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.