chapter  4
22 Pages

FABRICATING/FAME

After Jean-François Gravelet's first crossing in 1859, he repeated the stunt with variations: blindfolded, in a sack, pushing a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man on his back, and while preparing an omelet. Few people outside his inner circle of friends knew much of Blondin's love life, his personal preferences, nor probably even where he lived. Newspapers and journals had been around since the early 1800s. In the absence of radio and television, fame was disseminated via the publications. The invention of the rotary press in the 1840s and the construction of newswire services both quickened the rate at which reports could be made available and broadened the scope of circulations. Stories of artists behaving badly had become almost a sub-field of journalism. Decorum was preserved by presenting these as having genuine "human interest," a euphemism for voyeuristic appeal. Richard deCordova offers the thought that audiences were fascinated by the secrets of the stars, especially salacious secrets.