Books by Norman King

ARSENIO HALL by Norman King
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 21, 1993

Another centimeter-deep celebio from King (Madonna, 1991; Everybody Loves Oprah!, 1987, etc.), and one with no research acknowledgements, pointing up King's failure to land an interview with Hall or anyone close to him. As with Oprah and Madonna, King again chooses a subject whose big mouth supplies the author with magnetic filler for lending a sense of life here and there. Hall was born in Cleveland to an abusive Baptist preacher 20 years older than his wife, and today attributes his talk-show smarts to time spent watching his dad work the church crowd. A single child, Hall would stay up late to watch TV and found his real family of friends on The Tonight Show. Like Johnny Carson, he became a drummer and child magician. In high school, Hall was ever the class clown and, with his first tape recorder, seriously began interviewing classmates, much to the despair of their embarrassed parents. At Kent State, he brought down the house in his speech class when he announced that ``I plan on making my living with my oratory skills, and I'd like to be a talk-show host.'' In short, Hall was as born to the tube as Mozart was to the pianoforte. Hall began moving into the big time as a warm-up act for the Temptations, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Wilson. His buddy Eddie Murphy drafted him into Coming to America as the hero's sidekick and, though the moneymaking film turned off most critics, reviewers singled out Hall's performance. Meanwhile, Hall had long seen a hole in late-night talk shows—blacks didn't get to chat with Carson as often as whites—so he chose to become ``bicultural'' on his late show. His self-definition: ``I'm just a guy from Cleveland. I ask real ordinary Midwestern questions.'' But he wears $900 suits. Mr. Stardust battles bad vibes from the critics and wins the moon. (Photos—not seen.) Read full book review >
MADONNA by Norman King
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Dec. 16, 1991

Steamy life of Madonna, who comes off both worse and better than you might expect. King (Everybody Loves Oprah!, 1987, etc.) seemingly has felt no need to go beyond scissors-and-paste in this thinnish bio, since Madonna herself in various interviews furnishes him with enough hot quotes to fuel his pages. Nor is he expert on her music. Still, we are faced here with a gifted human being whose relentlessly graphic honesty breaks conventions like so many arm bones. Raised in a strict Catholic family in Michigan, Madonna has said, ``I grew up with two images of women: The Virgin and the Whore.'' She studied dance, was told by her gay ballet teacher that she had a ``face like an ancient Roman statue,'' which gave her a fix on her beauty. Dropping her college career at Ann Arbor to accept a job with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe in New York, she then landed a soft-porn film job and did some nude modeling (photos that later surfaced in Playboy and Penthouse). Her ``Burning Up'' (sexually) video boosted her onto MTV (``Unlike the others, I'll do anything/I'm not the same, I have no shame,'' go the lyrics). Meanwhile, she apparently stepped over the bodies of those who helped her. Her biggest break came as a kooky lead in Desperately Seeking Susan, followed by a failed marriage to Sean Penn. Her role as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy brought her $14 million in album sales, more than her part-time lover Warren Beatty made as Tracy. Her Truth or Dare film finds her rawly frank about sex, as does her Rolling Stone interview with Carrie Fisher: ``I don't like blow jobs. [I like] getting head.'' The story of a monstrous talent who will say anything—if it's true—and gains our sympathy for it. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >