I've looked into the often seedy, rarely happy post-fame lives of former internet celebrities not once, not twice, not thrice ... well, actually, it's been thrice. But counting today, it'll be four times (frice?). Most of you know how this works, but for those who don't: These people were plucked out of obscurity, turned into memes, and became mega internet famous. What I'm answering today is, what happened next? What happened when their 15 minutes were up? Usually something terrible that makes us all feel better about our own lives, to be honest.
Got it? Cool. Let's begin with the first non-human to make it into this series ...
#5. The IKEA Monkey Was Legally Taken Away From His Owner, Lives In A Sanctuary
The Kennedy assassination. 9/11. The death of Bin Laden. We all remember where we were during those moments when the drama of real life made us feel the blow of history unfolding before us. The IKEA Monkey is one of those moments. At least, that's the way every overzealous asshole on the internet treated it when the news broke. You'd think that monkey had figured out cold fusion. Instead it was wearing a coat, shopping for new unpronounceable Swedish furniture after it somehow achieved freedom when its owner left it in the car while shopping in a Toronto-area IKEA. The story of the IKEA Monkey wasn't this single event, though. It was a saga.
"I can't believe I'm here to announce the capture of a goddamn monkey in a coat."
IKEA Monkey's name is Darwin. He's a Japanese macaque. Macaques of any nationality are considered exotic animals and cannot be owned as pets in Canada. So when Darwin escaped, he brought a lot of unwanted attention to his owner, a woman named Yasmin Nakhuda, who thought of Darwin as her child, like pet owners tend to do. Darwin was picked up by animal services and placed in a primate sanctuary the day after he made his worldwide debut in that IKEA. A contentious and lengthy legal battle ensued.
Nakhuda claimed the sanctuary had no right to seize Darwin. The sanctuary's lawyers fired back with the brilliant "Um, no" counter-argument and then cited a legal doctrine called ferae naturae, which states that wild animals are owned by whomever is in possession of them. The lawyers reached back more than a century to cite a case where a fox escaped its owner's home and was shot by a neighbor on the neighbor's lawn, which meant the neighbor technically owned the fox when he killed it, therefore making that all right somehow. Look, people were dumb back then, as we still are today, because the sanctuary was awarded the right to keep Darwin. He's having the time of his life in the sanctuary.
People made him look like Bane because Bane wore a coat too. Jesus Christ.
Nakhuda was left cold and monkeyless ... until she waved two defiant middle fingers at the Canadian justice system by buying herself two brand-new (and still illegal) Japanese macaques.
#4. The "Dancing Pumpkin Head" Guy's Son Thinks His Dad Is Awesome
Matt Geiler was a news anchor for Omaha, Nebraska's CW affiliate, KXVO. He ran an anti-news news show and had to fill 22 minutes of airtime every night. He'd often resort to silly stunts and sketches to kill time. On Halloween night, his show had a two-minute gap that needed filling. Geiler took a jack-o'-lantern from the studio lobby, grabbed a black unitard from wardrobe, and fashioned the jack-o'-lantern into a mask by cutting it in half and rigging a coat hanger to act as a head strap. He told the producers to play the Ghostbusters theme song and toss a picture of a spooky graveyard scene on the green screen. He was going to dance those two minutes away. Geiler is a pro, goddammit.
And so, he danced. He danced like no one was watching. Since it was a CW affiliate in Omaha, it's very likely that no one was watching. There was no glory in it. He uploaded the video to the show's YouTube channel, and that was that. Just another day on the job. And then it became a viral hit for reasons every one of his sweet, sexually enticing dance moves makes abundantly clear.
Who ya gonna call? Ghostpunchers!
That was 2006. YouTube was only about a year old. The concept of a viral video star was in its infancy. Matt Geiler had no idea people would love his silly dance. He had no idea that people would mash up his dance with an array of songs and other memes. Here's a playlist of some of them.
Pumpkin dance to "Thong Song."
Pumpkin dance to a "Spooky Scary Skeletons" remix.
Pumpkin dance mashed up with the Epic Sax Guy.
Want to see his dance sync phenomenally well with a track from the indie video game Undertale? Here you go:
So what's the dark twist of his post-viral fame? That's what's great about Geiler's story: It doesn't have one. No downward spiral into dancing with the pumpkin mask for food or the sexual pleasure of Russian oligarchs. There isn't much to say about his life today, save for one heartwarming detail. At 12 years old, his son performed his dad's dance at a middle school talent show. That same son regularly seeks out cheap imitations of his dad's dance that people have posted online and corrects commenters who think it's the original video. He isn't embarrassed or ashamed of his father. He's proud to say that his dad was the guy in the pumpkin mask dancing like an idiot just to kill some airtime. What a great kid.
#3. The Hot Felon Is Going To Be A Star. Maybe.
The story of the felon whose mugshot looks like a Calvin Klein cologne ad can be best told through his talent agent, Jim Jordan. Jordan is what's called a "mother agent." He finds raw talent, trains the client in the ways of the entertainment industry, and then sells the client off to the highest-bidding agent. Jordan gets a cut of their profits.
Jordan after getting his head stuck in an airplane toilet.
Jeremy Meeks is the hot felon's real name. Jordan found out about him the same way we all did -- as a viral picture attached to an unfortunate story. Meeks was arrested on felony weapons charges on June 18, 2014. The police department posted his mugshot on Facebook. Within 20 hours it had gained over 300,000 likes and 65,000 comments. The picture had the shit memed out of it. It was massive on Reddit, it was all over Facebook, and nightly newscast editorial teams all over the country thought they deserved Pulitzers for pairing the picture with the caption "Criminally Good Looking." Where the public saw a funny viral phenomenon, Jordan saw a business opportunity.
"Hello, Wall Street? Jim Jordan here. I'd like to stock market $10 billion
on Hot Felon memes, please."
Jordan signed Meeks to a contract while he was still serving time in federal prison. According to the writer of this New York Magazine profile of Meeks, Jordan is somewhat reminiscent of Donald Trump. Everything he says seems like it's been shamelessly embellished so he can project the image of a more successful and glamorous life than he actually has. Meeks hasn't done much since he was released. He got some job offers, and now he can replace that mugshot with an actual headshot:
He's on house arrest, so he models from his car in his driveway.
But if you really want to know what the future holds for Meeks, just look at the people who surround him now that he's out of prison. Specifically, Jim Jordan. I've introduced you to him, and now you will read his origin story, which I've copied and pasted directly from New York Magazine:
About a decade ago, in the wake of some "gnarly spiritual stuff" that culminated in a scene where Jordan found himself huddled in a fetal position on the floor of a Malibu church, speaking in tongues, while Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock watched from across the aisle, he had a Christian awakening. "And I started, like, going out into the world and looking to where need was," he tells me. "And you know, some people are like, I want to go to Haiti, and I want to go to Thailand, and I want to get orphans, and I want to get prostitutes off the street," he says. "I realized that my heart was to help beautiful people. This is my mission."
If that doesn't reassure you that Jeremy Meeks in is good hands, perhaps this will: Meeks also has an "entertainment manager" who is a former porn star and whose clients include Honey Boo Boo and Octomom.
Godspeed, you beautiful felon.