Daniel J. Boorstin? Andy Warhol? Charles Godfrey Leland? Marshall McLuhan? Raquel Welch? David Brinkley? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving fame required some significant accomplishment or impressive quality in the past. Now it seems that people are deemed notable for absurd reasons. Here are three phrases describing the self-referential nature of modern celebrityhood:
- Famous for being famous.
- Well-known for being well-known.
- Notorious for their notoriety.
This concept has been attributed to historian Daniel Boorstin and Pop-Art fabricator Andy Warhol. Would you please explore its provenance?
Quote Investigator: Intriguingly, this notion was mentioned back in the nineteenth century. In 1896 U.S. humorist Charles Godfrey Leland published a collection of re-told stories titled “Legends of Florence”. A character named Flaxius employed the saying while commenting on the motivations of some extravagant people. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
. . . whole life and highest aim is really not to win gold for real pleasure, or even for avarice or aught solid, but merely to live in its glitter and sheen—to . . . jingle jewels, in a kind of fade ostentation, as doth a professional beauty or an actress famous for being famous, nothing more . . .
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.