When writing about celebrities, I’m often confronted with how to approach them. What’s the “angle”? Editors often want a particular slant. When Tiger Woods was chased by his wife with a golf club, stories about Tiger changed from his incredible prowess on the golf course to his remarkable infidelities off it. When Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin went to court over his visiting rights with their daughter, stories about either of them always had their mangled relationship front and center. When Mike Tyson went to prison for allegedly raping a beauty queen, it wasn’t his boxing skills which got written about. Editors often feel the pulse of what people want to read and stories are assigned accordingly. Of course, celebrities are constant fodder for the press. We follow their rise, we Google their successes, and we gobble up their mistakes. We understand that they are nothing like us, and that they are human, just like us.
When the editor of Autograph magazine contacted me some years ago, he asked if I would write about my personal encounters with all the celebrities I have interviewed over the years. He didn’t care what I said about them, as long as I made it personal, and that I included at least a paragraph having to do with their signing something. He had other writers who could cover the hobby of collecting autographs; he felt I had a unique perspective into the private lives of celebrities and could bring a different angle to his magazine.
I was intrigued by the proposition. He was offering me a free hand to sit at my computer and scour my memory, writing about people who are often on the cover of magazines who I’ve gotten to know over the years. Some of these people have become friends. Many of them have come to my house to be interviewed or to eat dinner or to play poker. One publicist once said to me, “I know about you. You’re the infamous writer who gets stars to go to your house.” I didn’t know that made me “infamous.” But I just preferred talking in a quiet setting, and if a star didn’t want me to come to their house, then I figured my house was better than a public restaurant, where people often interrupt conversations asking for….an autograph.