A few weeks ago I made a discovery. An awesome, fascinating, is-this-real-life? discovery. That discovery is named Anne Helen Petersen. “Who is Anne Helen Petersen?” you may ask – well let me tell you – she is my new idol. She is a doctor…of GOSSIP!! Not just gossip but CELEBRITY GOSSIP!! Only one of my favorite things ever!!
I have a bachelor’s degree from a fancy college and that’s about all the academia I could handle. However, if someone had ever said to me in my youth, “Oh you like gossiping about celebrities and critiquing pop culture? Well you can get a doctorate in that” I may have done that very thing! People think gossiping about celebrities is frivolous but doing it with a PhD? Well that’s a prestigious career my friend.
Since this amazing, time-sucking, enthralling discovery I have been combing the internet for her work like the extremely focused lady I am. Thankfully she is very prolific online writing for Hairpin and Buzzfeed (where her piece on the birth of TMZ contains a fascinating backstory on the demise of the old Hollywood studio system and rise of the celebrity gossip industry.) And she’s just published a book about classic Hollywood scandals!!
So speaking of that, I LOVE OLD HOLLYWOOD SCANDALS!! I have been obsessively reading her pieces on Errol Flynn, Warren Beatty and, oh god the Hedy Lamarr one is just insane (you know, just your typical beautiful rich girl becomes poor, stars in the most provocative movie of the early 20th century, marries a millionaire Nazi who locks her in a castle, then escapes to Hollywood to become a movie star and six husbands and several shoplifting charges later is discovered to hold the patent for the technology that is the basis for the cell phones we all use today story. YOUR MOVE JENNIFER LAWRENCE.)
I love Petersen’s writing because it is accessible and not so stuffy academic that a few lines in you get bored because you don’t know what the hell the author is talking about. In this interview she explains her background in Cultural Studies (again, why did I not know I could study this stuff?? Career Development Office FAIL!) and why it’s valuable to study pop culture and be able to present it in an intellectual manner but without the requirement that you already have a PhD to understand it.
Her writing is smart, funny and very “chummy” as in she feels like your girlfriend who is gossiping with you about cute famous boys of all eras which, Hey Anne! I do that all the time! I love Cary Grant movies, Hollywood glamour and handsome dead actors. We should be besties :-)
But let’s get back to the old scandals for a moment because they are often far more fascinating (and crazy) than anything that happens in today’s celebrity realm. Brad leaves Jen for Angelina. Snooze! That is nothing compared to the Elizabeth Taylor-Eddie Fisher-Debbie Reynolds-Richard Burton square of sex, cheating, death, alcoholism and really enormous jewels! (and guess who wrote about it?) Or one of my personal favorites after reading two Frank Sinatra bios earlier this year – the Ava Gardner and Frank Saga that involved adultery, affairs, abortions, suicide attempts, bullfighters (!!!) and one of the best things I have ever EVER heard in my life – per Ava herself from her bath as Frank stormed out after a fight:
Okay! If that’s the way you want it. I’m leaving. And if you want to know where I am, I’m in Palm Springs, fucking Lana Turner.
YOUR MOVE CHANNING TATUM.
And if old timey movie stars behaving badly isn’t your thing, Petersen writes about current celebrities weaving together pop culture and feminist theory, starlets and classicism and a topic that consumes us all as a nation: Taylor Swift’s love life! It’s all so interesting and explores celebrity in ways that often get ignored in our fast-moving-social-media world. She is basically what I aspire to be if I had any drive to be further educated and the ambition to be paid for thinking/talking/writing about things I love for a living. Hence, why she is my idol.
You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll just be over here reading all her stuff – probably when I should be working at my job or on my life (which is why I do NOT have a PhD in Celebrity Gossip!)