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Intimate Strangers: Comic Profiles and Indiscretions of the Very Famous Paperback – November 26, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; First edition. edition (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385333749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385333740
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,955,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I do not believe in celebrity," declares Zehme at the beginning of this rousing collection from the last two decades. It's an odd statement coming from the man who more or less perfected the Art of the Celebrity Profile, but it's also the key to Zehme's success. As these pieces show, Zehme has a knack for humanizing demigods like Madonna and Frank Sinatra, luring them down from Olympus (i.e., Beverly Hills) to eat lunch and go shopping just like real people. Thus readers learn that Sharon Stone enjoys bacon and guns; Woody Allen likes wearing hats even though they don't suit him; and Jerry Seinfeld consumes monstrous portions of Cheerios. The stars apparently like Zehme's warts-and-all approach; after all, he notes wryly, publicists keep returning his calls, even after he decimates a celebrity in print (as he did with his mocking Rolling Stone profile of Arnold Schwarzenegger, filled with choppy, intentionally banal sentences like "Arnold drives a Humvee" and "Arnold shames all men."). Zehme here proves himself a master of his craft; his 1990 article on Warren Beatty, the "ultimate Impossible Interview," should be taught in journalism schools as a textbook way to overcome a difficult subject. Similarly, aspiring infotainment writers should read Zehme's Heather Graham interview, in which he self-loathingly deconstructs celebrity journalism. Obviously, trading scatological jokes with Howard Stern isn't rocket science; Zehme freely admits that his profession is "both essential and ridiculous." Nevertheless, the American public has a seemingly insatiable appetite for this kind of work, and as this collection demonstrates, Zehme does it better than anybody.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Here are two quirky and entertaining collections of celebrity profiles. Since 1993, The Onion's entertainment section, "The Onion A.V. Club," has regaled millions with its profiles of artists and entertainers whose stars are not necessarily on the media ascendant. Section editor Thompson has culled some 68 of them from the last decade, arranged by tone into ten chapters. The dazzling diversity of entertainers and personalities on parade includes Merle Haggard, Elvira, Bob Barker, Joan Jett, James Elroy, Jello Biafra, Ron Jeremy (discussing his penis size), Mr. T., "Weird Al" Yankovic, The Unknown Comic, Henry Rollins (from whom the title is derived), and, wonderfully, Tom Lehrer. Repeated interviews with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the brain trust of HBO's beautiful Mr. Show, and occasional observations from "Weird Al" provide a throughline. An excellent choice for all libraries. Zehme (Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman), writes director Cameron Crowe in his foreword, is "the King of the First Sentence." Journalist to the stars for the past 20 years, he has accrued an amazing list of celebrity profile credits in, among other high-profile magazines, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, and Spy. The 25 reprinted pieces collected here, all of which are introduced by Zehme with trenchant comments and observations, reveal his playful irreverance, openly breezy style, and talent for turning guarded deified personalities inside out. If The Onion favors stars whose A-list status has waned, Zehme's milieu is the rarefied air of the most famous, and so we are fated to spend time with the likes of Sinatra, Seinfeld, Letterman, Leno, Schwarzenegger, Madonna, and Howard Stern. Despite its racey and promising subtitle, Zehme prefers to dish rather than dis. More often than not, in fact, he is openly sympathetic with his charges. Fun, informative, and dead-on perfect for insatiable stargazers.
Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Nobody touches Zehme in this realm--he's the master. Look at the preface here written by Cameron Crowe--who got started writing for Rolling Stone--and you'll understand what Zehme means to his contemporaries. The genesis of his great Sinatra book--THE WAY YOU WEAR YOUR HAT--begins this book, a piece called AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, which is a gorgeous lament to a lost era, starting with the death of Dean Martin. He makes the famous more human, often hilariously so, than any writer I know. And the Leno-Letterman saga--covering his 20 years of knowing both of them--is essential to all late-night-heads. All of this stuff is just amazing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 19, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zehme is the kind of writer who inspires other writers to boldly break new ground in their own work -- or to simply give up, get jobs in the food service industry, and spend their lunch breaks puzzling over how he does it. Intimate Strangers (very clever title), is a primer's primer in both style and substance, not to mention as real as it gets when writing about cultural icons. Zehme takes his work seriously, his subjects not seriously at all, and manages to make each piece seriously funny because there is never a crack in his conceit that these people merit the serious treatment they would give themselves, if only they could write the stories as well as be the subjects. Zehme punctures and lacerates and shows you the cracks in their pancake makeup with a verbal dexterity that would, to mix metaphors, make a slight-of-hand magician jealous. And yet it's not all about bringing down his subjects a peg or two or ten. Zehme also manages to write most lovingly and authentically about those icons like Manilow, etc. who suffer in the media because -- despite huge popularity -- no one cool takes them seriously. Zehme gives these folks their due as the truly cool.
Intimate Strangers is entertaining and provocative from start to finish, with a point of view seen nowhere else, except perhaps in a celebrity's mirror in the morning when they come face to face with their inner faker and know the truth.
A wonderful book. And now, I have to go because lunch is over and I have to get back to flipping hamburgers.
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By DBW on November 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bill Zehme, one of the premier magazine writers of this era, is at his best in this compilation of pieces from Esquire, Rolling Stone, Playboy and other publications.
The book gets off to an ideal start with a 1996 Esquire piece on Frank Sinatra. Zehme's portrait of The Chairman of the Board as a wise old man who wants to impart his knowledge to future generations is never pretentious for a second, as Zehme keeps us mindful of the man's swagger, and the validity of many of his insights.
A 1998 look at Hugh Hefner is nice, touching just enough on his vulnerability without trying to make us feel sorry for someone who has lived out the fantasies of most American men.
A Rolling Stone article on Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1991 might be the strongest in the book, taking note of the actor's impact on other males within the context of the "Iron John" movement that had gained so much notoriety at the time, but doing it in a way that makes fun of the basic absurdity of his image.
Another standout is a 1989 Rolling Stone profile of Eddie Murphy, which reads to some degree like an extension of Murphy's rants from his concert film "Raw." Most of the piece is done as a Q&A, as Zehme is aware that the candidness and charisma of his subject lend itself to that kind of treatment.
The material on the Jay Leno-David Letterman feud is, for all intents and purposes, the denouement of the collection, and it's welcome here as the definitive portrait of both men, and the issues involved in Letterman's defection to CBS, outside of Bill Carter's "The Late Shift."
For journalists, as Cameron Crowe points out in his foreword, the mere study of Zehme's leads is rewarding enough.
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By A Customer on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one helluva package, journalistically speaking. Got it for Christmas from a pal and read it over the holidays. Showbiz writing usually eats it, but Zehme's work, much to my delight, doesn't eat it at all. Not even a tiny bit. In comedy slang, it kills. These pieces aren't simply written, they're meticulously crafted, surprisingly insightful and packed with intimate, often hilarious details. Sinatra, Beatty and Manilow are especially great. And Seinfeld, too. And Letterman. And Hef. Hell, they're all worth reading. Zehme even makes Heather Graham interesting, and that's nothing short of miraculous. Snap this one up right away!
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