According to the article, culture is essential for human life and has the capacity to shape our lives in a number of ways.
With this in mind, it is clear that culture plays an integral role in our society.
The celebrity profile is adept at creating a sense of familiarity and closeness. We read it, and it feels as if we have been let into the celebrity’s private thoughts and bag.
Nonetheless, no new knowledge is gained from this. We delight in these profiles as they validate our pre-existing beliefs.
There is no other genre that so aptly puts together the aspects of fame, playing to our wish to view our idol as an ordinary person, yet also completely different from us – both the girl next door and a divine being.
To sum up, it is incredibly mundane.
The celebrity profile is an essential part of the media industry, as it is used to market the celebrity’s image and the values they represent.
For example, a profile of Robert Downey Jr. would emphasize the aspects of his image that have been carefully constructed, such as his resilience, friendliness, and past of partying.
Similarly, a profile of Jennifer Lawrence would work to prove that her comedic, laid-back persona is not just a show, but her true self.
Many profiles strive to keep the celebrity’s message consistent; Ryan Gosling is portrayed as thoughtful while George Clooney is seen as charming.
An article from Confidential Magazine, from March 1957, is depicted in the accompanying image.
The secret to success is to make it seem as if the profile is not promoting something.
It’s just a casual conversation between buddies, or an unplanned journey to the desert to get a bit buzzed, take part in some “honest talk” which reveals the celebrity’s most desirable qualities, and progress to a discussion of their upcoming project.
This omission is vital to the overall celebrity process: we desire to think that these celebrities give of themselves willingly, not out of an economic need.
For many years, there has been a conflict between self-promotion and the concealment of the sales process in celebrity profiles.
In the late 20th and early 21st century, these profiles have returned to the style of classic
Hollywood, when the studios searched for young and adaptable talent, packaged it, labeled it with a pre-determined type and sold it to the American public in a well-controlled way.
In classic Hollywood, the publicity machine—including fan magazines and gossip columnists—collaborated with movie studios.
A pre-approved profile was created based on biographical facts from the studio and alleged quotes from the star, and then disseminated to the public.
As an example, Adela Rogers St. Johns wrote a 1928 Photoplay profile of silent-movie star Clara Bow over three months and twenty-two pages, billing it as “the touching human document of a tragic child who became the very spirit of gayety.”
The piece was a typical melodramatic narrative, detailing Bow’s difficult upbringing in Brooklyn, her mother’s mental health issues, the star’s move to Hollywood, and the troubles she encountered trying to land parts due to her tomboy physique.
Bow’s popularity was further boosted by a clever public relations move, as her stardom was skyrocketing due to her role in the successful movie It.
She famously commented: “I am a madcap, the spirit of the Jazz Age, the premier flapper, as they call me.
But no one wanted me to be born in the first place.”
This sentiment was frequently utilized in later profiles, overlooking her various indiscretions such as her numerous broken engagements, her debt from gambling, and her weight gain.
The profile has been the celebrity standard since the 1920s and continues to be so today. When done effectively, it can be used to rectify any public missteps.
Despite this, the content is typically mundane and has gone through extensive vetting for approval from all parties. However, this was not always the case.
The concept of a public persona and its associated PR power was not exclusive to the Hollywood star or even the twentieth century.
Charles Ponce De Leon, a historian, dates the emergence of the public image to the late eighteenth century when anybody could become a public figure.
This could be a writer, politician, entrepreneur or actor. Managing the public image was then essential, resulting in the production of autobiographies, commissioned biographies, and interviews.
An example of this is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which helped Franklin gain recognition as a politician and a Renaissance man thanks to its humorous elements.
Concurrently, as people began to become more familiar with the public sphere, they also grew more wary of the public self.
As public figures became increasingly aware of the significance of their public image and the way they present themselves, the public started to become aware of, and doubtful of, the performance they put on.
A public address, a media appearance, an article by the subject him/herself—these could be very compelling and make them seem charming, eloquent or dignified, but it was also obvious that these were all carefully planned.
Even those not in the public eye were aware of this.
In the last century, the emergence of mass-circulation press gave rise to the celebrity profile, which often depicted the ‘great man’ in the home, surrounded by intimates, revealing his ‘true self’.
These intimate scenes would never conflict with the existing public image of the celebrity. On the contrary, they would validate what was already believed.
For example, Angelina Jolie’s public image is sex, so her private image is set in the bedroom.
Leo Lowenthal claimed that during the early twentieth century, Americans began to prioritize different qualities in public figures, transitioning away from “idols of production” to “idols of consumption.”
These idols of production were distinguished individuals who had achieved something in their lives, and their stories were seen as educational models.
Lowenthal argued that the focus on the personal and domestic was reflective of this shift in values.
Around 1920, the focus of profiles began to change and publications started featuring sports figures and entertainers associated with leisure activities.
This shift was seen as a caricature of a “socially productive agent” by Lowenthal.
Such stories put emphasis on the individual’s personal habits, hobbies, food and drink preferences, and even the cost of parties, the origin of furs, the type of exotic meals, and decorations of the celebrity’s home.
Information that was previously thought to be inappropriate or only mentioned in the society columns, now became the main content of the profile.
The profile suggested that these idols do not produce anything, instead they take in things.
By concentrating on the details of their private lives, these pieces of writing transformed the subjects who did creative activities such as writing, running, speaking, etc into the complete form of their consumption habits.
This presented an alternate model to the reader. If “idols of production” prompted individuals to become the architects of industry, then “idols of consumption” guided them to become its source of power.
By portraying these subjects in a leisurely way, the profiles ironically urged the reader to work even harder, if only so that they can acquire a position where they can enjoy such type of recreation.
Under this system, work is not considered valuable in itself, but as a way to an end, which is to achieve leisure through consumption and then even more hard work to maintain it and this goes on and on.
Lowenthal, a Marxist and part of the Frankfurt school, would have been appalled by this shift.
It had a basis in reality: in the 1920s advertising culture was widespread and the trend of conspicuous consumption was widespread.
The celebrity profile was both a symptom and a catalyst of this change. It was a reflection of the change but also helped to further it.
The attention on consumption was advantageous: as the publishing business became more and more reliant on advertisements, recognizing the spending habits of celebrities prepped readers to purchase, though on a smaller scale, the products that were being presented alongside the profile.
This was demonstrated in magazine commercials, which usually had a star, usually the person featured in the magazine, promoting Lux soap and other household items.
Even though Joan Crawford might have a wardrobe that cost thousands for her next movie, she still needed to use facial soap – something that was accessible to us and allowed us to feel connected to the stylish star.
In the first half of the twentieth century, consumption, along with other leisure activities such as sports and romance, formed the basis of celebrity profiles.
Generally, these profiles were favorable and lackluster in their description of the star.
This is not to say that there was no salaciousness in the press of the time, but rather it was the specialty of gossip columnists like Walter Winchell, Jimmie Fidler, Mike Connolly, Hedda Hopper, and Louella Parsons who would make sly and oblique jabs at celebrities and other members of “cafe society”.
At the start of a fan magazine, a profile might lavish praise on a celebrity, while gossip at the end might hint at any misdeeds, affairs, or rumors of pregnancy.
The gossip could tantalize, while the profile provided a narrative of past behavior, seeking to justify it, often with the help of the celebrity’s studio or personal publicist.
For example, following the news of Ingrid Bergman’s affair with Roberto Rossellini, the first fan-magazine article was even written by the press agent, who was portrayed as a confidante with insider knowledge about the star and her motivations.
The extent of monitoring and analysis produced writing that was typically drearily tedious. In 1956, Saturday Evening Post featured a profile by Pete Martin about the “girl with the horizontal walk,” better known as “the New Marilyn Monroe”.
However, the text simply regurgitated facts from Monroe’s life and broke her down into “the sex pot Marilyn,” “the frightened Marilyn,” and “the New Marilyn,” who was depicted as a “composed and studied performer”.
After reading the three-part article, which took over twenty pages, one was left with a sense of having been force-fed information. Thankfully, the photographs were entertaining.
During the same time frame, a set of occurrences within the media world significantly shifted the atmosphere and style of the celebrity profile–a transformation that would endure for the next two decades.
Chief among them was the emergence of Confidential magazine, a lurid, trashy tabloid that, in four years, accused a broad range of famous people of salacious actions.
The magazine promised to “reveal the truth and identify the persons”–which it did, with alluring drama, to an audience that quickly climbed up to more than six million.
For years, tabloid press had been promulgating tales of secret lives of their subjects. However, Confidential‘s reports were more tantalizing.
Robert Harrison, the publisher, had a wide network of informants across the continent. He was well aware of what people wanted to read – topics such as miscegenation, homosexuality, female sexuality, and communism.
Photos were presented in black and white, with bold headlines and captions.
Harrison used puns and innuendos to tantalize the readers. No one was spared – Frank Sinatra was referred to as ‘Tarzan of the Boudoir’ and a photo of Ava Gardner and Sammy Davis Jr. was captioned ‘Ava sat glassy-eyed through a gay tour of Harlem with Sammy.
Said a bartender: ‘Another round and she would have been plastered.’ Some of the stories were based on truth, some on what Harrison assumed the audience wanted to be true, but all were sensational.
Attempts to gain access to the ‘authentic’ in celebrity profiles had been made by focusing on the personal and the private. However, Confidential promised to go beyond this, providing insight into the hidden, secret and sexual aspects of life – the things that, according to Michel Foucault, are seen as the most accurate reflections of a person’s true identity.
Harrison did not adhere to the usual rules of celebrity coverage, which tended to be positive, recuperative and dull; instead, he chose to ignore access to the public persona and the demand for banality.
Amidst the dissolution of the studio system during the 1950s, Confidential was an anomaly. As more stars were liberated from studios’ restrictive yet protective hold, the publicity machine which had once overseen and censored unflattering articles about stars, ceased to exist.
If a publication chose to publish unauthorized material about someone like Clark Gable, the studio would consequently deny the publication access to its other contracted stars.
The major studios released their contracted talent, yet that wasn’t the end of the movie star.
Instead, these stars became independent and employed agents, press agents, and lawyers to do the work that the studio had previously done for them, so each star essentially had their own mini-publicity division.
The powerful agents were all but powerless against publications, such as Confidential, which had nothing to lose. Henry Willson, who had the likes of Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and other muscular male stars under his wing, was unable to protect his clients completely.
When Harrison had proof of Hudson’s homosexuality, Willson could only save the situation by sacrificing the credibility of another of his clients, Rory Calhoun, who was covering up his juvenile delinquent past.
The publication of Confidential was a defining moment in the history of the magazine industry. It broke away from the traditional focus on Hollywood stars to feature a much broader range of celebrities, including politicians, government officials, singers, and socialites.
This move towards a more inclusive approach to celebrity culture blurred the boundaries between fan magazines, scandal rags, and other forms of the press.
For example, the New Yorker, a magazine known for its highbrow content, featured Marlon Brando, a Hollywood star, in one of its profiles.
At the same time, Playboy, a formerly pornographic magazine, began to portray itself as a provider of gentleman’s journalism.
Truman Capote wrote an article about Marlon Brando, entitled “The Duke of His Domain,” which was printed in the November 9, 1957, edition.
During their encounter in Kyoto, Japan, where Brando was shooting Sayonara, the two spent a few hours talking and imbibing in his hotel room.
Throughout the interview, Brando ate, discussed his upbringing and the movie industry, ate some more, and continually told Capote not to believe anything he said.
It’s a captivating read–yet a damning piece of celebrity journalism.
Truman Capote takes the standard methods of celebrity profiling and crafts them into caricatures of both Brando and the technique.
Instead of simply noting the actor’s favorite foods as a way to learn about him, Capote is consumed by the star’s diet.
Six weeks before, Logan had instructed him to lose ten pounds for his role in “Sayonara”, and he had managed to drop seven by the time he reached Kyoto, Japan.
However, due to the seductive cuisine with its sweet, starchy and fried dishes, he had added double the weight back on. Consequently, while loosening his belt and rubbing his midsection, he examined the menu, which had a wide array of Western-style meals written in English.
Despite the temptation, he reminded himself of his goal to lose weight and thus ordered soup, beefsteak with French-fried potatoes, three side vegetables, spaghetti, rolls and butter, a bottle of sake, salad, and cheese and crackers.
Food continues to provide insight into a person’s character, and this character is not restrained and is excessively indulgent. In the profile, Capote allows Brando to talk: “When I communicate with my friends, we converse in French.
Otherwise, we use a kind of slang that we have invented.” If the right circumstance is given, the statement could be interpreted in a gentle way–or make it seem like Brando is poking fun at himself or what he has become.
Without the context, it is so honest and insensitive that it is comical.
Talking is the main activity when it comes to celebrity profiles, and writers listen in order to eventually write.
This had been the usual practice, with the hope that in the casual, unplanned conversations between the star and the author, promotion would happen without it being too obvious. Capote and Brando seemed to be doing the same thing.
But reading the outcome of the conversation felt like getting a glimpse into the star’s private life–largely due to Capote’s sarcastic and ironic tone.
Not the kind of private life that was cleaned up so that certain items, left out on purpose, would appear to be messy, but the real, embarrassing and shabby experience of the celebrity lifestyle.
The production of “The Duke of His Domain” was a landmark for both Brando and Capote’s careers.
Thanks to the sensational Broadway success of A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando had brought the Method acting style, and his peculiar stance on publicity to Hollywood.
He declined to sign with a studio or talk to the fan magazines; he disdained the old-fashioned gossip columnists; he wore jeans; he dated people who weren’t celebrities; he socialized with African Americans.
He was a publicity-shy anti-star, which was in itself publicity.
He had a great gift that gave him a lift in the film industry: he didn’t observe the norms but made it seem as if the others were playing an antiquated and obsolete game.
A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar, and On the Waterfront – four years, four Academy Award nominations, and at last, a victory for On the Waterfront.
But then, the situation started to deteriorate and sour, though only slightly. Brando’s self-importance started to become an issue.
That is what Capote’s profile achieved; it included the same types of remarks and monologues that had been seen in other profiles of Brando but now they appeared to be without substance.
Brando, who had formerly expressed his displeasure with Hollywood and its commercial approach to art, now seemed as empty as any famous Hollywood actress.
The difference between Brando and other celebrities who had generated their own scandals was that the press simply reported the reactions.
In this case, an established author was the cause. It wasn’t libelous or incorrect, but it also didn’t flatter the celebrity. Capote had come up with a new way of constructing a profile of a famous individual.
He proposed to the editor of the New Yorker that he would use the typically shallow style of an interview with a movie star and turn it into an entirely new writing style.
He would use the techniques of fiction to tell a story, both horizontally in terms of the plot and vertically by exploring the depths of the characters.
Capote and Brando both used similar approaches to create realism in their portrayals of characters. Brando’s works were especially notable for their combination of admirable and disreputable qualities; they were strong but liable to moral failure.
By applying a similar approach to Brando himself, Capote was able to bring forth the same duality in his own character.
By doing this, Capote wasn’t only displaying a unique point of view of Brando’s character, but also giving an insightful look into how celebrities are perceived. What made this piece so remarkable was that it was an unkind representation.
As a successful writer with connections and the support of the New Yorker, Capote could deal with any possible consequences. Despite the fact that Brando threatened to take his life, people were still discussing the profile and its implications.
Capote’s work was indicative of an emerging trend in journalism; a shift away from traditional reporting approaches and towards a focus on realism, otherwise known as the New Journalism.
Tom Wolfe’s 1973 anthology, The New Journalism, outlines the history and boundaries of the genre, which he argued was a necessary reaction to the “retrograde state of contemporary fiction.”
In the early ’60s, a distinct group of journalists, most of them in their thirties and most writing for the New York Herald Tribune, found that in non-fiction writing, journalistic work could incorporate any type of literary device, ranging from dialogism to stream-of-consciousness, to create an emotional and intellectual engagement with the reader.
This form of “subjective” journalism employed a variety of realism-based techniques, such as constructing scenes and recording dialogue in full, and giving readers the feeling of being in the character’s mind through “third-person point of view”.
Additionally, the use of deep description was employed, which included the recording of everyday gestures, habits, and customs, as well as the looks, glances, poses and styles of walking that might be in a scene.
By doing so, the subject’s “status life” was symbolized, giving the piece a more captivating power akin to that of fiction.
The ideas held within the New Journalism are commonplace by today’s standards, yet its influence is still apparent and can be seen in the writings of the authors included in Wolfe’s anthology.
Works such as Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” and Wolfe’s own The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test can be viewed as a sort of syllabus for a journalism master class.
This type of writing sought to take serious topics such as the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, and serial killers, and infuse them with the same energy that is usually reserved for low culture and entertainment.
It was an approach that was daring and disorderly, yet also invigorating and alive.
The New Journalism took the mundane and made it a form of art when it was utilized to profile famous people.
As an example, Kenneth Tynan’s piece about Marlene Dietrich, “Two or Three Things I Know About Her,” is more closely aligned with the poetic musings of Roland Barthes than a traditional celebrity profile.
In summary, we find a powerful and regal woman who has no hobbies apart from striving for excellence, no bad habits apart from her ability to move men to write extraordinary prose, and no vices aside from self-sacrifice.
Marlene’s presence induces writers to create blurbs, provides guidance to those in need, and has a profound influence on those in positions of authority.
She is Whispering Jack Schmidt, Wilhelmina the Moocher, the deep purple falling, the smoke in your eyes, how to live alone and like it, the survival of the fittest, the age of anxiety, the liberal imagination, nobody’s fool and every dead soldier’s widow.
Despite her strengths, she is aware of her own limitations. She is now making her public debut in New York. All should come to pay homage.
As a New York-based theater critic, Tynan was close with Dietrich, as seen in his writing. He mentions, “Marlene relishes the breath of power.
She is ardently anti-war but also strongly pro-Israeli, which at times troubles me.”
His profiles of other associates and partners, most notably Roman Polanski who he co-authored the script for the doomed Hamlet, reveal the true and deep intimacy that comes through in his analysis, making it subjective yet powerful.
That unique insight is what provides the profile its strength.It was not necessary to be on friendly terms with the celebrities to author a piece about them.
The New Journalism compilation begins with Rex Reed’s “Do You Sleep in the Nude?”, a profile of the aging Ava Gardner. Similarly to Capote’s assessment of Brando, it re-works the genre.
The essayist mentions her “Ava elbows” and points out her “gloriously, divinely barefoot” allure, noting that “at forty-four, she is still one of the most beautiful women in the world.”
However, Reed also portrays her as what modern gossip columnists might refer to as a “hot mess”. After dismissing her publicist (” Out! I don’t need press agents!”), she inquires Reed: “You do drink–right, baby?
The last buggar who came to see me had the gout and wouldn’t touch a drop.” She then proceeds to fill a “champagne glass full of cognac with another champagne glass full of Dom Perignon”, imbibing them one by one, refilling and sipping gently like syrup from a straw.
After a flurry of guests arrive in the hotel room, the group manages to dodge the throngs of autograph-seekers and heads to the bar at the Regency Hotel.
During this time, Gardner reflects on her career and the way MGM had tried to commodify her. “I’m not exactly stupid or without feeling,” she says, “and they tried to sell me like a prize hog.
They also tried to make me into something I’m not then and never could be.
” When Reed asks if she ever had a good man, Gardner replies, “No comment,” but when prodded about her ex-husband Frank Sinatra’s new wife Mia Farrow, her “eyes brighten to a soft clubhouse green” and she replies with a smile, “Hah! I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a boy.”
Gardner’s night out is marked by an abundance of liquor and wisecracks, before she quickly takes a taxi away, to a kind of evening only found in New York City when it rains – like the color of tomato juice in a car’s headlights.
Though the article is brief, it powerfully conveys a mix of arrogance and hopelessness.
In Reed’s writing, Gardner’s portrayal is one of a Hollywood icon: strong, attractive, yet ultimately beaten down by the same industry that formed her.
No sense of Reed trying to manipulate us is present. The rhetoric employed is mostly subtle. Gardner, much like Brando, is implicitly pointing the finger at both his profession and the supporters that keep it alive.
Reed just needed to supply the spectators and, like Capote’s profile, the results are telling: rather than elevating the celebrity status, it deflates it.
Pauline Kael, a film critic, argued that the New Journalism lacked critical thought; it stimulated people, yet left them uncertain of how to respond. It is easy to agree with her when it comes to general topics.
But when it comes to celebrities, the New Journalism profiles were always critical of them, as well as the society that created them.
Unlike traditional profiles which patronized the reader, the new celebrity profiles were written to recognize that fame is a performance and that the purpose of the profile was to remind us of this and to prod us to examine it, even be unsettled by it.
It is understandable why celebrities, as well as their representatives and publicists, were scared of this form of journalism. A single profile could easily sabotage the image they had built up over the years and make it appear very weak.
This apprehension was enhanced during the 1960s and 1970s when the Hollywood puzzle underwent immense changes. Big multinational companies purchased and sold off old movie studios, as they found the film industry to be quite unprofitable.
In 1965, the unexpected success of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews as the star proved that predicting a hit picture was not an easy task.
However, the costly failure of Star! in 1968 demonstrated the unpredictability of stardom. Barbra Streisand was the talk of Hollywood after the success of Funny Girl; one year later, Hello, Dolly! was only able to break even.
With the passing of the old Hollywood guard, television stars and the likes of Peter and Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Dennis Hopper came to the forefront and challenged the traditional models of stardom with their unique perspectives on what a star could and could not do or say in public.
The New Journalism adopted the prevailing mindset on celebrity and sought to challenge the idea that stars were just another product of Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle” or Daniel Boorstin’s “pseudo-event”.
Some famous figures opposed this while others embraced it, such as Jack Nicholson revealing his drug use to Playboy or Jane Fonda broadcasting to the Viet Cong. In doing so, they created an image that was a far cry from the sugar-coated portrayals of the past.
Simultaneously, the magazines that were traditionally used for traditional profiles, such as Photoplay, Modern Screen, the Saturday Evening Post , Look, and Life , were either falling in popularity or were no longer being published.
In the 1970s, the New Journalism began to decline. One of its causes could be attributed to the rise of People magazine, which achieved a circulation of three million within its first year (1974).
This publication adopted a “personality journalism” approach, which focused on stories that were easy to read and laden with visuals. It highlighted everyday people, rather than politicians and celebrities, and was a return to the more trivial journalism of the past.
Industry experts mark 1975 as the year when superagents and their publicists began to make their way in Hollywood.
Before then, Lew Wasserman and MCA had been a major player in the industry. The Creative Artists Agency (CAA) was the first to popularize the new kind of agent, with their Armani suits, matching Jaguars, and Zen-inspired concept of collaboration.
Looking back, it was the epitome of the 1980s.
Throughout the decade, CAA had skyrocketed to success and became the place where the most esteemed talent agents in the sector worked.
Ovitz was constantly adding to his list of clients and was responsible for signing Tom Cruise, an unknown back in 1981. During the 1980s, he secured roles for Cruise in a number of blockbusters that cemented his persona of the all-American, confident male.
Cruise leaned heavily on Ovitz and CAA, who put him together with Paul Newman for The Color of Money ; they sourced the script for Rain Man , cast Cruise and CAA client Dustin Hoffman as the main characters, and kept the project alive through four directors.
By 1990, Cruise had become one of the most popular celebrities in the US, and his fee per movie was up to nine million dollars.
Cruise was undeniably appealing, and it’s difficult, even now, to recall how captivating his onscreen presence was in the ’80s.
But in 1987, he tied the knot with Mimi Rogers, and he became a Scientologist; two years later, he encountered Nicole Kidman while filming Days of Thunder , divorced Rogers, and married Kidman.
For the shining star of Hollywood, it all could have been quite scandalous–or alluring, provided the correct writer.
Pat Kingsley and her PR firm, PMK, were the most respected in Hollywood.
As the head of the firm, she had total control of the press’s access to Tom Cruise during the 80s and 90s, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter:
Anyone who has ever faced off with Kingsley can attest to the fact that one must come with the full support of their organization, because she is willing to deploy her full range of tactics for the benefit of her most important clients.
She could shut down the cooperation of her agency’s other stars, shelve collaboration on other projects, or bar a publication from getting another star interview at the blink of an eye.
Kingsley was in charge of the magazine covers Cruise was featured in for each movie, the interviewers he felt most comfortable with, and the photos that best showed off his movie star charisma.
As his publicist, she adhered to the philosophy of “Less is more,” leaving fans wanting more while maintaining her client’s allure.
Kingsley brilliantly guarded Cruise from inquiries related to Scientology, his romantic life, and the details of his marriage and breakup, while still managing to make him a globally recognizable figure of great value.
His celebrity image was underpinned by the unforgettable roles he took on, and she controlled the type, pitch, and quantity of gossip about him.
Cruise, Ovitz, and Kingsley’s alliance formed a new version of the celebrity publicity machine from classic Hollywood.
Cruise created his own mini-studio, which provided a secure, effective atmosphere similar to MGM in the 1930s. It can be inferred that this power structure would bring about the same level of dullness as it did previously.
In the summer of 1988, Cruise was on the rise, with Top Gun and Cocktail being huge hits, and the shooting of Rain Man almost completed. He had already agreed to take a chance with his career by appearing in Born on the Fourth of July.
The Rolling Stone cover declared that the star of Cocktail would be giving a “straight-up talk”, and the article started off on the right foot; Cruise had phoned up its author, Lynn Hirschberg, and asked that the description of Top Gun be changed from “surreal” to “real”.
Hirschberg refers to Cruise as someone who pays close attention to the details and likes to be in control.
Apparently, Cruise had requested to do the interview in Hirschberg’s hotel room instead of his own to concentrate; however, Hirschberg believes it was because Cruise wanted to reveal as little of himself as possible and to be prudent with his next career move.
This article begins with a provocative statement, which implies that what follows is the result of a conscious effort to construct an image. It’s a hook that provides the reader with a sense of familiarity with the “real” Cruise.
The lead paragraphs transition into a brief overview of Cruise’s journey to fame, beginning with his parents and first roles and ultimately leading to the main point of the profile:
The combination of his astuteness and boyish Americanness has been a great asset to Cruise in his career.
But there is also a sharpness to him – he is dedicated to his aims. Cruise is like a boy scout – mindful and courageous, faithful and all the rest – however his upright goodness is spiced with adamancy.
His spectators find this absolutely captivating. “He is convinced that anything is achievable,” says Top Gun co-producer Don Simpson. “And that is the core to Tom Cruise.”
The synopsis seems to be of a superman, such as those portrayed in Top Gun; and it precisely reflects the primary notion of Cruise’s reputation.
Disregard the accounts of his extreme organization and alleged aloofness – this is the real Cruise. His public persona was established on insubstantial, but it absolutely exceeded that of any other celebrity.
Cruise and Kingsley were not the only celebrities playing the game this way; they were merely the trailblazers.
Profiles of the most popular actors and actresses from the 1980s and ’90s–like Stallone, Roberts, Ford, Willis, Moore, Hanks, and even Madonna–were quite tame and polished compared to their counterparts from the previous two decades.
This shift was facilitated by Vanity Fair’s reboot in 1983 which used its cover and pages to tempt readers with the potential of risque content–such as Moore in a painted-on tux, Stallone’s nude Thinker pose, and Madonna in a pool floatie–only to be greeted with the usual platitudes and polished interviews within the magazine.
We have since developed a fondness for this era of celebrity culture, before the digital age and reality television, when stars still seemed to be larger than life. It is no coincidence that this was the same period of carefully crafted, yet dull, celebrity profiles.
According to Douglas McCollam in an article from the fall of 2012 in Columbia Journalism Review, the profile of Brando penned by Capote was a milestone in the establishment of the New Journalism and the rise of today’s pervasive celebrity culture.
McCollam explains that “the article featured a plethora of exclusive details, a candid style, and a literary approach to evaluating Brando’s persona; these elements together signified a crucial step in the development of celebrity journalism and the invasion of our current, full-immersion pop culture.”
McCollum is correct in his assessment that the current reality celebrity culture is characterized by unfettered intimacy and ‘real-life’ revelations.
Without this access to the so-called ‘pseudo-celebrities’, people would not be as captivated by their stories. On the other hand, Hollywood stars are usually portrayed as having extraordinary qualities, making them seem almost untouchable to the public.
Through publicity, however, they are brought down to Earth to avoid jealousy. In contrast, reality-TV stars are portrayed as being just like us, capitalizing on their ‘normal’ lives for the tabloids and television.
This access to their ‘being’ is what sustains their careers, and without it, their fame would disappear.
Capote’s breakthrough profile served as a catalyst for the current era of tell-all “intimacy” that is, in reality, just a postmodern imitation of the profiles from the silent and classic Hollywood era.
The digital age has made these profiles even more accessible and seemingly genuine, but in the end, they are just as manipulated as the fan magazines of the 1920s.
Despite the promise of real-life footage, what is actually delivered is much more like The Hills, where all that is revealed is the high production values of the channel it is aired on.
This type of coverage has whetted our appetites for the glimpses of truth that were brought to us by the New Journalism, but in the end, it is hollow and dissatisfying.
Ironically, this emptiness is the reason why so many of us can’t help but keep watching.
The effect of New Journalism was powerful, but it caused unease for many Americans, who provide the sustenance for the entertainment industry.
As the industry’s response to this situation is to regress to older approaches, the public will be exposed to dull, shallow celebrity profiles, and be tricked into assuming that these are genuine, healthy, or beneficial.
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