If you want to be a star these days, just do something really dumb or get involved in a very big mess. The rest should take care of itself.
It worked for Ryan Dunn and Casey Anthony, anyway.
Consider Dunn as an example. A niche, cult star from MTV's classic comedy stunt show Jackass and subsequent film spin-offs from the brand, the 34-year-old was barely known beyond Jackass fans. Co-star Johnny Knoxville had a degree of celebrity status, but Dunn was a B plus in terms of celebrity recognition at best.
But that all changed when he got drunk, hopped into his sports car and drove at a speed of up to 140 miles per hour before crashing in a fiery blaze and killing himself and a passenger. Almost immediately, Dunn became a global Internet sensation, his story surging to the top of Web news platforms including Google.
More than mourning the tragedy, and talking about the lessons that could have been learned from a senseless and reckless drunk driving accident, many Internet surfers consumed with his June death stoked his celebrity flame over details like pictures of Dunn taken just before he drove and crash and humorous chatter surrounding the accident.
Film critic Robert Ebert helped get it all started, for instance, when he tweeted just after Dunn's accident that Friends don't let Jackasses drink and drive.
Bam Margera, Dunn's Jackass co-star and a friend of the actor's since high school, tweeted back in two tweets in response to Ebert saying, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of s--- roger ebert has the gall to put in his two cents...About a jackass drunk driving and his one...
Ebert later apologized, but such Web chatter, gossip and gall continued for almost two weeks at a frenzied pace, making Dunn a household name in death.
Casey Anthony has found similar fame, horrible as that may be considering the circumstances. Her toddler child died, and she was put on trial for murder. The jury acquitted her, but since Florida, where the trial was held, operates on sunshine laws allowing an open forum in courtrooms down to video cameras, she became a television sensation that has now spread virally on the Internet, making Anthony a global celebrity after the month-long trial.
Although she was acquitted on the charge of killing her two-and-a-half month old daughter, Caylee, Anthony was sentenced to four years in jail Thursday face four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement officials. She could go free as early as one year, and accounts suggest she may be profitting from it all before then, even.
The massive Internet chatter surrounding Casey Anthony now is more about how she will parlay her newfound celebrity in the near-term future.
There's talk of movie deals, a book deal, and paid television interviews to tell her story, spring boarding off the television fame she gained while her trial was broadcast every day for a month.
I would not be surprised, given the notoriety and infamy of the case, if Casey gets $1 million to give a full interview, California defense attorney and legal analyst David Wohl told Fox News.
Had Anthony been convicted, Florida law would have prevented her from profitting from the crime. But since she was found not guilty, she's a free woman who can turn her fame into dollars if she wants, even if it did come about because her daughter died tragically, if not mysteriously.
Celebrity news Web site TMZ.com reported that an adult entertainment company has even offered Anthony a deal to star in porn movies, but later withdrew the offer citing strong public outcry.
In outrage against the potential that Anthony could get rich overnight from fame involving her daughter's death groups have already formed trying to stop her from doing just that. One Facebook page Boycott Casey Anthony Books/Movie Deals etc!!! KEEP HER in the Poorhouse has more than 17,000 likes less than two days after her acquittal.
But that kind of attention, even in a negative light, spells fame for Anthony. Dunn is no longer around to benefit from his exploding celebrity via the Internet, but don't think for one moment Anthony's forthcoming jail time will stop her for taking the big money offers lining up.
Like Dunn, she's a digital age celebrity -- one who found fame from screwing up.
It can happen to anyone these days, willing to take the same hard road they did.