Entertainment journalist Piazza dissects the industrialization of fame in the age of celebrity.
A celebrity may be a person, but celebrity is a product, a commodity bought and sold, writes the author in this rangy analysis of the celebrity business. Like it or not, our culture has invested its celebrities with extraordinary power, and Piazza presents all the players involved, including managers, agents, publicists and producers. A dozen vignettes explore the ways in which celebrity is created and revenue streams are activated, whether it is celebrity in the long run, as in an Oscar win (there is a terrific chapter on how to buy an Oscar), or the short-term celebrity through association (Tiger Woods’ lovers going public: “Their investment was just their dignity, and the payoff was substantial”). Since she has been intimately involved in the business, Piazza’s chapter on celebrity magazines, from copy to newsstand placement, is particularly revealing, and she is willing to call a spade a spade when it comes to the cheesier aspects of celebritydom, from the selling of baby photos to the “leaked” sex tapes that launched Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. She also takes on the evolution of various branding styles and the ways in which notoriety in one sphere can be parlayed into licensing deals in another. In perhaps the most enlightening chapter, Piazza explains why some celebrities survive and others fizzle. You have to be fun and relatable, inclusive and aspirational, but most of all likable and consistent, which is why Lindsay Lohan tanked (inconsistent) and Charlie Sheen shines on (consistent in his craziness).
It’s rarely pretty, but Piazza ably demonstrates the celebrity machine’s remarkable efficiency in getting us to give it our money.