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Some important news headlines that I've found lately:
Oprah's Deadly Eating Disorder EXPOSED!
Hillary attacks Bill's Secret Lover...he forces Hillary into sex therapy
Poor Nick: Vanessa's a Dirrrty Dancing Machine!
I haven't read them, but you probably have. What do you mean, you haven't? These are amazing publications. They have full color pages and photographs of famous people; Brad and Angelina are on their covers every other week. I see them each time I go through the checkout at the grocery store. I don't buy them, as I have plenty of liners for the cat boxes and the hamster's cage, but I'm sure someone does.
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Actually, I'm not sure who does. Lots of people pick them up and thumb through them while they're waiting, but then they put them back. I know, maybe they wait until I leave the store because they know I'm watching.
Supermarket tabloids are a fact of life for celebrities. So are the paparazzi. The only thing people love more than a wildly successful, popular person is to see that wildly successful, popular person fall on their face, get divorced, get hauled into court, have a sleazy affair, or lose a huge amount of money.
In our world, scandal is the great equalizer. It's also a tremendous comforter and pacifier.
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Take the Clinton story. Reading that a former President has to send his wife to a sex therapist makes an ordinary citizen who has ho-hum nooky three nights a week with the spouse feel superior. It doesn't even have to be true; gossip rarely is. Superiority over an American president is a very nice feeling for someone who makes thirty-five thousand a year, is wrestling an adjustable-rate mortgage ballooning out of control, and is trapped in a rotting relationship. Ordinary Citizen also has as much chance of becoming the President of the United States as Yosemite Sam does . . . but at least OC's spouse puts out.
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Scandal is a business, and often generates fame for people who otherwise wouldn't get any. Hedda Hopper was a classic example of someone who achieved fame only through defaming others. Born Elda Furry, the daughter of a Pennsylvania butcher, she ran off to New York to become a Broadway star, but never made it past the chorus line. She moved on to Hollywood, but despite appearing in 120 films, failed to become a famous movie actress. Even her marriage to an actor eventually failed. Poor Hedda.
When Hedda became a gossip columnist, however, she finally found the means to acquire the fame and success she craved: by damaging and often destroying the careers of actors and actresses. In her heyday she terrorized the studios and most of the Hollywood elite, and would crucify anyone who refused to kiss her ass. She turned in names of Hollywood pros she thought were communists during the McCarthy era. Hedda made so much money peddling scandal that she moved to Beverly Hills and christened her mansion "The House That Fear Built." She lived, probably very well, to the ripe old age of 80.
So how does this relate to what's happening to authors these days?
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Why, it doesn't! I'm so glad that I'm a published author, because we don't have book tabloids and author paparazzi. No Hedda Hopper hopefuls out there making reps and money off bashing and defaming us. No one stalking us where we work, watching every word we write, waiting for us to do anything they don't like so they can misconstrue it or blow it up into a scandal. No one to use things that we can't control and have no say in, like bad cover art, as a means to ridicule us. No one to dictate to us how they think we're to speak, act or think, or to threaten us if we don't. No one to misquote us, smear us or otherwise crucify us if we don't suck up, kiss their ass, etc. Being an author is a wonderful thing.
Lots of people agree with me. According to a 2005 survey conducted by USA Today and the Association of American Publishers, 82% of Americans plan to write a book someday. As of the writing of this post, that is approximately 246,736,190 ordinary American citizens who want my job. I won't tell them that the average author in the U.S. earns less than $6,000.00 a year, usually has a day job, and enjoys as much glam in their lives as any ordinary citizen if you don't! Lol.
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Do you know that you can walk into any book store in the U.S. and see our names on our books, right there on the shelf? Is that fame or what? And you will see them there, as long as we sold the book to a major publisher. And got a decent first print run. And weren't bumped off the schedule for a better-selling author. And if the bookseller ordered the title, and unpacked it, and shelved it. If you know precisely where to look. For a couple of weeks. Maybe. But it's another reason that being an author is a wonderful thing.
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Some of my author friends worry about author-bashing becoming the new scrapbooking. Ridiculous. There is no such thing as author-bashing, didn't you know that, silly? And really, what could equal the delights of gluing photo corners and pretty stickers to specialty acid-free paper illustrated with sooooooo cute widdle pink and blue teddy weddy bears? Unless of course you're being tormented by demons--
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--who stick redhot needles in your eyes while you're burning in hell.
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I think that would run a close second.
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Anyway, thank heavens authors don't have to worry about publishing being overrun with Hedda Hoppers. As for the tabloids, do you think the Clintons are worried about that story in the Globe? Will the story's writer be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize? Will it be aired on the Situation Room on CNN? Will Congress pass legislation making sex therapy available to any First Lady? Will Hillary Clinton open a therapy center for the tabloid journalists out there who keep bashing her?
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Maybe they could take scrapbooking classes.
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My advice? I suggest that we pass on by and leave the Hedda Hoppers where they belong -- one rack above the chewing gum.
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Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, freelance journalist and former investigative reporter for the Globe, has some insights on how tabloids do business.
Daniel Gross's article Tabloid Shocker reveals that some tabloid dreck can't be made into commercial gold, and how much that's costing its owners.
Gotta go. Bye!
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