Famous for Being Famous

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.

Continue reading Famous for Being Famous

Notes:

  1. 1896, Legends of Florence: Collected from the People and Re-told by Charles Godfrey Leland (Hans Breitmann), Second Series, Chapter: La Via del Gomitolo del Oro, and How it got its Name, Quote Page 229, Macmillan and Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link