1 9 8 4 (USA)
3 x 100 minute episodes
A gunshot is fired in a small cabin outside Fort Worth. Inside are three lifelong friends: Kleber Cantrell, Mack Crawford and TJ Luther. One of them is dead, one critically wounded, one suspected of murder.
That is the dramatic opening of Celebrity, the blockbuster miniseries shown over three nights and based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Thompson.
Celebrity was packed with just about every soap opera device – and vice – imaginable: jealousy, madness, homosexuality, violence, sex, stardom, evangelism and – in a story full of twists of fate – a sensational nail-biting murder trial ending.
The scene in the cabin was the bloody outcome of a secret the three ‘golden boys’ had kept for 25 years. At high school in Texas – where they were known as ‘The Three Princes’ – a heavy night of drinking had turned to violence with a brutal attack on a teenage girl. As they grew up and lived out the promise of their success, the secret haunted their lives.
Kleber Cantrell (Ben Masters) was the ‘prince of power’, the born leader, the ambitious boy voted ‘most likely to succeed’, who became a world-famous journalist and scooped everybody with an interview with the widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy’s assassin.
The ‘prince of charms’, McKenzie ‘Mack’ Crawford (Joseph Bottoms) was voted ‘most handsome’ and ‘best all-round athlete’ at high school, a golden boy who became a film sex symbol but who had problems living out that role away from the screen.
The ‘prince of temptation’, TJ Luther (Michael Beck) was a smooth-talking, hard-luck hustler who found God and ended up as a “faith-healer” and the flamboyant leader of a controversial cult.
District Attorney Calvin Sledge (Hal Holbrook) and Assistant DA Martha Dalton (Jennifer Warren) delved into the trio’s past in an attempt to unravel the mystery of the shooting.
With its steamy Texas milieu and the turbulent gist of it all, the miniseries received enormous acclaim when it was aired in the US in 1984. It aired in the UK over three nights on ITV in April 1985.
The novel Celebrity brought author Thomas Thompson everything he had always chased after – money, fame, attention and a little taste of stardom. He became a celebrity himself and openly enjoyed it.
The crowning glory for Thompson came just after his novel hit the best-sellers list in 1982, when it was bought for TV – something he had hoped for all his books. But the fortune and celebrity came too late for the tough reporter and genial giant of a man (he was 6′ 3″). By October 1982 he was dead from liver cancer at the age of 49.
McKenzie ‘Mack’ Crawford
Assistant DA Martha Dalton
DA Calvin Sledge
Uncle Bun Luther
Jeffie – Age 11
Benjamin Leighton Armstrong