Almost every day last week another shocking claim from Christopher Andersen's unauthorised biography on Mick Jagger dominated entertainment headlines worldwide. The book, entitled Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, claims that he relentlessly pursued Angelina Jolie, had a long-term affair with David Bowie and slept with over 4,000 women.
Andersen has penned tell-alls on Madonna, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, and though the lewd upcoming book on Jagger is certainly revealing, it is just one in the long line of defamatory warts-n-all bestsellers.
Calling Albert Goldman's biography Elvis unflattering is a gross understatement. Published in 1981, the salacious tome drew on over four years of research into the life and times of Presley and has become one of the most controversial unauthorised chronicles ever printed. Renowned for an intense personal dislike of The King, many of the accusations Goldman printed were considered dubious, particularly those that levelled the music icon as a plagiarist. Goldman portrayed Presley as acutely unstable, homosexual and described him as "a pervert, a voyeur" who covered up his sexual preferences with extreme promiscuity. Elvis is a critical, judgmental work that also delves into the singer's long-standing battle with weight, diet, and substance abuse and even passes judgement on his stage costumes. Elvis has been labelled as a conniving "muckraking biography" that "entirely discredits the culture that produced him and the culture he helped create".
Goldman made waves again a few years later upon publishing The Lives of John Lennon, in which he depicts The Beatles front man as a neurotic musical genius. To produce the interrogative publication, Goldman conducted countless interviews with Lennon's friends, acquaintances, servants, and fellow musicians. Goldman largely attributes the singer's suffering to a disturbed childhood which manifested in a series of destructive relationships with powerful women, and pretty much depicts Yoko Ono as a psycho. Goldman also alleges that Lennon engaged in a longstanding secret affair with The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein who he describes as a fake and an inept businessman. And, because Goldman clearly has no qualms about publishing, well, anything, he significantly revealed that records of phone calls Yoko Ono claimed to have made to Mimi Smith and Paul McCartney the night Lennon was murdered actually don't exist. Awkward.
Just because you're not Elvis, John Lennon or Mick Jagger doesn't mean you can't have a warts-n-all biography. Remember Screech? Aka Dustin Diamond aka the one in Saved By The Bell who wasn't Zack Morris or AC Slater? Well, that teste-popping come sex-tape-making deviant wrote an autobiography entitled Behind the Bell and it is as disgusting as it sounds. In his time on the Saved by the Bell set (which, before this article, was my favourite show ever) Screech revealed information on Mario Lopez's (AC Slater) sexual misconduct, and details how he raped a woman and made NBC pay her to keep quiet. He also claims he got fresh with Linda Mancuso (his boss at NBC) who was 18 years his senior. Mancuso died in 2003 after a battle with cancer and can't even defend herself. To top it all off though, Screech says that SBTB's executive producer, Peter Engel, used to have threesomes with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach). Clearly, he was just upset he wasn't included in the coke-fuelled romps with born-again Christian Engel. Errrr class dismissed.
Jackie Oh! put notorious biography author, Kitty Kelley on the map. Published in 1978, Kelley's début book - which is unconvincing at best - focused on John F. Kennedy's womanising and 'inside information' on the first lady come fashion icon's love life, depression and unconfirmed electric shock treatment. The book launched on the New York Times bestseller list and was a precursor to many more of Kelley's scandalous publications, as detailed below.
Kitty Kelley (whose name has a remarkable resemblance to poison-quilled Harry Potter villainess Rita Skeeter's) reared her ugly pen again a few years later when she released His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra in 1986. Before the book hit stands, Sinatra himself made a plea to stop the release, threatening Kelley with a $2 million lawsuit, which was quickly dropped. The vigorous scandal-rag spotlights the blue eyed man's infidelity, drunken violence and connections with the Mob, and Kelley claims to have interviewed acclaimed actor Peter Lawford to confirm all the sensational details of Sinatra's past. It later came out that the dates Kelley said she extrapolated information from Lawson, he was on his death bed. Look, if nothing else, it is at least a good read.
Certainly better than her unauthorised biography on Oprah. Now before I list the 'revelations' Kelley writes in (the creatively titled) Oprah, I think it's important we acknowledge that a biography on Oprah is redundant. Whatever your view on the woman may be, she has made a career out of talking about herself, and certainly does not need any more publicity from a book that she didn't have to pay to get done. Kelley reveals that Oprah won't give her mother her phone number (anyone who's ever read a tabloid knows that) and that, in fact, she didn't lead a deprived, destitute childhood at all. Kelley said she interviewed Oprah's cousin who said the talk show queen was "spoilt" growing up. She's probably just jealous. Best of all though, Kelley says she knows who Oprah's real father is, but won't say. Come on Kelley, we don't even think you believe yourself here.
The 'new' rumours regarding Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes that have been 'obtained' by media outlets since Holmes filed for divorce this month are, in fact, not new at all. In his number one best-selling biography, Andrew Morton's Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography went there with Tom Cruise in 2008 when Scientology had significantly more pull with the media than they do now. Morton's book - which, incidentally, was not published in Britain or New Zealand originally, and only hit Aussie shelves a while later due to strong libel laws - made no apologies and left no prisoners when recounting the actor's sex life and ties with the Church. Morton claimed long before the tabloids that Katie Holmes had to audition to be Cruise's girlfriend and had to promise that "if she or any of her children were ever to suffer mental or terminal illness, they must turn only to Scientology's treatments." Morton also details how Nicole Kidman received threats from the Church of Scientology, and was forbidden to speak out about the religion in public if she wanted to see her children post-divorce. Sofia Vergara, who was briefly linked to Cruise before the Katie days also felt "she had been deliberately targeted not only as a possible bride for Tom, but as a high-profile Scientology recruit who would be an alluring figurehead for a future recruitment drive in Latin America."
Though Diana Wood Middlebrook always hoped to be a biographer, her award-winning tell-all story on Pulitzer-prize winning American poet happened by accident. During her career, she was called by Dr. Martin Orne, Sexton's psychiatrist, and was privy to thousands of tapes recorded by Sexton's doctor that revealed first hand her struggles with depression, alcoholism, incest, extramarital affairs and sexual abuse. Though the content is predictably (and wonderfully) wanton - not to mention reliable - the manner in which information was obtained was just plain wrong. It's one thing for an angry ex/ servant/ colleague to spill your inner most secrets to a biographer that approaches them (see: everything Kitty Kelley has written) but your psychiatrist contacting a writer? After you committed suicide under their watch? COME ON people.
In an ironic twist of fate (even Julian Assange isn't exempt from karma) the once authorised showcase on the Wikileaks' founder's life turned into a privacy saga. This is funny you guys! Though Assange gave 50 hours of compelling interview time to author Andrew O'Hagan, he wanted out of the book deal when he thought the contents were becoming "too personal". Um, it's a biography... what did you think? Though Assange begged O'Hagan to abandon the project, he didn't, and secretly printed copies of Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Biography that brought the man's "insane-self interest", chauvinism, hygiene and disturbed childhood to light in a more than compelling read. (Just by the way, Assange spent his time as a kid hacking and killing ants with a magnifying glass. Now I'm no shrink but there is definitely something in that.)
The 600 page epic on Apple's elusive face is different from most of the other books on this list because, in fact, it was authorised. Yawn. The book details the tech-genius' formative years in Silicon Valley, a trip to India in which he 'found himself' and details on his illegitimate daughter who he abandoned. Most potently, the book recurrently refers to Jobs' famously abrasive personality, a quality author Walter Isaacson - who penned biographies on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein - claims lingers on.
What's your favourite biography? Have I left any out? Let me know in the comments below.
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