Michigan woman an instant Twitter celeb, thanks to Conan O'Brien

'TOTALLY NUTS': Sarah Killen now has more than 21,000 followers.
'TOTALLY NUTS': Sarah Killen now has more than 21,000 followers. (Al Goldis/Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Associated Press
Thursday, March 11, 2010

CONWAY TOWNSHIP, MICH. -- Last week, Sarah Killen had three Twitter followers.

This week, she has almost 22,000 -- as well as a new iMac and offers to help pay for a dress and drinks for her wedding.

The unsuspecting rural Michigan woman has one out-of-work late-night talk show host to thank for her new online popularity: Conan O'Brien.

The deposed "Tonight Show" star -- whose exit deal with NBC barred him from TV appearances for several months -- has taken to Twitter to reach the masses during his exile. He has quickly garnered more than half a million followers.

But until Friday, O'Brien did not follow the feeds of anybody else.

Enter Killen, 19, who is finishing up her high school requirements, preparing to make the jump to college and getting married in September.

"I've decided to follow someone at random," O'Brien's posting read Friday. "She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs. Sarah Killen, your life is about to change."

Boy, did it ever.

Immediately after O'Brien started following her, Killen -- whose Twitter handle is "LovelyButton" -- picked up followers at a rate of 150 per minute. Then came the calls: family, friends (current and long-lost) and interview requests from Web sites, TV shows and radio stations.

She says she has fallen woefully behind on her schoolwork and day-to-day activities. "It's totally nuts," she said.

Until O'Brien plucked Killen from obscurity and turned her into an overnight Web celeb, she and fiance John Slowik Jr., 21, lived a quiet life, residing in the basement of a house in Conway Township, more than an hour's drive west of Detroit.

It's hard to say exactly what O'Brien's motivation was; his spokesman Beau Benton had no comment Wednesday. But as a result of the exposure: A Florida businessman bought Killen an iMac; a New York designer is donating a wedding dress; and a third party is sending wine for her nuptials.

Not bad for a couple who had saved $30 for the wedding, hadn't reserved a location and faced the prospect of not being able to afford a dress.

"People are saying that I'm asking for gifts and stuff, and I'm not," Killen said. What she is asking of her new army of Twitter followers is to contribute to charity, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

But Slowik says he'd love one more thing from O'Brien: to be his best man at the wedding.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company