Howard Bragman on Andy Warhol

Question: What does Andy Warhol have to do with branding today? Bragman: I think the ‘60s and ‘70s are kind of the time when we experimented with fame, and I think he was, he ran the studio that was almost a lab for being famous. They talked about a lot of people. There’s a lot of actors, a lot of artists, a lot of journalists who came out of there, and he created this culture of celebrity. He created a mystique, and he was one of the first ones to really do that and realize that you could do it on a much larger scale by branding people, which is something that’s become commonplace today but wasn’t so common for people back then. It certainly was for cars and light bulbs and everything else. Question: What would Andy Warhol say about personal branding? Bragman: I think he would say, “Be authentic and have fun with it,” because nobody had more fun with it. What you knew about Warhol was he was in on the joke, and I often tell my celebrities that you got to be in on the joke. When I worked with Monica Lewinsky, we went on Saturday Night Live, she said, “Why would we do that?” And I said, “We have to show that you get the joke.” And, you know, early on in my career, I represented LA Gear, the sneaker company and I got a story for them in a major business publication, I got an advanced copy faxed to me. That was the old days when we faxed, and I got this story and it was a horrible story. The company eventually had big financial problems. It’s this horrible story, and I just started my company less than a year before and I said, “Oh, my God, this horrible story is out, my business is going to go under. I’m going to be out on the streets eating dog food,” and I called a friend of mine and said, “It’s over,” and he said, “Howard…” I said, “Yeah?” He said, “It’s tennis shoes.” And I’ve never forgotten that because 99% of the time, it’s tennis shoes, okay? It’s tennis shoes. It’s not life or death struggles that we’re talking about here. And so you’re allowed to make a mistake, that’s the human condition is to make mistakes, and we live in this great Judeo-Christian culture that allows you to make mistakes as long as you apologize, appear contrite. Why did O. J. get convicted again? Because he wasn’t contrite, okay? It wasn’t so much about the mistake as the lack of contrition on his part. He stood in court and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” If he had said, “I made a mistake. I acted out of arrogance.” I think the judge and the jury would have been a little more sympathetic towards him.

Howard Bragman on getting more than 15 minutes.

A map of America’s most famous – and infamous

The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
Strange Maps
  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

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