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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 Huffington'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. The Importance of Being Famous shows us the real world of the big room where the rules that govern mere mortals don't matter--and anonymity is a crime.
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.