Now maybe you still haven't heard about C. Vernon Ayers. Maybe Kingston, Ga., isn't on your map yet.
But Ayers and Kingston are famous now, and I can prove it. I can show you the segment on the network news. I can show you the stories on the news wire. I can show you the pictures in the paper.
This is the mayor and this is the town that has pursued a dream which is deliciously, quintessentially American. This is the mayor and this is the town that has gained fame in the fame biz.
The whole success story began inauspiciously two years ago when Ayers was looking for some Name to come to town. Kingston already had 729 people of its own. These people had names, but no Names.
The town also had 12 historic markers, 18 buildings in the National Register of Historic Places and an official historic district encompassing the entire two-block business section. It even had an annual Historical Festival.
The problem was that it had a festival without a "celebrity" and a historical event without a modern "personality." As anybody who's been to a shopping center opening in the past 10 years can attest, you don't have an important event without a Famous Person.
So for two years, Mayor Ayers tried to import a genuine bona-fide Famous Person. He invited Jimmy Carter. He invited Ted Kennedy. He invited both Georgia senators, one Georgia governor and a bunch of stars, including Burt Reynolds.
His rejection record was unblemished by a single acceptance. It seemed that Nobody who was Anybody wanted to pay his own way to Kingston in order to celebrate the recapture of a train by the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Then last year, Ayer did something different. He issued a sort of open call for "any famous person." His desperate plea made the network and the wires and pretty soon lots of people wanted to come to Kingston.
Now I know that Goethe once wrote, "To seek, to hunt after fame is a vain endeavor." But Goethe never lived in our century or our country.
In late 20th-century America, the town of Kingston, Ga., sought after the famous and got fame to boot.
If all goes according to plan, the two- day historic celebration this weekend will be a convention of beauty queens, Santa Clauses, radio broadcasters and clowns, plus a cookie maker, Ronald McDonald and a genuine TV actor. No one will leave without a signed certificate proving that he or she is famous.
If all goes according to plan, Kingston will also end up wearing a laurel wreath of Americana: it'll be a two-day media event.
I don't know about the rest of you, but the story of Kingston strikes me as a Walt Disney musical-comedy portrait of the whole weird process of fame in America.
The characters are from some odd central casting. A small town that wants a big Name. Why? Who knows? A bunch of small names who want to become Big Names. Why? Who knows? This odd couple, with only their ambition in common, gets together.
Then we have the media. In the process of describing an unknown place and its unknown uncelebrities, the media make the biggest change in a Georgia town since Plains. The town becomes famous and makes the mayor a genuine celebrity.
This real-life plot is thickening quite nicely. As I write this, the citizens of Kingston are getting ready to distribute their cache of T-shirts and buttons labeled "I'm Famous" and "I'm Not Famous" to distinguish the out-of- town guests from the citizens. By the end of the weekend, they're going to have to switch shirts.
You may remember that Andy Warhol once predicted, "In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." But not even Warhol predicted that they could become famous in the unsuccessful pursuit of the famous.
Only in America.