Darwin Porter’s celebrity biographies

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Whether you want to admit it or not, there’s a part in all of us that feels a certain pleasure when people who have risen to a higher level of success or notoriety than we have are taken down a peg … or twelve.   This feeling is called “schadenfreude” and it’s the basis for for all of those clicks on TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com, all those times you pretend not to scan the headlines of the tabloids when you’re in the checkout line, and all of those times your computer mouse finds itself going to the “Entertainment” and “Celebrity” sections of your favorite news page.  I’m not putting this practice down.   While it’s a trait not too many people are proud of, it performs a necessary balancing act for our psyches.  When you’re working a job you don’t like to pay for things you don’t need, it’s nice to be reminded those people who we think “have it all,” really don’t.

However, despite the rationalizations indicated above, I find it hard to rationalize why I’m addicted to Darwin Porter’s celebrity biographies.   Forget TMZ.  Forget Albert Goldman.  Forget even Kenneth Anger (the author of the original “Hollywood Babylon,” the Magna Carta of Hollywood sleaze).  Porter’s celebrity biographies are … hands down … the absolute FILTHIEST, DIRTIEST, and SLEAZIEST celebrity biographies you’ll ever read.  I’ve read four of Porter’s bios so far (Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, and Linda Lovelace) and every time I put one of his books down for sleep, I feel like I need one of those Karen Silkwood showers afterwards.  This is because Porter focuses almost exclusively on the sexual lives of his subjects and he goes into extremely explicit detail about the sights, the sounds, and … sometimes … the smells of their sordid private affairs.  Yet, while such details may seem titillating, they actually have the opposite effect.  By the end, you feel like you’ve been ravaged by the entire series run of E! True Hollywood Stories and then abandoned with no cab fare for your efforts.   I realize, of course, these protestations are hollow considering I’ve read four of these damn bios, but like Kyle MacLachlan’s character in “Blue Velvet” keeps going back to see Isabella Rossellini’s troubled character, I keep wandering back to Porter’s books.

Yes, most of Porter’s subjects are dead and therefore, can’t defend themselves.  Yes, you’re a complete moron if you believe 100% of what you read in these books.   However, there’s also the adage that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”   So, if you’re looking for that literary equivalent of hanging out at the bar until closing to find that special someone who will utter the magic words “Why not?”, Porter’s books are the ticket.  As long as you have your bulls–t director on high and have the Comet cleanser close by, you’ll do just fine.  Of course, you’ll go to hell for merely browsing any of these books.   But at least if you’re going to hell for reading a book, Porter makes it worth your while.  Most of his tomes are over 400 pages long and all of them are jam-packed with with nothing but the “bad” (or “good,” depending on how evil you are) stuff you’re looking for.   And … most of them are available digitally … so you can read these books without rousing too much suspicion.  However, please be warned that Porter does love to throw the inappropriate pictures around like many people pass out after-dinner mints.  Like a Whitman’s Sampler of sleaze, you never know what picture might pop up when you turn the page, so be careful reading these books on a plane.

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