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Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America's Favorite Addiction Hardcover – December 11, 2006
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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. :-)
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.