Unauthorized biographies have historic roots. Only the focus of these all-too-often sketchy accounts has changed a bit i recent years. Whereas in the past, these tomes were written about top leaders or society’s elite, today’s unauthorized biographies are written about anyone in the spotlight, from Barack Obama, Nancy Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice to Frank Sinatra, Jay Z, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Tom Cruise. Ironically, even Wikileaks’ Julian Assange isn’t spared the unauthorized biography. Just about anybody enjoying the limelight today can expect that, at one time or another, someone will write about them…and it won’t be pretty.
Of course, the celebrity and famous family subjects despise these controversial books, many of which are poorly referenced or cite “unnamed sources.” Some feel betrayed by longtime or trusted staff who cooperate with the authors. Others, like Jennifer Aniston and Sharon Stone, find loved ones cashing in on their family ties. Many celebrities have gone to court to block publication of these popular books. According to several accounts this year, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Joely Richardson was reportedly so upset about Tim Adler’s unauthorized biography about her famous family (The Redgraves and the Richardsons:The Secret Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty ) that she threatened to take legal action against the author.
Given this kind of response, you may think these unauthorized tales only produce big bucks for the authors and enormous headaches for the subjects and their families. But, nothing could be farther from the truth. Indeed, the biographers themselves take a public beating along the way. In a recent essay for The American Scholar, longtime unauthorized biographer Kitty Kelley chronicles how she was blackballed from appearing on various television talk shows (among them, Larry King Tonight, Charlie Rose, The View with Barbara Walters and Late Night with David Letterman) after her book on Oprah Winfrey was published and even “wrangled with (Frank) Sinatra’s lawyers” when she was writing about the legendary singer. Despite the hassle she gets with each publication, Kelley remains committed to the genre. And, why not? Publishers pay top dollar for a well-covered subject.
Like it or leave it, the unauthorized biography will continue to sell and stir up controversy for years to come. The reading public can’t get enough of them as best selling authors serve up tidbits and more on their favorite Hollywood icons and celebrities.
Looking for some red-hot unauthorized biographies for your bookshelf? Want to read what everyone’s talking about? Check out these top 5 unauthorized celebrity biographies, which are sure to reveal so much more about today’s leading stars and celebrities.
Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography
Andrew Morton (2008)
Scientology seems to play the leading role in this unauthorized biography of one of America’s favorite action adventure stars Tom Cruise. As if several marriages, dozens of movies, and true love at last weren’t enough. Inquiring minds still want to know what’s going on with this modern day Hollywood icon.
Simon Cowell: The Unauthorized Biography
Chas Newkey-Burden (2010)
One of America’s least favorite critics gets center stage in this unblinking, unauthorized biography of the American Idol and X Factor judge and record producer Simon Cowell. Find out what makes the former A&R exec Simon Cowell tick and growl in this surprisingly original biography.
Johnny Depp: The Unauthorized Biography
By Danny White (2011)
No one gets away clean, not even The Rum Diary’s own Johnny Depp. This book chronicles early years, days of stardom, and current life and times of one of the most quirky and recognizable stars around the world. Residing in France, Depp has certainly found his niche, but this book is probably not the best judge nor read.
Oprah: A Biography
Kitty Kelley (2011)
Kitty Kelley has a worldwide reputation for blowing the lid off of some of the most important icons of the day, and this unauthorized biography of longtime American talk show host, actor and now network exec is no different. There are lots of secrets revealed in this unsparing tome, including sensitive matters of family history.
Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography
Andrew Morton (2010)
This troubled daughter of Oscar winning actor Jon Voight gives celebrity biographer Andrew Morton a ton of material to work with, from ill-fated marriages to Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton to her cohabitation and family with Brad Pitt. This is one unauthorized biography that was just as sure to raise eyebrows as it flies off the shelves and into the hands of the Angelina, Brad (Pitt) and Jennifer (Aniston) watchers.
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