15 Minutes of Fame
By Patrick Mondout
"In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen
minutes." In the past, 1968 to be exact, pop artist Andy Warhol, who
is perhaps best know for his Psychedelic60s paintings of Marilyn Monroe
and Campbell's Soup cans, wrote these words to describe the growing
commodification of everyday life. Thanks to cheap reality shows and
cameras everywhere, it seems Warhol may indeed be prophetic. As for me,
I'm still waiting for mine (sigh).
The phrase has come to refer to people who do something of dubious
distinction or are involved in a minor scandal (Monica doesn't count - far
from a mere 15 minutes, she got a full calendar year!) and manage to
capture our attention for a while. Recent examples include Ken Lay
(President Bush's close friend and Enron CEO who apparently oversaw the
bilking of billions from Californians and still managed to bankrupt
his company), Robert
Blake and Scott Peterson (who everyone seems to believe killed their
wives), and John Rocker (baseball player who managed to offend virtually
all non-rednecks during an
interview with Sports Illustrated).
15 Minutes, The TV Version
In late 1986, MTV introduced many in our generation to Warhol through a
new show called Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes (for the record, episodes
were 30 minutes in duration). Much like his movies of the late 60s and early
Super70s, the series was a shot a stardom for cutting-edge stars
Warhol was willing to feature. The short-lived show ended when Andy Warhol
died in February of 1987.
How Long Do I Have To Wait?
Well, according to the latest version of Microsoft Excel, you should
have around 2.5 million 15-minute slots available during an average
lifetime. If Andy was right and everyone gets 15 minutes, then
there are approximately 2,500 people enjoying their 15 minutes right now!
(Maybe we do need 500 cable channels after all.)
Origins of the Phrase
The earliest reference to the phrase can be found in the book Andy
Warhol edited by Warhol, Joenig, Hulten, and Granath, and issued in
1968 in conjunction with his Feb/Mar 1968 exhibition in Stockholm. (Warhol
is misquoted most of the time. Our quote in the first paragraph is
directly from this publication.)
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Your Memories Shared!
"In 1911, a Brazilian journalist/author named Lima Barreto published a novel, entitled "O Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma" in which he refers to a character "who had his quarter hour of renown" ("quarto de hora de celebridade" in the original). The same phrase appears in a novella by the same author, published postumously in 1923, except that the character "never had his quarter hour of renown".
The context makes me think that the phrase was not original with Lima Barreto but I can find no earlier reference."
--aloysius p frugalfish