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, May 12, 2010

Blogger's note

Get set, blog visitors. What you'll see here is an offbeat informational blog, created and produced to supplement one type of celebrity described in the 2010 book "Star Struck: An Encyclopedia of Celebrity Culture," published by ABC-CLIO and edited by myself, Sam Riley.

The idea behind the blog was to point out a variety of categories of temporary and one-shot celebrities who have provided an enormous quantity of "fodder" for our material-hungry news and entertainment media.

Much attention has been paid to the major luminaries of our celebrity culture, people who need no introduction to anyone who hasn't been living on some other planet.

This blog, which consists of a bit more than 600 posts, is geared to celebrities with a lower-case c, so to speak. The contents of each category represents a sample, not a census of individuals who fit into that category.

Some categories are larger than others. Sadly, there are far, far more miscreants than heroes who gain temporary celebrity. Also, some categories enjoy far more public attention than do others. For example, media consumers show vastly more interest in actors, actresses and singers than in, say, inventors or whistle-blowers.

The 21 categories that follow are arranged in no particular order other than to switch back and forth between entertainment and news figures.

The first category of temporary celebrity as you scroll through this blog, which was created during 2009 and 2010, are 83 individuals whose claim to celebrity came about via having had one iconic TV role.

Next come several types of miscreants, whose celebrity is of the notorious kind. Included are 26 miscellaneous miscreants, 36 mass or serial killers, 23 other murderers of note, 8 spies or traitors, 28 disgraced political figures, 15 disgraced business figures, 12 disgraced media figures, and 16 disgraced religious figures.

After the above appear 46 individuals who didn't fit neatly into one of the 20 specific categories. Those are followed by 13 reality TV figures, 19 whistle-blowers, 33 inventors/innovators, and 16 sports/outdoor figures.

Victims of various kinds make up rather a large category (54), and heroes a more modest 31. One-time movie icons number 26, hoaxers 20, advertising icons 26, femmes and hommes fatale 24, and one-hit recording wonders 54.

Each of these interesting individuals was accorded a brief write-up and, where possible, a video clip or photograph.

By way of a quick sample, a recent sensation on TV's "American Idol" was a middle-aged man who performed an unusual rap number poking fun at a style of dress favored by hip hop fans: pants worn very low in the back.

Larry Platt, usually referred to as General Larry Platt, was a minor figure in the Atlanta, Georgia, civil rights scene many years ago. He became an overnight sensation in 2010 when he performed a snappy rap called "Pants of the Ground." He looked a bit stiff when he dropped to the floor for a bit of break dancing, but, hey, what could you ask of a man of 62?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Iconic TV role: Betty Aberlin

Pretty brunette actress Betty Aberlin, born Betty Ageloff, was a fixture on the long-running children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." For 33 years she appeared on Fred Rogers' program in the character of Lady Aberlin.

Her career also included appearances in a number of musicals and on The Smothers Brothers Show," and she was a published poet. Her celebrity, however, was from her kindly, decorative appearances as Lady Aberlin on that gentlest of all kiddie shows.

Iconic TV role: Don Adams

Born Donald Yarmy, comedic actor Don Adams is very nearly synonymous with Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, in the 1965-1970 series "Get Smart," a takeoff on the James Bond films so popular at that time.

Although he looked fairly small and slight, Adams had fought in World War II and had been a Marine drill instructor.

His start in show biz was as a standup comic doing impersonations. He appeared on the program "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" in 1954. In the early to mid 1960s he played a chucklehead detective on "The Bill Dana Show," after which he landed the role that gave him celebrity.

As Maxwell Smart, he and his partner, Agent 99 (actress Barbara Feldon) fought international criminal masterminds; Adams' favorite spyware was his shoe phone, into which he would speak with his boss, "The Chief," using comically stylized catch phrases in a ridiculously nasal "professional" voice.

He later hosted a short-lived game show, but his moment in the celebrity sun was as Agent 86.

Adams died in 2005 at age 82.

Iconic TV role: Alison Arngrim

It might be hard to be remembered as a bitchy little girl, but that's the situation for Alison Arngrim, who played the snippy, conniving Nellie Oleson on the series "Little House on the Prairie."

Child actress Alison had hoped for the leading role of Laura Ingalls on that show, but instead became the wretched Nellie. The show ran from 1974 to 1981 and was especially popular with young girls.

Thereafter, Arngrim appeared in several less than stellar movies and guested on "Fantasy Island" and "The Love Boat."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iconic TV role: Leon Askin

Actor Leon Askin was born Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna, Austria, and worked on stage for many years before coming to America. He escaped the Nazis and emigrated to New York in 1940, and soon thereafter enlisted in the U.S. Army.

After leaving the service at war's end, he moved to Hollywood and began finding small parts in movies. He also appeared on TV in "The Adventures of Superman" and "Three's Company."

His celebrity-creating role was as the stout and grumpy, yet funny General Albert Burkhalter on the series "Hogan's Heroes."

He eventually moved back to Vienna, where he died in 2005 at age 97.

Iconic TV role: Catherine Bach

Catherine Bach was born Catherine Bachman; her defining role was as Daisy Duke in the series "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Bach had a remarkable figure and was much admired for wearing what came to be known as Daisy Dukes," which were very, very short, tight shorts. The show ran from 1979 to 1985.

She also appeared in a number of movies and on a few other TV shows, such as "Police Woman" and "The Love Boat."

Iconic TV role: Max Baer, Jr.

Max Baer, Jr. was the son of former heavyweight champion boxer Max Baer and, like his dad, was a strapping fellow by the time he began acting in a variety of TV shows that included westerns "Cheyenne" and "Maverick" and detective shows such as "Hawaiian Eye" and "77 Sunset Strip."

His big break came as Jethro Bodine on that silliest of sitcoms "The Beverly Hillbillies." Silly but hilarious, this show ran from 1962 to 1971. His role must surely have been modeled after the comic strip figure Li'l Abner. The character was a dim-witted yet friendly yokel of considerable size and strength. The storyline in general was about the misadventures of a backwoods Appalachian family that struck oil and decided to "move to Bev-er-ly--Hills, that is" and how the neuvo riche family interacted with the California sophisticates there.

Baer was so thoroughly typecast in that role that when the show closed, he had severe difficulty getting other parts. Instead, he turned to producing and, in addition, got into the casino/gaming business.

Iconic TV role: :Jon Bauman

Those of us possessed of mature years can remember the "greasers" of our high school days, with their surly attitude, black leather jacket and longish, greasy hair. That persona brought a measure of celebrity to Jon Bauman, who himself was a high school boy in the Queens section of New York City. Bauman went on to earn a degree with honors from Columbia University.

His celebrity-producing role was as the character Bowser with the retro rock and roll vocal group Sha Na Na.

Bauman was a terrific bass with that group, although he was not one of its original members. The entire group dressed and acted like 1950s greasers or as gold lame-clad 1050s rockers, and Bowzer was its standout member.

He would affix the viewer with an attitude-dripping look, run a comb through his oily hair, and flex a skinny bicep as he sang. His mouth could open wide enough to accommodate an entire chocolate cake at one bite, and his outfit varied but was invariably as tacky as can be imagined. The group had its own TV show from 1977 to 1981 and also made appearances on other programs. Their usual closing number was "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight," a song that had ended many a high school dance in the '50s.

Bauman has continued to make appearances as Bowzer and the Stingrays and has done some producing of early rock and roll music.

Iconic TV role: Mayim Hoya Bialik

Mayim Bialik, of East European descent, found American celebrity as Blossom Russo on the series "Blossom."

She began acting in the 1980s as a small child, but her one big claim to fame came in 1991 in the role of Blossom, on a sitcom popular with youthful viewers.

Since 1995, when that show closed, she has made occasional appearances on other TV shows and has earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCLA.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iconic TV role: Dan Blocker

One of the best-liked characters in the long history of TV westerns was Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, played by hulking but kindly Dan Blocker.

Texas-born Blocker, born Bobby Don Blocker, was around 6'3" and weighed around 300 pounds. He had played football and worked as a bouncer in his younger days, then was an English and theater teacher in Los Angeles before getting into show biz in the late 1950s.

His celebrity-earning role on the "family western" "Bonanza" was as the middle of three sons on the Ponderosa Ranch in 1800s Nevada. The show's immense popularity resulted in heaven only knows how many farms and even some actual ranches scattered in no doubt every U.S. state that even today sport a big sign proclaiming themselves "The Ponderosa," a sincere if remarkably unoriginal tribute.

People always like a gentle giant, and Blocker's "Bonanza" character was nice as pie till riled, then lowered the boom on the bad guys most convincingly.

Blocker served in the Army in Korea but became a highly vocal critic of America's involvement in Vietnam.

The big guy died unexpectedly following surgery in 1972.

Iconic TV role: Sorrell Booke

It is one of TV's ironies that an intelligent, accomplished man like Sorrell Booke found his celebrity playing the part of a short, rotund, conniving, thoroughly dishonest, despicable, clownish, string-pulling small-town political boss on "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Booke was a graduate of both Columbia and Yale and is said to have spoken five languages. Prior to "Dukes," he had made appearances on "Dr. Kildare, "Mission Impossible," "M.A.S.H." and "All in the Family."

As fate would have it, however, Booke got the part of Boss (Jefferson Davis) Hogg and had to be considerably padded to look the part.

He died of cancer in 1994 at age 64.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Iconic TV role: Hugh Brannum

Celebrity never finds most of us, but for those it does locate, there's no accounting for how. Musician Hugh Brannum, who played bass, never became a celebrity in music, but he did as a children's show sidekick, Mr. Green Jeans on "Captain Kangaroo."

Brannum was second fiddle to the show's host, Bob Keeshan, "The Captain." Brannum also played a painter named Bainter, a clown, a singer and a professor on this show, which ran from 1955 to 1984--a long span of years.

Brannum died of cancer in 1987.

Iconic TV role: Foster Brooks

How strange that a handsome actor with a great voice would be remembered as a slurring, stumbling, word-mangling drunk; but that was Foster Brooks's claim on celebrity.

Brooks, born in Kentucky, began his entertainment career doing stand-up comedy. His drunk act first appeared, in the 1960s, on the Steve Allen show and reappeared on singer Perry Como's show. It was "The Dean Martin Show," however, that cemented Brooks' claim to at least modest celebrity.

Oddly, Brooks no longer drank during the part of his life wehn he was successful in show biz.

After his frequent appearances in the 1970s with Dean Martin, whose TV persona also was built around love of strong drink, Brooks had a part in the zany series "Mork & Mindy," the show that propelled comic Robin Williams into major stardom.

Brooks died in 2001 at age 89.

Iconic TV role: Gary Burghoff

You think Gary Burghoff, you think Radar O'Reilly on the series "M.A.S.H."

As the ever-dependable company clerk at a medical field hospital during the Korean conflict, Radar resembled a large Cub Scout, was innocent as the driven snow, but had an other-worldly ability to sense when choppers were coming, bringing the wounded for treatment.

Actor Gary Burghoff's mild-mannered Charlie Brown image was also put to excellent use when he played the title role in the off-Broadway production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Since "M.A.S.H." he has done some commercials, has done game show work, and enjoys stamp collecting, painting, and drumming.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Iconic TV role: Darren E. Burrows

The role of part-Native Alaskan Ed Chigliak, film buff/genius/shaman-in-training, bestowed celebrity upon actor Darren Burrows, who actually has partial Native American ancestry.

The Ed Chigliak character was a regular on the inventive series "Northern Exposure" (1990-1995). Chigliak was an assistant to wealthy ex-astronaut Maurice Minnifield, played by Barry Corbin, and also worked part-time at Ruth-Anne Miller's general store.

Like the show's other Native American character, Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles), Chigliak said little but knew much. In many of his scenes, he would just appear to materialize, not unlike the character Jeeves of Bertie and Jeeves fame.

Burrows has made appearances in some quite good movies: "Casualties of War," "Amistad," and "Forty Shades of Blue," but his celebrity comes from his one iconic TV role.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Iconic TV role: Ruth Buzzi

Somehow, Ruth Buzzi sounds like a stage name, but it isn't. Her father, a sculptor born in the Italian side of Switzerland, settled in Rhode Island before Ruth's birth.

Her iconic, celebrity-producing role was on the comedy show "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," where she played the grumpy, scary-looking spinster Gladys Ormphby. A hairnet with a knot in it gave the appearance of a hole in her forehead. Audiences laughed their heads off at her purse-wielding disgust when assailed by dirty-old-man Tyrone Horneigh, played by tiny Artie Johnson. Their little duets usually took place on a park bench.

Although her celebrity came mainly from "Laugh-In," Buzzi had earlier played on Broadway and had appeared in "That Girl," "The Gary Moore Show," and with Steve Allen.

"Laugh-In" ran from 1968 to 1973. Thereafter, Buzzi appeared in many other TV shows and in a modest number of movies. Below appears Buzzi with dashing actor Ricardo Montalban rather than Arte Johnson.