Saturday, April 14, 2012

Purple prose. Scarlet sirens.

When it comes to gossip, I am neophobic. Old is gold for this old timer. You may have noticed my predilection here, here, here, and, here too To indulge in my fondness for time-tested gossip, I recently breezed through two books of the canon. Truth to tell I had bought them both in the US in spring 2010 and devoured them hungrily post haste. Both the books deal with Hollywood’s dirty linen and scrumptious scandal of mid-20th century vintage. Of the two, Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon (Dell Publishing, 1981) is the so-called “legendary underground classic of Hollywood’s darkest and best kept secrets”. Anger’s angry and frenzied – though unauthenticated − narrative rips along merrily into the innards of the studio system, spilling rumours and innuendos galore and generally playing havoc with the filmdom’s carefully crafted propagandistic iconography. An entire chapter of Hollywood Babylon (Con Game) is devoted to the brief but sensational career of the tabloid that spawned the celeb-centric yellow-journalism culture. Confidential was its name. It trashed exalted reputations willy-nilly spreading terror in the hearts of the denizens of tinsel town for a span of no more than five years. It opened shop in New York in 1952 and folded for all practical purposes in 1957. The second book of the canon I ran through recently was Henry E Scott’s Shocking True Story (Pantheon Books, New York, 2010). A real page turner it is – fully living up to its subtitle: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, “America’s Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine”. Trying to live up to its don’t-give-a-damn motto: “Tells the Facts and Names the Names”, Confidential spawned an entire tabloid, paparazzi sub-culture whose banner is kept flying today by the likes of People, E! Online, Ok! and TMZ.