For years I knew this man simply as "James Brown," because that's what he usually prefers to be called. He led a very marginal existence, sometimes homeless, always begging for cash on the streets of Lexington, and often engaging in confrontationally surreal conversations with passersby. For years "James" was a figure alternately feared and beloved by locals for his antics.
Imagine my surprise, then, when he suddenly became world famous, thanks to attention given him on television by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and a plethora of websites canonizing him for his mile-long arrest record and unorthodox mugshots.
It's a peculiar defensive trait we Kentuckians have: now that every net-geek and frat boy on the planet was yukkin' it up about "that funny homeless guy from Kentucky", most of us suddenly felt a bit offended. "You can't make fun of Henry! He's our crazy street person!"
Though I was initially angry that this man was being held up to worldwide ridicule (mostly without his knowledge) simply for comedy's sake on a TV program, I lightened up when I saw the effect Henry's newfound fame was having: people were suddenly showering him with money, food and gifts, and his sudden popularity with local college students softened any rough edges of his personality. I guess like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
I haven't seen him in a couple years and I don't know what he's up to now, but I'm glad Henry got more than his fifteen minutes of fame. He deserves more, though, and under better circumstances.