Email this review


Vignettes of the by-now-familiar ""El Lay"" lifestyle--delivered in flat, magazine-style prose, alternating in tone between leering voyeurism and smirky scorn. A few of the chapters deal with real names and places: a blandly sarcastic sketch of TV/drive-in preacher Robert Schuller (""A little organ music, please. Some Max Factor pancake makup to erase the slightest imperfection on the brow of the TV culture hero""); a shrill montage of the ""nonstop private party"" that goes on at lunchtime at Ma Maison, that in-est of restaurants; and a heavy-breathing look at a ""Gay Mafia"" Hollywood party given by producer Allan Carr (he ""resembled Divine playing Auntie Mame"")--whose ""incredible grand vision of the gay sensibility"" makes him ""a symbol of Hollywood in the eighties."" But through most of this little book Cartnal practices a dubious form of crypto-journalism--no names, no documentation, no indication where reporting leaves off and fabrication begins. There are coy, guess-who profiles: ""The Rock Star""--complete with the usual alienation, entourage, drugs, and empty decadence; ""The Movie Star""--in a banal essay on what stardom means (""It was not only being gorgeous, dressing gorgeously, and acting goregeously. It meant charisma""); ""The Teen Idol""--a dummy who lives a surprisingly plain-kid home life. And then there are close-ups on non-famous but supposedly representative L.A. types: the Valium-popping Brentwood housewife who has sex with deliverymen and other strangers; the $200-a-night American Gigolo (""He made women feel like superstars in a marvelous movie in which all the cameras were directed on their every movement""); dope-dealers, bored matrons, and (in no less than four chapters) homosexual hustlers. Straining to be cool and clever, Cartnal is merely obnoxious; and all this ground is covered--better--elsewhere.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin