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Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America's Favorite Addiction Paperback – January 3, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author and NPR commentator Halpern (Braving Home) takes a critical look at Americans' infatuation with fame and determines that fame is elusive, desirable—and also possibly addictive. Noting his own unglamorous background as a "parka-wearing, non-fiction writing, generally unslick guy from Buffalo," and boyhood fascination with the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Halpern then turns his attention to fans, wannabe celebs and the army of journalists, photographers and promoters sustained by the famous. So begins a journey on which the author crashes a cattle call sponsored by the International Modeling and Talent Association, parties with professional celebrity assistants and befriends Rod Stewart's most passionate follower. What Halpern discovers, aided by media experts and psychologists, not surprisingly addresses issues of technology, social power, self-esteem and prestige. The problem is that Halpern, like many of the experts he relies upon, reasons by analogy and ends mostly with speculation. Still, sobering bits come from reading that in 2004 the three major networks' nightly news shows allotted 26 minutes to the conflict in Darfur yet spent 130 minutes covering Martha Stewart's woes. Halpern concludes this engaging study with the obvious: "our obsession with celebrities isn't about them; it's about us and our needs." (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Warning: if you are a devoted viewer of Access Hollywood, or reader of Us Weekly, this may not be the book for you. Halpern, who reports on Hollywood for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, isn't interested in the -smiley-face, upbeat side of fame and fortune. He wants to tell us about the dark side of fame: the schools that teach you how to be a celebrity, the conniving parents behind the scenes, the greed and desperation and humiliation that go hand in hand with being famous. Beyond the celebrities themselves, he's interested in the fame addictions of regular people--the millions who watch American Idol or who seem to care what happens to Paris Hilton or Pamela Anderson. It's not exactly a pleasant book--most of the people in it are either deluded or just unlikable, although there are some shining lights--but the story is illuminating and, in places, shocking. As a cautionary tale, a warning that fame ain't all it's cracked up to be, it well may be indispensable. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (January 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061891871X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618918713
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific ,intelligently written exploration of our fame obsessed culture...Entertaining, engaging book that was simply hard to put down. I am a psychiatric nurse, and I really enjoyed authors' use of newer psychological theories to explain the fenomena of fame obsession.I am passing this book to my friends at work.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up after seeing the long ABC 20/20 segment on it and was hooked within minutes. Jake Halpern unveils the strange and wild obsessions people have with fame. I read his previous book, Braving Home, as well, and immensely enjoyed his writing style. Just like Braving Home, Fame Junkies is a rollicking good read, with compelling characters, situations and insights. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Review by Jill Williamson

As a former fame junkie, the moment I saw this title, I had to buy this book. Nine years living in Burbank, California brought the reality close to home and I was SO over the fake "magic." If you think being famous will make fill your need for love or attention, it won't. It doesn't fill you. It never will. You'll always want more.

The book was fascinating. It covered three areas of fame: kids looking to get famous, celebrity assistants, and fans. None of this surprised me, really, but I'm glad someone put it in book form.
Now I have a book to give to people who are obsessed. Good book, Mr. Halpern. Thanks for writing it. :-)
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Format: Paperback
One of the best compliments I can pay a book is that it sticks with me and comes to mind often as I interact with life. Reading "Fame Junkies" was sometimes disturbing, always revealing, and it has stuck with me. I am not a fan of pop culture to begin with. I have the same problems with it many people do: the rampant consumerism, the inherent shallowness of it all, the oversimplification of necessarily deep concepts, and the outright narcissism. But this book helped me see it all on another level.

The book is split into three basic "takes" on the culture of fame, each of which is full of enlightening interviews, anecdotes, studies, and commentary. It is hard to say I was impressed by one part more than the others, but I continue to think through the act of giving up a "normal" life and career to become an assistant to a star. Halpern does a great job of telling some of those stories and allowing the reader to hear from their own mouths why assistants do what they do.

I have since quit watching any form of celebrity TV. I used to unwind from time to time with a little Leno or Letterman, but now all I see is narcissism. And not just on the part of the "stars" - it is the cash currency of the world of fame. If self-absorption disappeared and humility reigned, well, things would be different for the world of TV, print, and movie media.

In that vein, "Fame Junkies" is a modern tale of the consequences of meaninglessness and vice. The people represented in the book are nice and normal people (for the most part), and they are presented fairly by Halpern, but theirs are cautionary tales. Because their lives seem to lack any over-arching meaning, they seek for it through the fleeting attention paid to them by others. Or in other cases, they live their lives vicariously through the famous.

These are among the morality tales of our culture. Read them and learn.
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Format: Hardcover
An outstanding critique of the celebrity-obsessed subculture that has permeated American life, with some sobering thoughts about why so many people, especially teen-aged girls, have lost their focus on what is real, what is important, and what is really important. This book brings to mind the old Roman proverb about the necessity of providing the masses with "bread and circuses".

A must read for every student of modern American culture and sociology. Parents of teenage children should also peruse this book, if for no other reason than to understand why their daughters prefer People magazine to Scientific American, and their sons watch professional wrestling rather than the evening news.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book evokes one question - why do people want to become famous? The author discovers that most people don't want to be famous for doing something important - the fame itself is what they want, regardless of the reason. This book was written prior to the reality show boom, and it's obvious that the author is right - in our society, fame is a value in itself. Very thought provoking!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting read about how our society is obsessed with fame, celebrity gossip and all things superficial. I thought it was a very interesting read about all of these things. Easy to read, and a fun book.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book and finished it within days ... even though I have a young baby and not much time!

Reading Fame Junkies allows you to be a fly on the wall in all kinds of interesting places, from modeling & talent conventions to the Hollywood apartment complex where hopeful child would-be-stars live with their parents. The book is really a collection of fascinating stories. This is journalism at its best; Halpern gets his subjects to say all kinds of funny and (sometimes unknowingly) insightful things. My favorite: Halpern asks one guy so many questions that he finally snaps, "Where are you from, kid -- Buffalo?" Of course, Halpern *is* from Buffalo.

And the topic could not be more timely: large percentages of young people long for fame, and value being a celebrity over many more worthwhile things like being a leader in their community or being the CEO of a company. After all, we live in a world where kids are constantly told they can "be anything" and are "special." Many of them want to be celebrities, though it's hard to imagine why. So the book is a cautionary tale as well -- we need to think of a way to stop the fame obsession before it gets any worse.
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