Greetings! Depending on how you felt about my first book, I come bearing good/terrible news. Yes, the fine people at Weidenfeld & Nicolson have commissioned me to write a second history book, and this one is all about…
…The history of celebrity!
Yes, given the huge pervasiveness of celebrity culture in the modern world, I’m thrilled to be charting the early evolution of fame, from Classical gladiators to the coming of the Hollywood Golden Age in the 1920s. I won’t be focusing on Elvis, The Beatles and the sadly departed David Bowie ~ let’s be honest, you’ve heard all those stories already ~ but instead I’ll be tracking the history of celebrity as far back as 2,500 years ago to present a varied cast of compelling former stars who died before the 20th Century pop culture machine roared into deafening life.
Some celebs you’ll know, their reputations having doggedly endured beyond their lifespans, and others will be surprising stories of fleeting glory. I’ll be looking at heroes, villains, talented geniuses, provocateurs, fashionistas, hucksters with a flair for good PR, celebrity animals, and even people who should have been famous but weren’t.
With this history of celebrity divided into three acts – how fame was won, how it was maintained, and how it was lost – I’ll also be exploring the mechanics of the burgeoning fame industry: what role did the media play in promoting and killing careers? How did the public respond to celebs? What were the PR stunts, merchandising deals, and promotional techniques that kept celebrities in the limelight? Did they ever backfire horribly? How did some celebs remain famous even after their death? Did being a celebrity mean surrendering one’s privacy? And what happened if, instead of glamorous fame, dreaded notoriety struck instead?
Along the way, we’ll hear some astonishing tales, and will tackle some of the bigger questions that still dog us today: why do we have celebrities in the first place? And are they a force for good or evil in society?
I’ll be working on this book for the next two years, and will try to share updates as I go. If you’d like to suggest a lesser-known historical celeb deserving of my attention, I’d be delighted to talk to you about them. All useful advice will, of course, be formally acknowledged in my book’s ‘With Thanks To’ section.
Above all, I’m very excited to be working on this fascinating subject, and I really hope that you’ll be interested in reading my book when it’s published!
Anyway, I’d better go read about some dead celebs.