In the 1950s, Confidential magazine, America's first celebrity scandal magazine, revealed Hollywood stars' secrets, misdeeds, and transgressions in gritty, unvarnished detail. Deploying a vast network of tipsters to root out scandalous facts about the stars, including their sexual affairs, drug use, and sexuality, publisher Robert Harrison destroyed celebrities' carefully constructed images and built a media empire.
Confidential became the bestselling magazine on American newsstands in the 1950s, surpassing Time, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post.
Confidential's spectacular rise was followed by an equally spectacular fall. Stars filed multimillion dollar libel suits against the magazine, and the state of California, prodded by the film studios, prosecuted its publisher for obscenity, culminating in a famous, star-studded Los Angeles trial in 1957. The lawsuits forced Confidential to end its scandalmongering, and stopped printing its sleazy gossip in 1958. However, the magazine's legacy lives on in our culture's obsession with gossip and celebrity scandal.
This is Confidential's story, how the magazine revolutionized celebrity culture and American society in the 1950s and beyond.