the descent of the celebrity profile

Article_petersenAnne Helen Petersen at The Believer:

One didn’t have to be friends with the stars to write about them. Rex Reed’s “Do You Sleep in the Nude?,” a profile of aging star Ava Gardner, serves as the lead essay to The New Journalismcollection. Much like Capote’s profile of Brando, it flips the genre on its head. Reed describes her “Ava elbows” and declares her “gloriously, divinely barefoot,” claiming that “at forty-four, she is still one of the most beautiful women in the world.” But Reed also manages to make her look like what today’s gossip columnists would call a “hot mess.” After kicking her press agent out of the room (“Out! I don’t need press agents!”) she queries Reed: “You do drink—right, baby? The last buggar who came to see me had the gout and wouldn’t touch a drop.” She then pours herself a “champagne glass full of cognac with another champagne glass full of Dom Perignon, which she drinks successively, refills, and sips slowly like syrup through a straw.”

The whirlwind interaction that follows—in which several men come to call and the assembled group leaves the hotel room, avoids swarms of autograph-seekers, and retreats to the Regency Hotel bar—seems to oscillate, dreamily, between Gardner’s cynical analysis of her career and palpable evidence of her charisma. When Reed asks of her tenure at MGM, she responds, “Christ, after seventeen years of slavery, you can ask that question? I hated it, honey. I mean, I’m not exactly stupid or without feeling, and they tried to sell me like a prize hog. They also tried to make me into something I’m not then and never could be.”

more here.