A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Celebrity Won

Marshall McLuhan (September, 1965, age 53).  The phone is ringing off the hook

Looks like Feigen and Gossage [see yesterday’s post] have done the trick.  They have succeeded in making me a celebrity after all.  How do I know?  The phone is ringing off the hook.   Lost my temper with one reporter who asked me to explain what I meant by the mini skirt being the ultimate form of violence.  Told him I couldn’t say, after all my work is very complicated.

Also just booked a speaking engagement for $25,000, which I don’t mind admitting has given my income a bit of a boost.  If only Mother could see me now.

Me (December 2009, age 57).  On celebrity

One reviewer of a biography of McLuhan said that the big question that remains unanswered about Marshall McLuhan’s life is how he went from Canadian academic obscurity to international media celebrity.  Indeed the question is difficult, yet in outline Tom Wolfe answered it in his 1965 “What if he’s right?” article.  Gossage and Feigen did it with their strategic marketing campaigns in May-August of 1965 in which they introduced McLuhan to key people in New York in May and in San Francisco in August, declaring his visit there Marshall McLuhan Week.  Of course, it helped that Understanding Media was a best seller.  It helped that McLuhan was alpha-confident and fluent in conversation.  It helped that in the 1960s people were looking for people with answers.  And McLuhan’s protestations that he had no final answers, no opinions, no points of view made him all the more appealing.

What do you think was the key factor, event, influence that propelled Marshall McLuhan to celebrity?  How well did McLuhan handle celebrity?  How well would you handle celebrity?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The medium and the messenger, 1989.

Tom Wolfe, “What if he’s right?”, New York Magazine, November, 1965.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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