Film critic Weddle follows up his biography of Sam Peckinpah (“If They Move, Kill 'Em,” 1994) with an equally shrewd, tell-it-like-it-is profile of 90210.
You can't fault the author for operating on the representational level in his biography of Beverly Hills, for image is what the place is all about. And it doesn't take a mean spirit (Weddle isn't one) to see the awful in the awesome, the brutal in the breathtaking. So when he notes that “Beverly Hills is, quite simply, the most powerful bimbo vortex on the planet,” he doesn't intend to cut anything other than an additional facet of the picture. (Though readers may suspect some unfair slices here and there, as in a description of a real estate salesman's “gray hair neatly brushed back along the thick contours of his head.”) Weddle knows when to keep the discussion intelligent, explaining the profound effect of the influx of wealthy Iranians into the area after the Shah’s fall, the blatant humiliation and belittlement of African-Americans, or the latest manifestation of Fortress America (“the number, quality, and complexity of a person's security forces calibrates their social standing just as surely as the car they drive”). He knows when melancholy is in order, quoting a particularly Beverly Hills sort of alienated youth declaring, “Vandalism is lame. It's useless. Drugs, on the other hand, kick ass. Drugs give you power; they give you pussy; they give you money.” He knows how to thread into the story insightful comments about actors (the unsettling aspects of Buster Keaton's work, for example), and, having spent perhaps too many hours in the company of the self-important, he also knows all about smoke and mirrors: if you don’t believe, the whole edifice dissolves. Weddle’s Beverly Hills is a grim richness of embarrassments; as the alienated youth remarks, “I'll tell you one thing about growing up in Beverly Hills. Rich people are fucking weird. Money makes you weird.”
A quietly devastating indictment.