A kid caught on camera at a county fair. A fiery nurse who stood up to politicians. A dad who wanted to make his daughter a princess. And many, many buckets of ice water. While a host of serious news events defined 2014, these folks and phenomena managed to grab a piece of the spotlight — some for 15 minutes, others, unfortunately, for a bit longer. Here is a roundup of some of the bigger names:
“Alex from Target”
Why he made headlines: In November, a Twitter user posted a photo of Alex, a 16-year-old cashier at a Target in Texas. Within hours, the handsome teen’s image was all over the Internet, and #AlexFromTarget became a trending topic.
15 minutes of fame — extended: The praise from adolescent admirers quickly turned dark (e.g. bullying and death threats). And the craze took a weird turn when a marketing company called Breakr claimed to have orchestrated the whole thing (the marketing hoax turned out to be a marketing hoax).
Quotable: “Am I famous now?” Alex tweeted the day he became an Internet celebrity.
Where is he now? With 740,000 Twitter followers, Alex appears to be milking his brush with fame by joining CreaTour, a national tour of Internet celebrities.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Nil, unless he makes a LeBron James-style switch to Wal-Mart.
Why she made headlines: She waged a public battle against state-mandated quarantines in New Jersey and Maine after she was isolated upon her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
15 minutes of fame — extended: After a judge ruled in her favor against the Maine quarantine, she wrote a Nov. 17 column in The Guardian reminding people that she never had Ebola and to “please stop calling me ‘the Ebola Nurse’ — now!”
Quotable: “I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public,” Hickox told NBC’s “Today” show.
Where is she now? In a December interview with WCSH-TV6 in Portland, Maine, Hickox said she’s moved to southern Maine and hopes to return to West Africa to treat Ebola patients again.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Small, unless more cases of Ebola come to the United States, in which case she may become a crusader against quarantines.
Hurricane and Jordan
Secret Service dogs
Why they made headlines: Secret Service dogs made news in September when a fence-jumper made it inside the White House. The incident raised concerns about security, and many wondered why the dogs weren’t released. A month later, Hurricane and Jordan were praised when they helped subdue another fence-jumper after the man punched and kicked them on the White House lawn.
Quotable: “I love the dogs,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security. “I hated to see him punch the dogs, but obviously they could take a punch. I was thrilled to see they’re back on duty.”
15 minutes of fame: For their heroic efforts to protect the president’s home, Hurricane and Jordan may have become even more beloved than White House dogs Sunny and Bo. But their names faded from the news as quickly as they appeared.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: If fence-jumping keeps up at 2014’s rate, very likely.
“The Apparently kid”
Why he made headlines: A TV interview with the then-5-year-old at Pennsylvania’s Wayne County Fair went viral in August — due in part to Noah’s gratuitous, misplaced and hilarious use of the word “apparently” (pronounced “appurently”) in every sentence.
Quotable: “Apparently, I’ve never been on live television before,” he told a WNEP-TV16 reporter. “Apparently sometimes I don’t watch the — I don’t watch the news, because I’m a kid, and apparently every time — apparently Grandpa just gives me the remote after we watch the Powerball.”
15 minutes of fame — extended: To the delight of those who couldn’t get enough of the cute redhead, Noah appeared on “Ellen” multiple times throughout the fall.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Not as high as it should be as the kid gets older.
Why it made headlines: In November, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft made history when it successfully dropped the little probe named Philae on to a speeding comet.
15 minutes of fame: Philae was able to send information about Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko back to Earth, but it didn’t have much time. Because it landed in a shadowy area, its solar-powered batteries were depleted after about 60 hours.
Quotable: Nov. 14 tweet from “Philae”: “.@ESA_Rosetta I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap…”
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Decent. Scientists have high hopes Philae will wake up as the comet comes in close proximity to the sun in early 2015.
Little League star
Why she made headlines: The 13-year-old from Philadelphia became the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.
15 minutes of fame — extended: She didn’t disappear after her team exited the Little League tournament. Mo’ne starred in a Chevrolet commercial, had her jersey displayed in baseball’s Hall of Fame, was named Sports Kid of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids and was just named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
Quotable: “I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw and my fastball like Mo’ne Davis.”
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Mo’ne won’t be at next year’s Little League World Series, but a few years down the road, she could be dominating women’s college basketball. Her dream is to play for UConn.
Why he made headlines: Videos surfaced of the MIT economist — who helped develop President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — saying the health-care law’s passage was dependent on taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter.”
15 minutes of fame: Gruber went on an apology circuit and was chided by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform earlier this month.
Quotable: “I behaved badly, and I will have to live with that, but my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act.”
Where is he now? Back safely in the ivory tower of academia, his words to be heard in stump speeches of Republican candidates everywhere
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: High. Gruber will try to stay out of the limelight, but conservatives will take every opportunity to bring him up when bashing Obamacare.
Bin Laden killer
Why he made headlines: In November, O’Neill confirmed that he was the member of SEAL Team Six who killed Osama bin Laden in a May 2, 2011, raid.
15 minutes of fame: O’Neill’s announcement kicked off a debate about the code of secrecy among present and former Navy SEALs: Did O’Neill simply confirm an open secret, or did he betray his brothers in arms for a buck?
Quotable: “I watched him take his last breaths,” O’Neill told The Washington Post of killing bin Laden.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Though he may stay out of the news, he’ll certainly make appearances in the history books.
Why he made headlines: The principal of Wilson High School in D.C. came out to his students as gay in an emotional speech at a schoolwide Pride Day event in June.
Quotable: “I’ve hid all my life. In this community, with these kids, I’d be a big hypocrite if I didn’t speak my truth.”
15 minutes of fame: Several days after Cahall came out, Westboro Baptist Church picketed the school— but they were drowned out by the hundreds of students and community members who gathered in front of the school for a peaceful counterprotest.
Where is he now? Cahall resigned in early December after he was told that his contract would not be renewed for the next school year because of test-score performance at the school. He called the decision “arbitrary and capricious” and criticized the system’s adversarial relationship with school leaders.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Possible, if parents protest his firing or he lands a high profile gig.
Why he made headlines: He was head of the Scottish National Party during its unsuccessful campaign for Scotland’s independence from Britain in a September referendum.
15 minutes of fame — extended: He quit his post of seven years following the “Yes Scotland” movement’s defeat, but political rivals have accused him of being a “backseat driver” since stepping down.
Quotable: “For me as leader, my time is nearly over,” he said in September. “But for Scotland, the campaign continues, and the dream shall never die.”
Where is he now? He’s still a member of the Scottish parliament, and he recently said he is seeking election to the British parliament.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: High, if you’re a British media junkie. Low, if not.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Fundraiser for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Why it made headlines: This summer, thousands of Americans posted videos to Facebook challenging folks to donate $100 to the ALS Association or suffer the wrath of having a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads. (The ice-bucket drenchings also were meant to promote awareness of ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.) It wasn’t long before an Internet sensation was born, with such famous participants as George W. Bush, Justin Timberlake and Oprah.
15 minutes of fame — extended: The phenomenon — which brought in $115 million —lasted for much of the summer, tapering off in September.
Of note: It seemed hard to complete the challenge incorrectly, but Justin Bieber managed to get it wrong when he poured a small pot of water on his head — no ice.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: This month, the Kind Campaign against bullying launched the #givekind challenge, which asks participants to do a random act of kindness. But face it, paying for the guy behind you in line at Starbucks just isn’t as fun as dumping ice on your head. It’s unlikely these copycats will last.
World Cup hero
Why he made headlines: The defenseman became a national hero when he headed in a corner kick in the 86th minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 win over Ghana in the World Cup this summer. Brooks became the first U.S. substitute to score in World Cup history.
Quotable: “It is a great moment for me. It’s unbelievable that I had a dream about it. I told some teammates that I would score in the 80th minute and win the game and I did it — in the 86th minute. The dream was two days ago, and it was also a header from a corner.”
15 minutes of fame: According to CNN, for a time, Brooks’ Wikipedia entry included the statement, “He is the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln.”
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: The 21-year-old, Berlin-born defender will continue to be in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans for the American side.
Zack Danger Brown
“Potato salad Kickstarter guy”
Why he made headlines: In what was clearly intended to be a “look how silly the Internet is” joke, Brown, of Ohio, created a Kickstarter page in July to fundraise a batch of potato salad. His asking price: $10. It wasn’t long before his page inexplicably took in more than $55,000 from nearly 7,000 backers.
15 minutes of fame — extended: When it became clear he had a sensation on his hands, Brown promised to “invite the whole Internet” to a potato salad party. “Potato Stock” took place in late September and benefited local charities.
Quotable: “It might not be that good. It’s my first potato salad,” Brown warned under the “Risks and challenges” section of his Kickstarter page.
Where is he now? Brown told The Verge shortly after Potato Stock that he was looking for a job in television comedy writing. “I don’t want to be the guy who is clinging to his 15 minutes of Internet fame a year from now, shilling potatoes or mayonnaise,” he said.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Not very. Though he could dedicate 2015 to mastering a killer macaroni salad recipe, Brown likely learned his lesson and will fund his own kitchen experiments this time.
Why she made headlines: After she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January, the 29-year-old moved from California to Oregon to gain access to the state’s death-with-dignity law. She soon became an advocate for physician-assisted suicide and gained national attention when, in two YouTube videos that received millions of views, she announced she planned to take her life Nov. 1, surrounded by family and friends.
Quotable: “I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die,” she told People magazine. “So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
Likelihood of her activism returning to the news in 2015: As more states tackle the legal issue, she’s likely to be invoked by right-to-die advocates in the future.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Gold-medal ice dancers
Why they made headlines: The duo — together for 17 years — became the first Americans to win a gold medal in ice dancing with their near-flawless performance at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
15 minutes of fame — extended: Dancing on ice wasn’t enough. Both competed on “Dancing with the Stars”: White came in fifth and Davis won the Mirrorball Trophy.
Quotable: “We’ve grown up together in every sense of the word,” Davis said, “and I’m just so grateful that we were able to do it together.”
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Ice dancing is a sport people pay attention to about every four years. Maybe if the duo stays together, we’ll be talking about them again in 2018.
King of North Sudan
Why he made headlines: Heaton’s 7-year-old daughter, Emily, wanted to be a princess, so in June, the Abingdon, Va., resident trekked across the desert and planted a flag in a patch of disputed land between Egypt and Sudan. He called it the “Kingdom of North Sudan” and named Emily princess.
15 minutes of fame: Some thought it was a cute story of a dad trying to make his kid’s dream come true, others exploded with charges of colonialism, ignorance and over-indulgent parenting.
Quotable: “There is no way they can’t see it in a positive light,” Heaton said of the Sudanese and Egyptian officials he intends to meet with.
Where is he now? Newsweek reported last month that Heaton has a manager and a talent agent, in part because Morgan Spurlock and Walt Disney Studios are developing a film based on the story. Heaton says he still hopes to rule the kingdom and wants to crowdfund development there.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Since it is extremely unlikely that Sudan and Egypt will ever recognize the kingdom, it is more likely that Heaton will return to the news in several years, if/when the film gets made.
Tara the Hero Cat
Why she made headlines: In May, 4-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo was attacked by a neighborhood dog in his driveway in California. The family cat, Tara, sprang into action, pouncing on the large dog and chasing it away. Within 24 hours of the surveillance video being uploaded to YouTube, more than 1 million people had watched it. (And after 10 stitches in his leg, Jeremy made a full recovery.)
15 minutes of fame — extended: Tara earned the first-ever “Cat Hero Award” from the Cat Fanciers’ Association, appeared on several national news outlets and, with help from her owner, threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in her home of Bakersfield, Calif.
Where is she now? Like her Internet celebrity cat peers, Tara spends her days maintaining an active social media presence and online shop.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: We assume that wherever evil strikes, there Tara will be.
Why she made headlines: She was the GOP staffer who was forced to resign after she posted a Facebook status slamming the Obama daughters’ behavior at the White House’s annual turkey pardoning.
15 minutes of fame — extended: After taking shots at Sasha and Malia’s demeanor and attire (saying they were dressed for the bar rather than a White House function), it emerged that Lauten was arrested as a teen for stealing from a department store.
Quotable: “I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class,” Lauten wrote in her post.
Where is she now? She apologized, but still resigned as communications director for Rep. Steve Fincher, R-Tenn.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Low
Why she made headlines: The Mount St. Joseph University freshman has a rare form of brain cancer and doctors have told her she has only a few months to live. In November, the NCAA moved up a Division III game in hopes that Hill would be able to get on the court. On that emotional afternoon, she scored the first basket of the game, a left-handed layup, in front of 10,000 fans who came to see her play.
Quotable: “I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd. This game has been amazing, and everything that happened today was amazing.”
Of note: Her layup4lauren campaign has raised more than $800,000 for cancer research, and, according to Fox Sports, she is looking to hit the $1 million mark by New Year’s Day. In a Christmas Eve Facebook update, Lauren’s mom said she is still having “good moments and bad ones.”
“Hot mugshot guy” / “Hot felon”
Why he made headlines: Meeks’ “hot” mugshot (complete with baby blue eyes and chiseled jaw) became a viral sensation after the Stockton, Calif., Police Department posted it on Facebook in June.
Quotable: “She’s upset. She’s furious,” a friend of Meeks’ wife told CBS Sacramento. “Her man’s in there, and people are taking it as a joke, thinking it’s funny talking about his looks, saying all kinds of crazy things.”
15 minutes of fame: The Internet soon moved on to other hot felons.
Where is he now? According to MTV News, Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said that Meeks pleaded guilty to one count of illegal firearm possession on Nov. 6. He will remain in Sacramento until he’s sentenced Jan. 22.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Depends on how he looks Jan. 22 in court.
Why he made headlines: Brat, a college economics professor, stunned the political world in June by beating Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. — the House minority leader and a political rising star — in Virginia’s Republican primary. Brat’s tea party backing and libertarian views helped him defeat Cantor from the right.
Of note: After defeating Democratic nominee Jack Trammell in the general election, Brat was sworn in to finish Cantor’s term Nov. 12. (Cantor resigned early, not long after losing the primary.)
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: As Congress’ newest kingslayer, politicians and pundits will likely keep an eye on Brat’s moves in the 114th.
Why she made headlines: The then-18-year-old high school senior sued her parents in February for child support and tuition costs, saying she was kicked out of her house. She moved back in with them on March 11 and dropped the suit March 12.
15 minutes of fame — extended: In July, she was back in the news after accusing her boyfriend of choking her in a domestic violence incident. Her boyfriend, incidentally, was the source of some of her conflict with her parents.
Where is she now? Studying biomedical engineering and playing lacrosse at Western New England University, according to her Facebook page.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Hopefully, zero
Mina Karini and Timothy Logan Melham
“The Trash Can Thieves”
Why they made headlines: Amid a citywide effort to replace the District’s trash and recycling bins, residents were given “Take Me!” stickers to put on the old bins for removal. Karini and Melham read it as an invitation to take the tubs; they planned to repurpose them into flower planters. Police arrested and briefly jailed the pair in May while they were gathering the cans in Georgetown.
The aftereffect: Head-shaking disbelief. This episode came amid a host of much bigger problems with the great garbage-can switchover of 2014. Among them: The city wasn’t equipped to remove the unwanted cans quickly and many of them sat on the street for weeks. Then it turned out that thousands of the old cans were incinerated instead of being recycled, as promised.
Where are they now? Free of charges! Prosecutors quietly dropped misdemeanor theft charges against the pair two months later.
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: Near zero.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely
Rolling Stone writer
Why she made headlines: She was the author of “A Rape on Campus,” the now-discredited Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article about “Jackie,” the University of Virginia student who claimed she was gang-raped at a fraternity party.
15 minutes of fame — extended: The original story was a bombshell and stirred national outrage about the prevalence of rape on college campuses. But it wasn’t long before discrepancies emerged. Erdely’s reporting was fraught with basic lapses. The magazine acknowledged that it did not speak to, or even locate, any of the men Jackie accused. And subsequent reporting showed that the magazine never contacted three friends of Jackie, who Rolling Stone said discouraged Jackie from seeking medical attention or a police investigation after the alleged incident. The friends, all U-Va. students, have disputed Rolling Stone’s account of what they told Jackie.
Where is she now? The Daily Caller reported on Dec. 16 that Erdely was contacting friends of Jackie and “re-reporting” the botched story, while Rolling Stone has enlisted the help of Columbia Journalism School “to conduct an independent review of the editorial process that led to the publication of this story.”
Likelihood of returning to the news in 2015: She’s likely to return to the news when Columbia’s review is complete.
Compiled by Michael Cunniff, Diana D’Abruzzo, Beth Marlowe, Lori McCue, Rachel Sadon and Jeffrey Tomik (Express/The Washington Post/AP)
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