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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.)



Share Your Memories!

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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


Life & Times of Warhol

This documentary by Academy Award winner Chuck Workman does a fine job of capturing the life and legend of Andy Warhol.

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