Pop Culture Phenoms The Public Chewed Up And Spit Out

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These days, you can go to bed one night an ordinary person and wake up to the whole world knowing your name. Do the names Selfie Kid, Backpack Kid, or Chicken Nuggs Boy ring a bell? While all three of those instant celebs are still enjoying their 15 minutes of internet fame, as of this writing, their predecessors haven't fared so well. For a quirky guy auditioning for a spot on American Idol, the reality TV father of eight who reinvented himself as a DJ, and many more, viral fame was a weird mix of blessing and curse.  

For this select group, their pop culture super-fame faded quickly thanks to a variety of reasons that run the gamut from self-destructive life choices, to the discovery of their shady pasts, to just plain being not all that interesting once the viral wave finally crashed. After all, sometimes a good-looking kid working as a cashier at Target is...just a good-looking kid working as a cashier at Target.

These are the pop culture phenoms the public chewed up and spit out. 

Don't hide your resume! You might need it.

"Hide your kids, hide your wife!" Those were Antoine Dodson's famous words, which transformed him from a TV-news eyewitness (of an alleged sexual assault on his sister) to a viral phenomenon in July 2010. In fact, as of this writing, the video featuring Dodson has been viewed more than 65 million times. While the situation itself was no laughing matter, somehow everyone caught on to the gold that was his interview. T-shirts featuring his quotes hit the streets, and his interview was remixed into a popular song that even charted on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

His popularity earned him enough money for his family to move out of the projects. While 2010 was a big year for him, 2011 wasn't as great. He was arrested twice. Dodson, who admitted he was gay during a fan Q&A (via HuffPost,) then announced in 2013 in a since-deleted Facebook post that he had become a Hebrew Israelite and was "no longer into homosexuality." He then married, and in May 2014, he welcomed a son with his wife.

That same year, Dodson participated in a "celebrity" boxing match versus Rashaad Cooper–the man he and his sister had accused of attempted assault four years earlier. Cooper, who has always maintained his innocence, told AL.com that he agreed to the fight because Dodson "profited off my life" and Cooper wanted to "settle something." Unfortunately for Cooper, his revenge was foiled when he went down in the first round, although if we're being honest, we really see no winners in this situation.

The sun set on Tan Mom

Patricia Krentcil was clearly a fan of a tan, but in 2012, she decided to make her passion a family affair. She was accused of taking her 6-year-old daughter into a stand-up tanning booth in New Jersey, allegedly causing burns to her daughter, which left Patricia facing criminal charges for child endangerment. The mother­ of ­five denied the allegations, despite the whole incident stemming from the little girl telling the school nurse, "I go tanning with mommy," according to CBS New York. From there it was all downhill for "Tan Mom." In addition to facing criminal charges (which were eventually dropped), tanning salons in the area of her New Jersey home banned her, and she divorced her husband.

Krentcil then decided to make a cameo in an adult film, release questionable pop songs, insult Snooki (of Jersey Shore reality TV fame,) and get caught drunk in public (showing her underwear everywhere) multiple times.

In 2017, "Tan Mom" once again made headlines in her hometown of Nutley, N.J. via the most ironic controversy possible. She's threatened to sue her daughter's school over an alleged sunburn that the girl — yes, the same one from the tanning booth fiasco — got during recess. "After what they did to me, they didn't put lotion on her? This time, I'm going after them," Krentcil told The New York Post

Ugh. Honestly, it would be too soon if we ever had to hear about her again.

DJ Sad Dad

Remember in 2009 when dressing up as Jon and Kate Gosselin for Halloween was a cool thing to do? Thankfully, it's not anymore. When the Gosselins divorced, we genuinely all felt a little sad. It was at the height of their popularity, yet there were cheating rumors and it seemed like the fame from their TLC show had really gone to their heads. Since the split, there has been a constant back and forth over custody, as well as reports about financial struggles.

In 2013, it was reported that Jon was living in a cabin in the woods with no internet or cable and waiting tables for a living. Apparently, being a waiter wasn't Jon's greatest gig either, because according to Radar, he was fired from that job after blowing off shifts and showing up late. Yikes!

After that, Jon became a DJ, then once again reclaimed tabloid headlines when he pretended he was becoming a stripper in the weirdest ever April Fool's prank/40th birthday gift to himself. "What started out as a great social experiment, turned out to be an incredible experience. And I'm glad planet Earth still cares about me," Jon said in a bizarrely edited Facebook video explaining his stripping ruse. Jon ends the video by saying, "Stay tuned for more in 2017. There is a lot more to come." 

Oh joy, we're all just on pins and needles about that!

The internet made Alex from Target's mom cry

Sweet little #alexfromtarget. On Nov. 2, 2014, Alex Lee was just living his life as a Target employee, and just a few days later, he was visiting The Ellen DeGeneres Show as a guest because he had become a trending topic on Twitter, which made him super famous. It literally happened that fast.

The excitement over his fame faded fast. On Nov. 12, 2014 (a mere ten days after he went viral), Lee was talking about the downside of fame with The New York Times. "I've been in the house the entire time," he said. "I'm kind of scared to go in public." Lee's instant fame took a toll on his mom as well. In a tearful interview with Inside Edition, she said, "To see people be so hateful to a very, very kind person—that part was so disappointing to me."

Despite his initial misgivings about overnight internet notoriety, Lee eventually decided to embrace his viral stardom. In a 2017 profile for J-14, he said he moved to Los Angeles and went on tour with a bunch of social media stars. Unfortunately, Lee's previous manager reportedly took control of his YouTube account for a year and a half, and Lee never really found his niche as a performer. 

"I'm probably not going to put everything I have into this because social media is such a...it's not the type of business I wanna put everything I have into. It's too risky, in my opinion, especially with what I had gone through in the past," Lee told J-14, adding, "So, right now I'm going to be starting school to be an EMT soon."

From the Palins to Playgirl

Like Jon Gosselin, Levi became famous as one half of a highly-publicized couple. The year was 2008, and Johnston had gotten U.S. Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's eldest daughter, Bristol, pregnant. At the time, Johnston and Bristol were just 18­ years ­old. When Bristol was five months pregnant with his son, Johnston asked her to marry him. 

When he and Bristol broke up in 2009, he went on a press tour bashing his ex­-fiancée and her work promoting abstinence to teens across the country. Making matters worse, Johnston told Vanity Fair in September 2009, that Sarah wanted to keep Bristol's pregnancy a secret. Oh yeah, and he also decided to pose nude for Playgirl (via HuffPost), which is, of course, not exactly an ideal situation for anyone connected to a powerful politician.

After all that, Johnston and Bristol somehow rekindled their love in 2010 and got engaged...only to call off their second engagement three weeks later. In 2011, it was rumored that Johnston would run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska—Sarah's old job. No one really cared, and he ended up never formally running because, according to his lawyer, he was "too busy to run," according to CBS News. Since then, Johnston has fathered two more kids. In addition to Tripp Palin, his son with Bristol, he has two daughters with wife Sunny Ogelsby, whom he married in 2012.

So, what has Johnston been up to recently? In 2016, he started a GoFundMe page to pay for his legal bills related to the drawn-out custody battle he and Bristol waged for years, and there were even rumors that he was considering another Playgirl spread "to help with his legal bills." In other words: it's going swell.

The Bone Zone got real weird, real fast

Ken Bone shot to instant stardom thanks to a bright red cable-knit sweater and the everyman appeal he showed with his question about energy policy during a presidential debate between then-candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Following Bone's national TV debut, the memes couldn't come fast enough, which fueled Bone's crossover from internet sensation to mainstream media personality.

But it didn't take long for the internet that once exalted Bone to tear him apart. After his Reddit AMA exposed Bone as a longtime commenter on some of the more unsavory sub-threads of the site—including the infamous "Fappening," which spread leaked nude photos of celebrities online—outlets such as the Daily Beast took a deep dive into Bone's Reddit history. The results were controversial, to say the least. On top of admitting to looking at photos from "The Fappening," Bone allegedly bragged about committing insurance fraud and also felt that Trayvon Martin's death was "justified." Suddenly, nobody wanted to be in the #bonezone anymore.

Bone seems to grasp the fleeting nature of his fame. As of this writing, he's still getting noticed in public, fielding a heavy social media following, and getting requests for media appearances, yet he told CNN, "I'd say in six months, probably the phone just doesn't ring anymore." 

Don't feel bad for Bone. He still ended up cashing in on his viral fame to the tune of around $150,000. "I paid off my car and all my rotating debt. We have a balance in our savings account that we've never really had before," he told CNN. Not too shabby a return on a sweater that retails between $19–$62.99, huh?

The comments section came for Chris Crocker

When Chris Crocker's now infamous "Leave Britney Alone" video went viral it was the year 2007. Viral videos were a thing, but not in the way they are today. The internet was also a way less forgiving place, if you can believe that, especially when it came to LGBTQ issues. In an Instagram post for the video's 10th anniversary, Crocker addressed the effect the video had on him as a young, gay teenager. 

"I was mocked for my femininity. I was called every gay slur in the book. Talk show hosts questioned if I was a man or woman, after playing the clip," he said.

Following his viral stardom, Crocker traveled the path of so many other internet celebrities: modeling, acting, singing, and adult content. He deleted his YouTube page in 2015 and retreated to Facebook in an effort to flee the vicious, anonymous trolling in the comments section. "I would log in and be like, 'Hey guys, here's an update,' and the response would always be 'Go kill yourself,'" he told New York magazine.

All in all, Crocker says he has no regrets. He's still managing a healthy social media following, running his merch store, and continuing his entertainment career. He even has a pretty healthy outlook on his wild, and at times upsetting, decade as a pop culture phenomenon, telling HuffPost in 2016: "We all have to be ourselves, through our own eyes, and tune out the noise of how [other] people see us."

William Hung won't stop believin'

If you hear can hear Ricky Martin's song "She Bangs" from 2000, and you're able to think about something other than a guy in a button-down shirt with awkward dance moves auditioning for American Idol, congratulations—you're one in a million. For the rest of us, it reminds us of William Hung. For a few weeks in early 2004, Hung was everywhere, and it was glorious.

After his appearance on Idol, Hung sat for interviews with all of the biggest talk shows, and Saturday Night Live even parodied him. While he tried really hard to get his music career going—he actually released three albums, one of which was ingeniously titled Hung for the Holidays—it started off with a...bang, but quickly fizzled, according to MTV News. Not only could he really not sing, but the world seemed to have lost its appetite.

According to an August 2017 story in Variety, Hung left his job as a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to become a motivational speaker. He was also seen singing "She Bangs" at a birthday party in Arizona, where he told the local ABC affiliate that he'd like to return to Idol when it comes back on the air. Please, William, for your own sake, let it go, man.

A golden voice, a troubled life

When the world heard Ted Williams talk, it basically stopped us all in our tracks. An Ohio-based journalist discovered him holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road in January 2011. When the video of their interview was posted online, Williams went from being a homeless unknown to a viral sensation overnight. He embarked on a whirlwind press tour, but it was later revealed that Williams — a former drug addict — had developed a significant drinking problem to cope with his newfound fame.

After two stints in rehab and some issues with questionable management allegedly keeping him in the poorhouse despite a lucrative voice work deal with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Williams got his life on track. As of this writing, he is back on the radio with his own gospel program, The Golden Voice Show, and still working for Kraft, as well as Pepsi. He claims he's been sober since 2011, so it seems as long as Williams can stay out of his own way, the world is ready and willing to hear what he has to say.