William Hung upholds a terrible tradition

He's so bad, he's famous -- and the rotten singer has lots of company

For the Record

April 11, 2004|By Alexandra Fenwick | Alexandra Fenwick,Sun Staff

Of the legions of untalented singers who try out for American Idol every year, William Hung was quite possibly the absolute worst. Which, of course, has made him famous -- leading to TV exposure, a recording contract (his new CD, Inspiration, is just out) and a fan club.

Hung, though, is far from the first to rise to fame through awfulness or embarrassment. Many mediocre types have garnered a share of the limelight thanks to their abysmal lack of talent or lack of shame. Here are some of the best of the worst:

* Tiny Tim: He rose to fame in the 1960s performing his signature song, "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips," in a grating falsetto to the high-pitched twang of a ukulele. His marriage on The Tonight Show in 1969 was second only to the Apollo moon landing in viewership for that year. He died of a heart attack performing "Tip-Toe" in 1996.

* Eddie Edwards: A plasterer by trade, "Eddie the Eagle" became one of sports' best-loved losers as the untrained British ski jumper -- and last-place finisher -- in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Adoring fans considered the gutsy amateur the incarnation of true Olympic spirit. Olympic officials disagreed; in 1990 they instituted the "Eddie the Eagle Rule," requiring participants to have finished in the top half of an international competition. Eddie still parlayed his fame into a Hollywood movie deal and product endorsements that helped pay his way through law school.

* Paris Hilton: The party-hopping socialite and heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune has long had her own dubious brand of fame. But it wasn't until a pornographic video featuring her popped up on the Internet that she really hit it big. Hilton quickly learned to take the scandal in stride. And why not? It sent the ratings for her reality series, The Simple Life, skyrocketing. She's now taping a sequel.

* Cris Judd: He was wed to pop super star Jennifer Lopez for a grand total of seven months, but no one really knew his name until their marriage crashed and burned. Judd, a background dancer plucked out of the shadows by J-Lo, won the grand prize in ABC's reality television show I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here! and has since made headline mileage with his embittered accounts of married life with the ex-Mrs. Judd.

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