When I first moved to San Diego, I was intent on finding fellow readers. So I decided to form a book club. I put an ad on Craigslist and called for Literate Urbanites to join me (this name later popped up on another book club in town; how creative). Thus began our book club adventures that created friendships and actually logged one marriage (hey, at least someone got something out of it). But as the years rolled on, and the book selections thickened and wandered into the sciences, I noticed that fewer and fewer people were coming to the meetings and even fewer were actually reading the book.
So, one night on the drive home from a Journey concert (where else to discuss haute literature?) I asked a couple of friends why it was that they never came to book club, and what it would take to get them to come? One of them answered "hey, if you read celebrity bios, then I'd be there". And suddenly it dawned on me- we weren't reading things people, deep down, really wanted to read! And so CELEBRITY TRASH BIO BOOK CLUB(r) was born.
I am happy to report that, one year later, attendance is at an all-time high. People are *adding* other people to the book club list, not asking to be removed. People from other cities are on our mailing list just because they like to read along.
Before you start your very own Celebrity Trash Bio Book Club, it is important to recognize that you are not reading these books for literary merit. Truth be told, very few of them are likely to have any. In some cases you will resist picking up a pen and editing as you read along. Remember, these folks are not famous for being good writers, they are famous because they live outrageous lives and get paid to do so. By lowering your expectations you are likely to enhance your reading experience. You will find that CTBBC quickly weeds out literary snobs, who will not be able to handle things like Janice Dickinson's need. To shorten every sentence. With. Dramatic. Pauses.
Now, let's get to it - here are the basic provisions of running your own successful Celebrity Trash Book Club:
1) Pick a trashy book. A really trashy one.
The trashier, the better. And autobiographies > biographies, as we discovered after reading 4oo pages about Scientology and NOT Tom Cruise, as previously anticipated.
Also- our studies show the more random the celebrity, the better the book. Maybe it's because you have lower expectations for them, maybe it's because they know THIS is their chance to grab at the limelight, so they try harder.
**Tip for Beginners: I always suggest that people begin their club with Motley Crue/Neil Strauss's The Dirt. Whether or not you're a hard rock fan (chances are you aren't, I mean, you are in a book club) -- it sets the bar for complete dishing but through good writing. It's the gateway drug of trash bios.
2) Serve alcohol. Lots of it.
We all talk more $hit when we've had a little something to sip on. Well, you'll be able to fully throw yourself into the ring to discuss Jenna's rise to porn stardom or Michael Jackson's awkward relationship with Brooke Shields if you've had a sippy cup of happiness.
We usually open a few bottles of wine, although some like to mix it up - for Ricky Martin month, we had two moms on the floor with babies, sipping their rum and cokes (Puerto Rican style!). Do what you need to do, but this is another opportunity to set yourself apart from the cafe-book-club set.
3) Consider doing a themed event or dressing up to freak out your fellow readers.
For the Andre Agassi meeting, I decided to put an old mullet wig (that has come in handy more times than I'd like to admit) to use. I answered the door dressed as Andre.
For Ricky Martin, we themed it a fiesta - Latin wines, chips and salsa, and any other un-PC stereotype we could think of (author's note: much as I love Ricky, his bio was not trashy at all- he's apparently all into "being a good person" and "not dishing dirt" and "not naming names", thereby violating all the ground rules of Celebrity Trash Book Club.)
For Jenna Jameson, we discussed holding our meeting in a local jacuzzi suite. Get creative, it's the least you can do to honor these fine writers.
4. Use multimedia presentations.
Celebrities are overexposed. Which means that, at your meeting, you can tie in multimedia sources to enhance the trashy book club experience. For Andre Agassi, I entertained fellow bookclub attendees by reenacting famous Andre Agassi photographs.
Then for the Superfreak's autobiography, we watched the Dave Chappelle skits about Rick James. During the Ricky Martin meeting I kept Ricky Martin: Unplugged playing in the background throughout our fiesta, etc. Having a laptop on hand during Celebrity Trash Bio Bookclub is handy, as you can look up rumors, cross-check tales they have told you, and read up on peripheral figures.
5. Have read-alouds.
Read alouds are not just for kindergarten, folks. Some of these books demand to be read out loud to adoring crowds of your 5 closest (and drunkest) friends. Janice Dickinson's autobiography has a particularly salacious passage involving her dressed as a nun and some guy dressed as a priest... in a church in Italy. You get the idea -- the writing is absolutely Shakespearean.
Or, you could revert to the audio book. Andre Agassi's "Open" audiobook features a reader who somehow thought that raising his voice to imitate a woman talking would enhance the listener's experience. Enjoy.
6. Don't give up. Ever.
This item simply refers to my ongoing (one woman) lobby for Don't Hassel the Hoff. We (I) haven't won yet, but if there's one thing I have learned from these celebrities, it's that merit doesn't count for much... perseverance is key.
THE OFFICIAL READING LIST OF CELEBRITY TRASH BIO BOOK CLUB:
Kathy Griffin Official Book Club Selection
Andre Agassi Open
Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography
Chelsea Handler My Horizontal Life
Motley Crue & Neil Strauss The Dirt
Ozzy I Am Ozzy
Sarah Silverman The Bedwetter
Anthony Bourdain Kitchen Confidential
Jenna Jameson How to Make Love Like a Porn Star
Ricky Martin Me
Janice Dickinson No Lifeguard On Duty
The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Superfreak
LaToya Jackson (in progress)