Popular culture's interest in celebrities who are no longer popular generally takes one of two forms. Either the formerly famous person is mercilessly mocked or they're treated with condescension and pity. In The Sixteenth Minute
, authors Jeff Guinn and Douglas Perry choose a more interesting direction in profiling people whose proverbial 15 minutes have expired. The subjects, including Irene Cara of, ironically, Fame
, wrestler-turned-novelist Mick Foley, and former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, are left to speak for themselves and discuss what may have brought them to celebrity, what caused them to subsequently fade, and what they intend to do next. In between the individual profiles, the authors take on one of the weirder rises to fame of the 20th century: Melvin Dummar, the aspiring entertainer from Utah listed as a beneficiary in a will purported to be from the late billionaire Howard Hughes.
Life in the 16th minute is not the same for everyone. Cara claims to be glad to be rid of the hype but is still clearly bitter about the movie and recording industries, former heavyweight boxer Gerry Cooney seems to have a much better life as a New Jersey dad than he did as an alcoholic prizefighter, former Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills has channeled his obsessive drive away from baseball and drugs and toward sobriety, and Foley, who loves being a novelist but is apparently not good at it, is continually drawn back to the ring and the fans who made him a star. But Guinn and Perry are wise to give so much room to the story of Dummar, whose constant schemes to achieve fame failed repeatedly but who by accident (or some say design) reached a level of notoriety beyond both his imagination and control. A darkly hilarious section describing Dummar's ill-fated Reno disco revue should be enough to make the reader never wish fame on anyone. --John Moe
Andy Warhol's famous proclamation that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes went from clever aphorism to cliche in, well, about 15 minutes. But what happens after the 15 minutes are over? Here the authors examine the lives of the formerly famous: Maury Wills, the superstar ballplayer who suddenly became a nobody and didn't know how to handle it; Kelly Clarkson, the American Idol
winner who dreamed of being famous all her life and who is doing everything she can to prolong her quarter-hour; and (in several chapters) Melvin Dummar, the subject of the movie Melvin and Howard
, who claimed to be the recipient of a will written by Howard Hughes. Dummar's quest for fame is hands-down the most interesting in the book, mainly because he seems so unaware of his need for notoriety. The authors reflect perceptively on why being famous can be so important, but the book hits its stride when they address the more compelling question: How do we put ourselves back together when the quest for fame has torn us apart? David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved