Fame Junkies (home page)
Buzz about the book
An overview of the book
Why I wrote this book
A survey on fame among teenagers
An excerpt from the book
A story that didn't make the book
AN OVERVIEW OF FAME JUNKIES…
Fame Junkies chronicles journalist Jake Halpern’s journey through the underbelly of
We live in a country where more people watch the ultimate competition for celebrityhood – American Idol – than watch the nightly news on the three major networks combined. So what are the implications of this phenomenon? In his new book, Fame Junkies, Halpern explores the impact that celebrity-obsession is having on three separate niches of Americans: aspiring celebrities, entourage insiders, and diehard fans.
Fame Junkies also draws upon a great deal of new academic research to argue that America is raising an entire generation of celebrity-obsessed young people who are convinced that they should and will be famous during the course of their lives. According to Halpern, this belief is reinforced by a number of factors including the apparent abundance of fame on TV, self-esteem curriculums in our schools, and the innately attention-craving nature of the adolescent psyche. Ultimately, this phenomenon poses a number of dangers, including the fact that it may be fueling an epidemic of narcissism. Indeed, preliminary studies involving the Narcissism Personality Index (NPI) indicate that no other demographic group in the world is as narcissistic as the American teenager.
Interestingly, even those teenagers who are not expecting to become famous themselves are very much caught up in this obsession. In his survey, Halpern asked teenagers to choose which profession they would most like to have when they grow up. Among girls, 43.4% indicated that they wanted to become assistants to a celebrity. They chose this option twice as often as “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale,” three times as often as U.S. Senator, and four times as often as "the chief of a major company like General Motors.” What’s so interesting about this statistic is that, among girls who indicated that they received bad grades in school (i.e., C’s or below), the percentage who opted to become assistants rose to 67%. What’s more, among both boys and girls who got bad grades – and who described themselves as being unpopular at school – the percentage who opted to become assistants rose further to 80%. Certainly, as these teenagers mature, many of them will develop other professional goals. Yet even if a fraction of them pursue their current aspirations, there is still the potential that vast numbers of young people may soon be flocking to LA and
In the second part of his book, Halpern becomes an honorary member of the Association for Celebrity Personal Assistants (ACPA) where he spends a great deal of time with Annie Brentwell who has slavishly devoted every iota of her personal and professional life to celebrities like Oliver Stone, Sharon Stone, and (most recently) Dennis Hopper. In her spare time, when she is not serving Hopper, Brentwell teaches at a school that the ACPA runs to teach aspiring assistants; and, of course, Halpern tags along. This section of Fame Junkies also investigates a fascinating vein of psychological research on what type of people are most likely to “bask in reflected glory” or BIRG. For example, college students with low self-esteem are far more likely to embrace their school’s football team when it wins and dissociating themselves from that same team when it loses. Halpern goes on to consider how BIRG research applies to
All in all, this book combines the colorful, entertaining, and poignant scenes that only a journalist can render and mixes them with the careful erudition of an academic. It is a book that readers of People Magazine and the New Yorker should both be able to pick up and read with rapt attention.