Delano

Actress Diane Delano is actually attractive, but as state trooper Sgt. Barbara Semanski on "Northern Exposure," she played a gruff, butch-looking toughie.

She landed this excellent role after having appeared as a bailiff on the series "L.A. Law."

Part of the fun she provided as Sgt. Semanski was the way her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach to life appealed so strongly to another of the show's colorful characters: wealthy outdoorsman Maurice Minnifield, played by actor Barry Corbin.

This inventive series ran from 1990 to 1995.

Delano has appeared on "Dharma & Greg," "3rd Rock from the Sun," "ER," and a number of other shows since her celebrity-producing role on "Northern Exposure."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Icopnic TV role: James Doohan

You know him as Scotty on the series "Star Trek." More completely, for Tekkies out there, he was Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise, which boldly went, etc.

Born in Canada, Doohan served in World War II as an artillery lieutenant. He was wounded during the Normandy invasion but later became a pilot.

After the war, he studied acting at New York's well known Neighborhood Playhouse and made many, many appearances on both radio and television.

He landed his big role as Scotty in 1966 when the series began. He was stocky and dependable looking and was good at doing accents of various kinds. His stock in trade, though, was the Scottish accent he used as Scotty.

Doohan also dreamed up the Klingon and Vulcan words used on the show.

He is credited with having inspired many young viewers to study engineering. The redoughtable Dooghan had a variety of bad medical problems in his later years, including diabetes, Parkinson's and pulmonary disease. A year before his life ended, he also developed Alzheimer's. He died in 2005 at age 85. Some of his ashes were sent into space.

Think about Doohan, and you automatically think of Capt. Kirk's stock line, "Beam me up, Scotty."

Iconic TV role: Donna Douglas

Cute little Louisiana farm girl Donna Douglas, born Dorothy Smith,was annointed with celebrity by one TV role: Elly May Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies." She is said to have beat out around 500 other girls for that juicy, profitable part.

She also was rather badly typecast by it.

Douglas, in her youth, had been a beauty contest winner: Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans. At age 17, she moved to New York City and worked as a toothpaste model in TV ads, then got modest parts in several movies.

"The Beverly Hillbillies" ran from 1962 until 1971, and Douglas rode its success the whole way.

In 1966, she co-starred with Elvis Presley in "Frankie and Johnny," which was her only big movie role. As she aged, she got into real estate and began singing gospel.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Iconic TV role: Jamie Farr

Born Jameel Farah in Toledo, Ohio,Jamie Farr was of Lebanese heritage and broke into show biZ in 1955 with a part in the movie "Blackboard Jungle."

His celebrity, however, is derived from his one great TV role: Corporal Maxwell Klinger on the fantastic series "M.A.S.H."

Klinger was willing to do darn near anything to get sent home from war-torn Korea and did his best to appear mentally unstable. His most frequent such device was dressing like a woman, and the show's audience chortled at the silly spectacle of Farr's hairy legs with his dress and high heel shoes.

He landed character actor parts in several other quite notable movies and began appearing on TV on shows starring Danny Thomas, Danny Kaye and Dick Van Dyke. He also appeared in "My Three Sons," "The Lucy Show," "I Dream of Jennie," "The Andy Griffith Show," "F Troop," "Get Smart," "The Flying Nun," "Love, American Style," "Barnaby Jones," " The Love Boat," and other shows.

But the one role ideal for him was Max Klinger, which he played to perfection--never quite managing to get that Section 8 discharge.

Iconic TV role: Fyvush Finkel

Fyvush Finkel's celebrity came about via the original and unusual show "Picket Fences" (1992-1996), on which he beautifully played the outrageous, colorful, bow-tie sporting lawyer Douglas Wambaugh.

Finkel was born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrant parents. When he began acting, he adopted the first name Fyvush, Yiddish for Philip, his birth name. In doing this, he did something really different. Most entertainment figures who took a stage name did the reverse: they changed their name to sound less foreign or ethnic.

Finkel did stand-up comedy and appeared on Broadway prior to his "Picket Fences" years. He also had appeared on "Kojak" and a couple more TV shows before landing his iconic role as Wambaugh the lawyer.

Especially fun on "Picket Fences" were the exchanges between Wambaugh and Judge Jenry Bone, played by the venerable Ray Walston.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Iconic TV role: Dennis Franz

You think Dennis Franz, you think Detective Andy Sipowitz on "NYPD Blue," which appeared from 1993 to 2005.

Sipowitz was the most hard-bitten of cops, a man whose personal life had suffered greatly from the demands of the job. A cop who was very nearly burned out from dealing with sleazy criminals of all sorts and from contemplating man's general inhumanity to man.

Sipowitz wasn't pretty. He was a fireplug of a man, mostly bald, abrupt of manner and like an unmade bed in appearance. He was a Vietnam vet and recovering alcoholic.

Franz was born Dennis Franz Schlachta and is of German extraction. He served in the Airborne during Vietnam and returned to act on stage in his native Chicago.

Franz had not one but two roles on the cop show "Hill Street Blues" and also has appeared on "The A-Team," "Matlock," Hardcastle and McCormick," "Simon & Simon," and "Hunter."

Franz deserved much credit for having brought to life one of the most memorable and different of all the many TV police dramas.

Iconic TV role: Peri Gilpin

Peri Gilpin, born in Waco, Texas, as Peri Kay Oldham, studied acting, did live theater, and worked in TV commercials before landing her celebrity-producing role as Roz Doyle on the comedy series "Frasier."

Doyle was Frasier's radio producer, a street-wise, good looking but not raving beautiful, highly competent single gal always on the lookout for Mr. Right but usually finding only Mr. Right Now.

"Frasier," one of the best TV comic sitcoms of them all, ran from 1993 to 2004.

Gilpin has also appeared on other TV shows, including "Matlock," "Wings," "Designing Women," "Cheers," The Rosie O'Donnell Show," and "King of the Hill." She and her fellow "Frasier" cast member Jane Leeves have their own production company as well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

IconicTV role: Matthew Gubler

Playing the blond, long-haired, green, somewhat wimpy yet brilliant character Dr. Spencer Reid on the crime show "Criminal Minds" is young actor Matthew Gray Gubler. Las Vegas-born Gubler came quickly to minor celebrity in this juicy part.

The son of a well connected family, Gubler made a name for himself as a male model prior to making a run at show biz.

At this point, Gubler is too new to acting to have made many other appearances, but he is quite well known for playing Dr. Reid on what is one of TV's best crime shows.

Iconic TV role: Alan Hale, Jr.

One of those long-time character actors who has had more roles than Domino's has delivered pizzas, Alan Hale, Jr. is nevertheless tightly identified with only one of those roles: the Skipper on that silliest of sitcoms, "Gilligan's Island."

Hale was born into the acting business; both parents worked as Hollywood actors. The senior Hale might be recalled as Little John opposite Errol Flynn in "Robin Hood."

After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Hale Jr. began acting in some of Gene Autry's Western movies. In the early 1960s, he also played on TV in "The Andy Griffith Show."

Celebrity was his, however, as Jonas Grumby, better known as The Skipper, on "Gilligan's Island," which ran from 1964 to 1967 and thereafter continued to appear in re-run.

In that role, Hale portrayed the hulking yet benign captain of The Minnow and father figure to the bumbling Gilligan.

The burly Hale's many TV credits over the years include "The Texan," "JOhnny Ringo," "Cheyenne," "HAwaiian Eye," "Mister Ed," "Death Valley Days," "Perry Mason," "Rawhide," "Wagon Train," "Maverick," "77 Sunset Strip," "Route 66," Perry Mason," "Batman," "The Virginian," "Gunsmoke" and many, many other shows.

Hale owned a Hollywood restaurant in his later years. The veteran actor died of cancer in 1990 at age 68.

Iconic TV role: Sean Hayes

One of the best gay guy roles on any television show was that of Jack McFarland on "Will & Grace," which first appeared in 1998. That part was ably acted by Sean Hayes, who did a fine job playing the openly and flamboyantly homosexual sometime roommate of the sitcom's leading man, played by Rob Lowe, and their beautiful friend, played by Debra Messing.

Hayes is a trained pianist and minor composer and had worked in the comedy troupe Second City in his native Chicago prior to landing the plum role that made him a minor celebrity.

Iconic TV role: Sherman Hemsley

Philadelphia-born Sherman Hemsley found his ideal role as the wise cracking, slightly hyperactive dry cleaner George Jefferson, a character that first appeared in 1973 on the mega-marvelous sitcom "All in the Family."

In that show, Hemsley played the prosperous black neighbor of grumpy blue-collar racist Archie Bunker. The public liked the George Jefferson so much that in 1975, a spinoff was created for him: "The Jeffersons," which lasted for a decade.

Hemsley studied acting, served in the Air Force and worked as a postal delivery man before 1970, when he broke into show biz on Broadway.

Over the years, Hemsley also has appeared on "The Incredible Hulk," "Fantasy Island," "The Love Bloat," E/R." "The Twilight Zone," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Designing Women," and other programs; but clearly his celebrity rests on his portrayal of George Jefferson.