Cover image for The importance of being famous : behind the scenes of the celebrity-industrial complex
The importance of being famous : behind the scenes of the celebrity-industrial complex
Orth, Maureen.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, [2004]

Physical Description:
372 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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E169.02 .O75 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E169.02 .O75 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Vanity Fair's veteran special correspondent pulls back the curtain on the world of celebrity and those who live and die there Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth always makes news. From Hollywood to murder trials to the corridors of politics, this National Magazine Award winner covers lives led in public, on camera, in the headlines. Here she takes us close-up into the world of fame-bridging entertainment, politics, and news-and the lives of those who understand the chemistry, the very DNA, of fame and how to create it, manipulate it, sustain it. Moving from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Michael Jackson, the ultimate child/monster of show business, Orth describes our evolution from a society where talent attracted attention to a place where the star-making machinery of the "celebrity-industrial complex" shapes, reshapes, and sells its gods (and monsters) to the public.From divas letting their hair down (Tina Turner) to Little Gods (Woody Allen and Princess Diana's almost father-in-law Mohammed Fayed), political theater (Arnold's Hollywood hubris, Arianna Huttington's guru-guided gubernatorial quest), news-gone-soap-opera ( I Love Laci ), and even the Queen Mother of reinvention (Madonna as dominatrix/children's-book author), Orth delivers a portrait of an era. She shows us the real world of the big room where the rules that govern mere mortals don't matter-and anonymity is a crime.

Author Notes

Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth always breaks news. Her career, which began in the 1970s, when she became one of Newsweek's first women writers, has taken the National Magazine Award winner from Washington to Hollywood, from London to Latin America, from political skullduggery, to murder investigations, to the world of high fashion. Orth lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Tim Russert, of NBC News, and their son, Luke

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Orth's first book, Vulgar Favors (1999), offered a perceptive look at serial killer Andrew Cunanan and the society that nurtured him. Her follow-up provides an equally perceptive look at celebrities and the society that nurtures them. Collecting a number of her Vanity Fair essays (with new bridging material), the book takes us inside the worlds of such notables as singer Tina Turner, author Arianna Huffington, Sein Fein president Gerry Adam, and, again, murderer Cunanan. The book's variety reinforces the idea that celebrity has many meanings, and Orth's work--in-depth, broad ranging, free of sensationalism--reminds us that the celebrity profile doesn't have to be a fawning puff piece. One of the essays here reconnects nicely to today's headlines: a 1994 profile of Michaelackson discussing the child-molestation charge that was pending against him then. Ultimately, though, this book doesn't need to rely on current events to make its mark. Orth's subject is the phenomenon of celebrity, an ever-newsworthy topic, and her graceful handling of it should ensure a wide readership. --David Pitt Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Vanity Fair columnist Orth calls the world of celebrity a war zone of million-dollar monsters and million-dollar spin. She proves her thesis through a series of lacerating essays and interviews exposing personalities who'll "sacrifice everything including, sometimes, their lives, to be famous." Orth views the Laci Peterson saga as America's number one reality soap opera and examines the media's hysterical need to provide alternative scenarios about the case just to keep the story in the news. The author is witty, probing and painfully candid in her sympathetic piece about the violence Tina Turner suffered under Ike Turner's brutal control, but argues that Turner endured the beatings so long because of her own desire to be successful. Orth also uses icons Judy Garland, Madonna and Michael Jackson as examples of stars who portray themselves as victims to hold the limelight. The need for fame encompasses a "contact high," demonstrated by money manager Dana Giacchetto, who was convicted for defrauding his "less famous accounts-the A-minus or B-plus list-so as not to lose face with the A-plusers." Even more grisly is Orth's account of Andrew Cunahan, who shot Gianni Versace and then himself, hoping for worldwide attention and immortality. Orth dissects such diverse personalities as Margaret Thatcher, Woody Allen, Karl Lagerfeld and, poignantly, Dame Margot Fonteyn, who sadly reflects, "I have lived my life in what I call the empty hotel room." Orth combines merciless clarity with compassion in analyzing her power-hungry and tragic subjects. Agent, Amanda Urban. (May 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



From The Importance of Being Famous : I tell these stories to illustrate the differences between then and now and maybe to point out a little of what has been lost. In my earlier days, stories about famous people were still mostly about their achievements, the content of their work, and how it got done. Michael Jackson dangling his baby from a hotel balcony would have been considered a tragedy or an oddity, but the scene would not have been replayed hundreds of times a day on TV at a moment when the country was preparing for war. But now, with so much entertainment just pap and politician's insights boiled down to trite sound bites, we tend to hone in on the drama of our stars' and politicians' real lives. Their reality has become the soap opera, the big show. Even if it's clearly a rigged-up carnival. (Would Nicole Kidman, who has now proven herself as a serious actress, be getting all the terrific parts she does if she hadn't also made herself into mass-marketable tabloid fodder as Mrs. Ex-Tom Cruise?) But what parts of these well-crafted little dramas are actually real and which are invented for public consumption? Excerpted from The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex by Maureen Orth All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: I Love Laci: Welcome to America's Number One Reality Soap Operap. 1
Part I The DNA of Fame: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex Ip. 15
Proud Tina: Tina Turner "Nothin' evah is nice and easy"p. 29
No Way to Treat a Lady: Margaret Thatcher "I have never been defeated by the people"p. 45
Part II Reinventions, Second Acts, Grand Finales: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex IIp. 59
The Diva Lets Her Hair Down: Madonna "I will not feel this pain in my heart"p. 69
The Emperor's New Clothes: Karl Lagerfeld "I was spoiled. I hated the idea of being a child. They all had slave parts. I had no need for company"p. 83
Desperately Striving Susan: Susan Gutfreund "It's a ball-buster, n'est-ce pas?"p. 97
Cult Favorite: Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington "I can be cruel. Of course, I am trying to improve myself every day"p. 107
Part III Political Theater: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex IIIp. 123
The Rich Is Different: Denise Rich and Pardongate "All I thought at the time was, okay, he's the father of my children"p. 131
Revolutionary War: Gerry Adams "I can only describe this as a killing zone"p. 151
The Secret Agent: Vladimir Putin "Of course, power should be, in a way, mysterious and magic"p. 171
Quien Es Mas Macho? Carlos Menem "It's really the country that needs the ambulance"p. 193
Part IV Little Gods: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex IVp. 213
No Laughing Matter: Woody Allen and Mia Farrow "Little gods don't have to do what everybody else does"p. 221
Show Me the Money: Dana Giacchetto "What Dana turned into was a nightclub-crawling, Prada-suit-wearing boy"p. 237
King Harrod: Mohamed Fayed "They think I'm a wog"p. 255
Full-Dress Homicide: Andrew Cunanan "Thank you for remembering, Signor Versace"p. 277
Part V Fame and Infamy: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex Vp. 301
Report from the Planet Michael: Michael Jackson "He hasn't been cleared of anything!"p. 307
Part VI The Empty Hotel Room: Notes from the Celebrity-Industrial Complex VIp. 353
Last Dance: Dame Margot Fonteyn "I have spent an awful lot of time in what I call the empty hotel room"p. 357
Acknowledgmentsp. 369