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October 3, 2012 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Scandals of Classic Hollywood* is a fantastic series of articles exploring the careers and private lives of old Hollywood's most legendary performers, written by self-styled "doctor of celebrity gossip" Anne Helen Petersen.

Some favorites:

The Exquisite Garbo
Dorothy Dandridge vs. The World
Marlene Dietrich, Femme Fatale
Katharine Hepburn's Trousers
The Destruction of Fatty Arbuckle
Cary Grant's Intimate Bromance

*The tags for this series on The Hairpin are inconsistently applied, so you have to check both of these links to find all the articles.
posted by showbiz_liz (44 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love this series, it's one of the best parts about The Hairpin. Also, is her title really self-styled? Her dissertation was titled “The Gossip Industry: Producing and Distributing Star Images, Celebrity Gossip, and Entertainment News, 1910 - 2010.”
posted by troika at 11:20 AM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


see also: Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon
posted by Egg Shen at 11:26 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


God if Betsy Drake didn't exist he'd have to invent her.
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 AM on October 3, 2012


Great stuff. Reading the Cary Grant post I'm reminded once again that the current(ish) actor he most reminds me of in his combination of witty grace and casual everymanitude is Will Smith.
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on October 3, 2012


see also: Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon

Or skip it, and read these articles instead. Kenneth Anger peddled libel and sensation; Petersen is writing about libel and sensation, with her main care the lives and sorrows of real, flawed, horribly done-by people.
posted by Iridic at 11:35 AM on October 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I lost an afternoon to this series a few weeks ago. I really love the angle on these stories.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


These stories are absolutely my favorite thing on the Hairpin. There's also a really good series (might be by a different person) explaining the celebrity of UK tabloid fixtures which is extremely entertaining in its own right.
posted by Aubergine at 11:51 AM on October 3, 2012


Gloria Swanson wasn’t here to make friends. She wasn’t “just like us.” She didn’t take out the garbage or “wear cotton” or go to the bathroom. Lady had a gold-plated bathtub. She married a Marquis. She was 4’11,” wore a 2 ½ in shoes, and had a waist approximately the size of my neck. She looked most beautiful when frowning.

If I was reading a book that started like this I might be forced to just read it cover to cover right there and now.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm such a fan of her writing!
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:27 PM on October 3, 2012


I love these. I love how alive Petersen makes all these people seem -- they weren't just celebrities or people from history. They were living, breathing human beings and utterly fascinating ones at that. I read each two or three times.
posted by darksong at 12:27 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love these too. I wish she'd write more of them, cause I've read them all. Yeah, she should write a bunch more of these & publish them in an essay collection kind of book. I'd buy & read the hell out of that.
posted by lurkElongtime at 12:29 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kenneth Anger peddled libel and sensation

You say that like it's a bad thing.

And legally speaking, one can not libel the dead.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2012


I wish the Haipin's tagging/archiving was better - I don't think either of those tag searches find her transformational article on Marilyn Monroe (well, it was transformational for me) or the one on Natalie Wood.

Petersen's author page is probably the most complete collection.
posted by muddgirl at 1:29 PM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Her website is also a great read - she frequently takes modern-day celebrities and makes me see them in a whole new light. AHP actually made me interested in why Ryan Reynolds is so damn boring - which (if you known me) is an impressive feat.
posted by kariebookish at 2:23 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love her writing and analysis of fame and celebrities. She's just awesome and makes me wish I had a degree in celebrity gossip.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:28 PM on October 3, 2012


I've fallen down a young Gary Cooper appreciation vortex send help
posted by The Whelk at 2:51 PM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Huge Cary Grant fan and learned a few things. Very entertaining!
posted by Glinn at 3:51 PM on October 3, 2012


Back in the earlier days of the Interwebs, there was a site called the A List that had one or two line descriptions of a few hundred celebs with the most devastating dirt on each, supposedly from a Hollywood insider. My wife used to attend to it with a seriousness worthy of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
posted by Ber at 5:11 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are fantastic and I can't quit reading them. Such good writing with a casual, off-the-cuff delivery, wonderful.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:15 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine turned me on to these back in the spring. I spent almost one full night getting caught up. I dearly love these.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:16 PM on October 3, 2012


Back in the earlier days of the Interwebs, there was a site called the A List that had one or two line descriptions of a few hundred celebs with the most devastating dirt on each, supposedly from a Hollywood insider. My wife used to attend to it with a seriousness worthy of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Oh god I remember this, everyone was an ex prostitute.

Now we just hit up Crazy Days And Nights.
posted by The Whelk at 5:27 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kenneth Anger peddled libel and sensation

..and made his own odd experimental films, and venerated Aleister Crowley, and had a sense of dark humour..
posted by ovvl at 5:41 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are at least three or four gems per piece, like this one from the Paul Newman essay:
Butch Cassidy also forever yoked Newman with Redford in the public eye — an association reinforced by The Sting and the impossible truth that both men only continued to get better looking with age. If Tumblrs were around in the 1980s, there’d be one called FuckYeahCraggyDudes, exclusively devoted to mid-career Newman and Redford.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:53 PM on October 3, 2012


Back in the earlier days of the Interwebs, there was a site called the A List that had one or two line descriptions of a few hundred celebs with the most devastating dirt on each, supposedly from a Hollywood insider. My wife used to attend to it with a seriousness worthy of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It's alive!!!
posted by MikeMc at 6:09 PM on October 3, 2012


MEANIE!
posted by The Whelk at 7:10 PM on October 3, 2012


Wow the Marilyn Monroe one was amazing. I was expecting to find a hagiography or a bemoaning of a poor little girl's tragic demise. Apparently she was flat out AWESOME. This is the first retelling of her life I've read that actually has the texture of a real life story.
posted by kettleoffish at 9:05 PM on October 3, 2012


It must be a generational and gender thing, but I appreciate these for the info (much of which I was already vaguely familiar with) despite the writing style, not because of it. Obviously YMMV.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:08 PM on October 3, 2012


It must be a generational and gender thing, but I appreciate these for the info (much of which I was already vaguely familiar with) despite the writing style, not because of it. Obviously YMMV.

Can you elaborate on why you don't like it? To me, it's a very well done mix of dense information and colloquial style, which makes it easy to absorb the information and identify with the subject. I'm not picking on you, I'm actually totally curious.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:53 AM on October 4, 2012


I'm here for the Gary Cooper backstory. I'll get around to the rest, for sure.
posted by h00py at 7:03 AM on October 4, 2012


I'm a forever fan of Cary Grant (Archibald Leach), and this one line floored me:

At age nine, Leach’s father put his mother in a mental institution. He soon remarried, abandoning young Archie to the care of the state.

I just cannot imagine what that would do to a kid. Yet this man epitomized casual elegance, and his grace and style on screen are unmatched to this day. Grant acted being comfortable in his own skin so well that it's easy to overlook how hard his young life must have been.

Cary Grant often said he reinvented himself when he changed his name from Archibald Leach, and after reading about his childhood, I can certainly see why he needed to.

It's even more impressive when you consider Grant's relationship with Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress. Her own mother committed suicide when she was just five, and Barbara discovered her body, so she must have had her own demons. The press dubbed her "poor little rich girl" (Ugh, imagine going around with that title over your head).

When she and Grant married, he signed a prenup to show he had not interest in her money, and, knowing what it was like for a boy to be abandoned by his father, he made a point of taking in and mentoring Hutton's son. Even though they ended up divorcing, they were friends for their rest of their lives.

Ironically, Hutton's former husband was pretty much the opposite of Grant's Dad. After she and Grant divorced, he pretty much kidnapped the boy, taking him to Canada with him. Apparently their son never really forgave his Mother for allowing that to happen, either.

These beautiful people sure endured a lot of ugliness in their lives.
posted by misha at 8:02 AM on October 4, 2012


I hope she does a proper Lupe Valez post cause just separating out the Crazy Shit People Said She Did from the Actual Crazy Shit She Did would eat up a thousand words alone.
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2012


Back in the earlier days of the Interwebs, there was a site called the A List that had one or two line descriptions of a few hundred celebs with the most devastating dirt on each, supposedly from a Hollywood insider. My wife used to attend to it with a seriousness worthy of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The apocrypha on there about Stevie Nicks still haunts me.
posted by rewil at 8:58 AM on October 4, 2012


Am I missing something here re: the A List? Because MikeMc's link just comes right back to this thread.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2012


Here it is. It's been about 10 years since the last update. Still pretty fun to read, though.
posted by Optamystic at 10:11 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


also it's like a thousand percent unverified but who cares.
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2012


Thanks. I enjoyed this one:
Connery, Sean. Arrogant and self-satisfied sexist. Abuser of women. Never graduated from high school. Wears a toupee. Notorious tightwad. Requires a penis pump to function with women. Linked with Ursula Andress, Brigitte Bardot, Kim Basinger, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gena Rowlands, Lana Turner, Shelley Winters, Lana Wood, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who impressed him with her oral skills.
I can't tell if this is inspired by the SNL parody or the parody was inspired by the real thing, but either way I chuckled.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:25 AM on October 4, 2012


Can you elaborate on why you don't like it?

I agree that the information is good; that's why I kept reading. (Like I said, I usually already knew the general outlines, but the additional details were interesting.) It's the style that bugs me, like some knowledgeable teenager talking to another who knows absolutely nothing, and so continually resorts to comparisons with "famous" modern analogs (e.g., apparently her audience knows who Jessica Simpson's hairdresser is). And it's too colloquial; I feel like I'm eavesdropping on a monologue from the one teen to the other. Which is a few decades too late for me.

I wasn't going to go into detail, because a) it makes me sound like grumpy old man and b) I'm not sure who that website's audience is, but I'm fairly positive that they don't intend it for me. But you asked. I wasn't (and still am not) trying to imply that it was unworthy of posting, but all the praise for its style was perplexing me.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:55 PM on October 4, 2012


I wonder if I am between generations on the writing style. I can see why it would appeal, but I can also see why pmurray63 is not digging it. The writing is very mannered, like a hyper-aware grad student on Tumblr impressing her teenage followers with her knowledge. I can write like this to a certain degree, but I (usually) try to restrain myself.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2012


I find the discussion on writing voice super interesting cause the articles read like a gold plated, excellent example of Internet Voice, which I've always associated with " slangy, fannish intimacy" case remember, the Internet used to be about directly commicating with the kinds f people who coud get a decent connection together. The code switching stuff iPods down to the bone.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


OR- they're written like the best gChat conversation you've ever had, with supporting links and source documents.
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gary Cooper is the most handsome man who ever lived. Errol Flynn came close (I know he was an arsehole but oh, so good looking) and there a few contenders around now do you hear me Chris Hemsworth? but GC was just the hottest. I like this writer's voice. I'm going to read them all.
posted by h00py at 4:59 AM on October 5, 2012


missed the edit window - same as it ever was
posted by h00py at 5:22 AM on October 5, 2012


Wait, so what you're trying to tell me is that my generation didn't invent sex or sexythings?
posted by Blasdelb at 4:02 PM on October 7, 2012


in the past people reproduced via mitosis, that's why everyone looks alike in old photos
posted by The Whelk at 4:02 PM on October 7, 2012


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