What happens after your 15 minutes of fame?
Mick Foley, Irene Cara, Jim Wright—if you can’t place these names, you’re okay. They’re three of the once-famous people chronicled in this study of life after fleeting fame. Guinn and Perry (journalists with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Oregonian) pose some interesting questions: How does fame change a person? What is it like to go from stardom to—utter obscurity? Unfortunately, there are no satisfying answers here. One might expect a little history of fame; or some evidence that the authors had acquainted themselves with basic psychology; or a discussion of why fame is so important to the American psyche. But instead of an innovative analysis of life after fame, Guinn and Perry have simply cobbled together overly long profiles of a handful of once-famous folks. Each chapter tends to be the simple retelling of life-stories of people once but now forgotten. Those on Susan McDougal and Kelly Clarkson may come closest to satisfactorily addressing the topic of fame. McDougal found that, after she got out of prison and returned to small-town Arkansas, her life felt meaningless, so she returned to the public eye as an advocate for imprisoned women. Clarkson, the American Idol heroine, had wanted to be famous since she was a tiny tot, and, having achieved fame, she’s doing her fierce (and pathetic) best to hold onto it. Organization is also wanting. Chapters consist of a profile of an individual has-been followed by a chapter that tells part of the story of Melvin Dummar (the working-class guy who claimed Howard Hughes named him as an heir). It’s unclear why the authors devote half their text to Dummar, or why they spread his story out over the entire manuscript. Whatever the aim, the arrangement doesn’t work.
Skip this one, unless you want to read Irene Cara’s musings on inner peace or Susan McDougal’s version of Whitewater.