This month’s Vanity Fair includes a delicious article about Aileen Mehle who, for years, wrote a widely-read gossip column under the name “Suzy”. Aileen hung out with Jacqueline Kennedy (according to Aileen she LOVED gossip about women who marry rich men), and the Reagans, and Truman Capote, and Frank Sinatra, and, well, pretty much everyone; she was invited everywhere; and they told her EVERYTHING. They told her everything knowing that she was a gossip columnist, knowing – and hoping – she would report it. My favourite quote from the piece – in Aileen’s words, delivered to an audience that included Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of one of the most gossip-worthy families in American history:
“Being a bitch in print is the easiest thing in the world. I may nick a little here and nick a little there, but none of the wounds ever require sewing up.”
Modern celebrities love to forget that gossip has always been part of the Celebrity Ecosystem, the Hollywood infrastructure. They talk often about how it’s so dirty now, and invasive, and compromising – like gossip is a new invention, like what they’re dealing with is not what their predecessors ever had to live with. Their predecessors had to live with Hedda Hopper. And still, in their minds, they have it so much worse. Hollywood then as Hollywood now survives on the machinery of gossip. As Aileen revealed, in the last interview before her death, the people who give the gossip are, more often than not, the people who are at the centre of the gossip – the same people who survive on it. You know who understood this? George Michael.
“There is no such thing as a reluctant star,” he told Jonathan Rossy in 1987. “Stars are almost always people that want to make up for their own weaknesses by being loved by the public and I'm no exception to that.”
He also said that, “The whole business is built on ego, vanity, self-satisfaction, and it's total crap to pretend it's not”.
This is why he had such a great sense of humour about all the gossip that surrounded him. Remember when he appeared in Extras with Ricky Gervais in a bit about “looking for cock in the bushes”? And then when Ricky won Best Actor at the British Comedy Awards in 2008, he was with him for the acceptance:
“Wear and tear, init?”
Click here to read more about Aileen Mehle in Vanity Fair. And if you haven’t seen James Corden’s tribute video to George Michael the other day, crediting him with Carpool Karaoke, click here. In Mariah Carey’s words, “If it’s good enough for George Michael, it’s good enough for me”.
Yours in gossip,