Interesting piece about the contemporary challenges of the celebrity interview in the Washington Post.
Since the piece talks about Gay Talese's landmark "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," I have added an excerpt after the jump, and some remarks of my own.
I'm pondering the argument made in terms of a couple of recent profiles: A June 14 Rolling Stone profile of Amy Winehouse which seemed to be very much about the singer, and not always in a flattering way, and did that recent look at Sly Stone in Vanity Fair, which is a great deal about the piece's writer, though part of that stems from Sly's own elusiveness.
While I certainly believe that the dance described in the Post happens all too often -- although the Post's classic dismantling of celebs in the '70s may have contributed to the wariness of the famous -- I'm not as pessimistic as the writer.
As for Talese, having been a fan, I dug out my 1981 paperback of his collection "Fame and Obscurity," and transcribed this opening:
Frank Sinatra, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.
Just that little bit gives me a sweating admiration and envy. But I should also mention why the title, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," is significant.
...when (a cold) gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. ... Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel -- only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence. ...