Crazy things people do for attention

News Desk in Kuala Lumpur/The Star
Asia News Network

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - Promoting brands and selling products are not the only reasons people pull ¿crazy¿ stunts. Some do it to raise awareness on social issues - think Peta and their nude celebrity campaigns or environmental group Greenpeace with their sometimes dangerous ¿direct actions¿ like blocking whaling ships and breaking into power stations.

Then there are some individuals who make a spectacle of themselves to hype up their image: you might have heard of magician David Blaine and Paris somebody.

Here are some of the crazy things people have done for public attention:

Plank protest

Sure, planking - the act of lying down and doing nothing - is one of the coolest games in the world now but unfortunately, not everyone can look cool doing it.

Bakri MP Er Teck Hwa is one who maybe cannot pull it off.

Unlike most plankers who do it in search of the best picture they can get - the odder the location and the more challenging the situation the better - Er did it to protest against the recent electricity tariff hikes.

As he said, it¿s a non-violent act that can attract attention without having to gather masses of people.

He also created a Facebook page to raise awareness on the issue.

But when it came to the actual act - Er perhaps could have made more of an effort.

Choosing to horizontally balance himself like Superman on a red plastic stool, Er¿s planking picture was less than super. And the response he got was inevitably not as electrifying as hoped - he only got 308 ¿likes¿ on Facebook.

Bombed-out stunt

You must have heard the countless advice after the 911 tragedy - don¿t even joke about bombs or plane hijacks when you are in the United States.

Someone must have forgotten to remind Turner Broadcasting.

To promote its television programme Aqua Teen Hunger Force in 2007, the station put out a number of LED signs - of cute little blinking cartoon figures - on public structures and spaces around Boston.

Worse yet, the marketing company and device designers failed to notify the police about their publicity gimmick, so what was initially intended for creating excitement caused a bomb scare instead.

Luckily, no one from Turner Broadcasting or the agency they hired was arrested or sent to Guantanamo Bay, but the company had to pay millions of dollars to city police and Homeland Security as compensation.

Sex and stars

Despite their privileged backgrounds, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were like thousands of other young girls struggling to break into show business. Until their sex videos were leaked, that is; now they are household names.

Both are celebrities for nothing much other than self-marketing, but they have built successful fashion businesses as well as acting and modelling careers.

Hilton has even been labelled a ¿marketing genius¿ by some - whatever you think of her ¿art¿, you have to admire the way she turned her public humiliation into a multi-million business. Interestingly, ¿leaked¿ sex tapes have also revived the ¿popularity¿ of established celebrities such as Colin Ferrell, wrestler Chyna Doll, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Jones, and the actor who played Mini Me.

In recent times, sexual confessions have also become a favourite publicity hype strategy among celebrities such as ¿I tried lesbianism in college," and " I had a threesome."

All for love

If you can¿t express your love face to face, why not say it in a note?

That was how American high school senior James Tate got the courage to ask his dream girl to the prom recently. Only thing was his choice of note was not so conventional.

With a couple of friends, James snuck out late one night to post his love note - using huge cardboard lettering - on their school wall.

The message read: ¿Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me? HMU - Tate." (HMU means ¿Hit me up¿)

Sonali was amused and promptly accepted. The principal was not as amused, and promptly banned him and his friends from the prom.

His love story, however, blew up on the Internet - a Facebook page titled Let James Tate Go To The Prom was set up and some 200,000 people from all over the country swiftly joined in. The press especially the TV stations, clamoured to interview James.

The school administrators had no choice but to reverse their decision. In the end, James not only got the girl, but also instant fame.

Fiery protest

Threatening to set oneself on fire is one protest stunt that many have also attempted to get attention for their cause or plight.

In 2004, an Iranian man, Gulam Hassan Anwari, tried it outside the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur. He even sent press statements to local journalists to alert them of his planned immolation.

Gulam first applied for asylum in November 2001 but was rejected, and again after a subsequent appeal in 2002. He had been living illegally in Malaysia since and this was his last appeal to get legal papers to stay.

After dousing himself with petrol at the gates of the UN refugee agency, he shouted for the attention of its staff. But before they could respond, he had already set himself ablaze and was instantly engulfed in flames. One of the security guards at the agency managed to put out the fire but sadly it was too late; Gulam died nine hours later from severe burnt injuries.

Naked ambition

There are many strange occupations in the world, but how many people can call themselves professional streakers?

After his 449th streak, the status of Briton Mark Roberts cannot be disputed. Roberts first started in 1993 in Hong Kong after boasting to his friends that ¿anybody can streak¿ during the Rugby 7s tournament.

They were having drinks after attending a rugby game which had been streaked by a girl, and with Roberts¿ drunken proclamations, the hat - or in this case, the clothes - was thrown into the ring. As he recalled his first streak in an interview with celebrity shrink Dr Phil, ¿I went into the stadium and it was like a carnival . . . So when the game started, I jumped on the pitch, stole the ball (from the New Zealand All Blacks) and scored a try. The whole stadium started screaming their heads off and cheering like mad... Even the All Blacks clapped."

He has not looked down much since then and had bared it at the Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl and Wimbledon, among others.

What he likes about disrobing is the ¿fever pitch¿ adrenaline, he has reportedly said.

His advice for aspiring streakers? ¿Time it right so you don¿t interfere with the event and be prepared to spend the night in jail."

And most importantly, ¿don¿t eat spicy food the night before."

Mob and flash

It may have caught on late in Malaysia but it is now one of the more popular attention-grabbing ¿stunts¿ here. Arguably the pioneer flashmobber in Malaysia, Zain HD says he looks at the current climate before deciding on an ¿activity¿.

¿I try to identify what most people are used to (at that point in time) and what their level of surprise is. I then think of actions that would sufficiently surprise them, but to not overdo it. "

He believes that most Malaysians do not respond well to physical contact, things that involve the head, foot, or animals. If you choose to include them in your stunt, he adds, it can be ¿bizarre, but that might not get you results that link to your actual objective."

Zain, who in 2008 founded Random Alphabets, a non-profit arts collective that organises guerrilla and flash mob events via social media to bring people together, expanded into corporate marketing with the setting up of Wago Sdn Bhd. the following year.

The strangest event he has has ever organised, he says, is KL Freeze in Unison, which aimed at promoting unity by bringing Malaysians from all walks of life together, but only because it was new when he first organised it here.

¿At that time, April 2008, KL Freeze was very strange. A large number of strangers stopped moving simultaneously for a few minutes, unannounced, in a shopping mall. It was effective in the subconscious objective of bringing people together and in the egalitarian message we wanted to put out."