Basil Marceaux lost his race, but on Web he won place in public imagination

SLOPPY OR SAVVY? Basil Marceaux in the TV clip that went viral.
SLOPPY OR SAVVY? Basil Marceaux in the TV clip that went viral. (Wsmv-tv Via Associated Press)
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 7, 2010

The strange, spectacular rise of Basil Marceaux, the enigmatic man who referred to himself as "" when not referring to himself as "an international Internet celebrity and an international superstar and a dark-star candidate" -- as he did in a recent telephone interview -- has ended.

Bill Haslam, the current mayor of Knoxville, won Thursday's Republican nomination for Tennessee governor. Marceaux will fade into the annals of Internet memes, leaving everyone to speculate just what he had against gold fringe. And to eagerly await the next vessel into which we may pour our collective ironic support.

Vote for Pedro? Nay, Vote for Basil.

A few weeks ago, a brief clip began spreading on YouTube, eventually surpassing 1 million hits. It featured two Tennessee television journalists introducing a gubernatorial candidate as delicately as if they were handling an IED. The candidates the viewers would hear from that week would all speak "in their own words," warned one uneasy-looking anchor.

And then, gloriously slurring speech and swaying in place: a rumpled former Marine named Basil Marceaux.

His candidacy would be based on, he said, planting "vegetation in any vacant lot and selling it for gas," as well as removing "all gold-fringe flags and flying the real flags with three stripes." Everyone would be required to carry guns.

Visits to his Web site yielded more information on the candidate's beliefs. As governor, he would force the United States to do away with "measuring of the waist" and investigate "why Democracy invaded the U.S. State on July 16, 1866."

The typing public fell in love: "Basil Marceaux may be the most awesome human being in the history of the state of Tennessee," wrote one blogger. fell in love: "You have a new election boyfriend!" the site exclaimed elatedly.

Jimmy Kimmel fell in love and invited Marceaux -- who says he is unemployed but fighting for citizens on a freelance basis -- out to California to be a guest on his show. He later got an invite to Glenn Beck's program and a mention on Stephen Colbert's. Each public appearance yielded the same internal observation: This guy cannot be for real, unless he is the realest thing anyone has ever seen.

Would he be another Alvin Greene, a plain-spoken man no one had heard of, who went on to win South Carolina's Democratic nomination for Senate?

Reached by telephone Thursday evening, Marceaux was asked to comment on how the attention had changed his life.

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