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Unlikely celebrity in pickle of a crash

Published on 27/02/2004

27 February 2004

HAMBURG – A skinny Bavarian teenager crashed a car into the side of a truck loaded with dill pickles this week in an incident that would not have attracted attention except for the fact that the 18-year-old driver was Daniel Kueblboeck.

Now hordes of news crews are clamouring outside a hospital in Passau for medical updates on the teen – who suffered nothing more serious than a cuts and bruises and a dislocated shoulder in his encounter with several thousand pickle jars.

Pimply-faced and gangly, garishly clad and bespectacled, the kid with a name that even Germans find hard to pronounce is the nation’s most unlikely celebrity.

Parlaying a squeaky singing voice and a campy sense of brash self- hype into a showbiz career, Kueblboeck enthrals millions of fans – mostly housewives and pre-adolescent girls. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation watches his on-stage antics in baffled dismay at his blatant lack of any recognisable talent.

In less than a year he has risen from schoolboy obscurity to national stardom with a hit song, advertising contracts and public appearances marked by hordes of screaming fans.

A TV network’s viewership survey of the “top 100 Germans in history” recently ranked Kueblboeck 16th – ahead of such luminaries as Ludwig van Beethoven and Albert Schweitzer.

But when another a nationally televised show asked viewers to pick the 100 “personalities who get on our nerves most” – Kueblboeck topped the list.

His meteoric rise to fame began last spring with the German version of the “American Idol” TV show. His awkward attempts at dancing and his warbling singing voice resulted in him coming in only third during the finals.

But his eccentricity and his candid disclosures of sexual exploits with both men and women brought him continued tabloid press exposure. In the end, the slight, scraggly-haired, young man with trademark black-rimmed glasses and thick Bavarian accent became a bigger celebrity than the TV show’s actual winner.

Similarly, Kueblboeck stole the show from older and more experienced stars when he was plunked down in a rain forest in Australia in the German version of “I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here”.

Once again, he failed to win the jackpot. But once again, his over-the-top histrionics made him the most memorable celeb on the show.

It became clear early on in the show that thousands of home viewers were casting phone-in votes for Kueblboeck in hopes of seeing him shriek and writhe whilst being tormented by eels, spiders and myriad other pests during the show’s pre-set trials for celebrity contestants.

“The viewers keep voting for me just because they know I’ll scream and carry on,” he sobbed once after having been selected to be buried alive in a transparent coffin crawling with 30,000 cockroaches.

“But I’ll show them,” he added tearfully. “I’ll pull myself together and prove that I’m not a sissy or a crybaby.”

In the wake of that TV show, Kueblboeck recently released his vocal version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on the Ariola label and was to have launched a publicity tour in Luxembourg on Thursday.

He was at the wheel of a car at Passau Tuesday that collided with a truck-transport, crushing the driver’s side of the car. Police said the 18-year-old celebrity had no driver’s license.

“The good news, for Kueblboeck fans, is that Daniel will soon resume his career where he left off,” a reporter on RTL television said.

“The bad news, for those who loathe Kueblboeck, is that Daniel will soon resume his career where he left off.”

Subject: German news