Whatever happened to... Fame for 15 minutes?

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The Independent Online
The Year: 1968. London. Warhol's words of wisdom are born out everywhere. From big boobs in The Sun to "A Walk in the Black Forest" in the charts, anyone can make it. Heard of it? Exactly. A small amount of talent, rather larger in The Sun, stretches just far enough to fill those 15 minutes.

The Seventies contribute the Bay City Rollers, a strange Scottish phenomenon exciting many with their tartan gear. And the pinnacle is reached with Bros in 1988. Their single "When Will I Be Famous" (hopefully for as short a time as possible) is about nothing but fame itself. Music trails a long second. They earn pounds 12m, then disappear into debt and obscurity very soon afterwards in the perfect Warhol scenario.

But George Michael is still hanging around after the Eighties. Andrew Ridgeley had the requisite amount of talent - none - and basically contributed that amount to Wham! but it's suddenly decided that Michael is a good songwriter. And there are others: Sting, Prince, U2. Pop stars start getting old. Live Aid in 1985 is considered the culprit. Despite raising money for the starving in the Third World it has the unexpected and unfortunate side-effect of making pop musicians responsible members of the establishment. Sting, for example, starts singing about irrelevancies such as the environment.

Worse is to follow. After the Eighties all we want is a quality product. So it's the demise of the page three girl, at the same time as the rise of the supermodel. Women who don't lose their looks at sixteen replace those who do. So it's farewell girls and thanks for the mammaries.

But The Tory Party revives a great Sixties tradition of a good scandal. Giving members of the public a chance to become famous (infamous) for a short period. In 1992 David Mellor tells of his support for Chelsea then reveals his affair with the actress Antonia de Sancha. One may safely assume this to be in the Victorian sense of "actress". Mellor plays away from home in style. And at last, the world sees, Mellor can pull a decent bird. But it also means he loses his Cabinet post. He leaps on De Sancha rather as the Chelsea players do on each other when they score a goal. And the press leap on a good story.

Yet It's not the same as before. De Sancha extends her time in the spotlight with the help of the publicist, Max Clifford. She's able to build a career that unfortunately makes her less the victim, more the perpetrator, and lots of money.

Now Yesterday's Sun was acclaiming Melinda Messenger, a woman who has shot to fame after modelling in double-glazing catalogues. And Chris Evans pushed the self-destruct button earlier this month. So maybe there's hope for short-lived fame yet. But equally this week gives us Hello!, full of pictures of Queen Margrethe of Denmark. And every week, of Diana. Who'll be around for ever. Royalty, or nearly royalty, as in the case of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is required. Warhol's great egalitarian dream of fame for all is gone. Along with the 15 minutes. Even the National Lottery version of money by completely fortuitous means, giving a chance of fame for anyone - your life arranged by the chance of numbers instead of birth; balls holding the prize numbers instead of your gene codes - no longer interests us.

But at least something of Warhol remains. As with Diana or Palmer-Tomkinson, there's nothing beyond the media image but a complete vacuum.

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