Books and Films About "Supermarket Tabloids"



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SHOCKING TRUE STORY: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, by Henry E. Scott.

Before the supermarket tabloids of the 1960s, before the National Enquirer was covering Elvis, there was Confidential magazine. Founded in 1952, the magazine was effectively destroyed by a 1957 criminal libel trial in California, instigated by the Hollywood studios. Cowed and weakened, the magazine continued publishing until it folded in 1978. It was later to serve as inspiration for the book and film, L.A. Confidential.

MR. CONFIDENTIAL: The Man, the Magazine, and the Movieland Massacre, by Samuel Bernstein.

Another book about Confidential magazine, but with an emphasis on its publisher, Robert Harrison.

THE GODFATHER OF TABLOID: Generoso Pope Jr. and the National Enquirer, by Jack Vitek.

Biography of National Enquirer Founder Generoso Pope Jr. From his MAFIA connections, his MIT days, his CIA days, and his tabloid glory. From a university press.

"I WATCHED A WILD HOG EAT MY BABY!"  A Colorful History of Tabloids and Their Cultural Impact, by Bill Sloan.

This extensively-researched history of American tabloids was released in 2001. A critical year; since 1999 all major tabloids (Enquirer, Star, Globe, Examiner, Mira, Sun, Weekly World News) have been under single ownership. Tabloid critics lament this has undermined the tabloids' traditional competitiveness, and significantly altered their editorial policies and news coverage. Author Bill Sloan was an editor at the Globe and Enquirer, and a Pulitzer-nominated reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald.

THE UNTOLD STORY: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer, by Iain Calder.

Calder relates how he began in British journalism in the 1950s, became the Enquirer's London bureau chief, then joined the tabloid in the U.S. in the 1960s. By the 1970s he was Generoso Pope's right-hand man. A biography rather than a history, but Calder was eyewitness to the key editorial decisions during the Enquirer's growth and evolution.  Naturally, it's full of fascinating inside-the-newsroom stories and gossip.

Tabloid Prodigy: Dishing the Dirt, Getting the Gossip, and Selling My Soul in the Cutthroat World of Hollywood Reporting, by Marlise Elizabeth Kast.

The latest tell-all by a former tabloid reporter who reveals all her tricks in getting dirt on celebs, then comes to regret her sleazy past. An informative and entertaining edition to this growing subgenre.

SECRETS OF A TABLOID REPORTER: My Twenty Years on the National Enquirer's Hollywood Beat, by Barbara Sternig.

Author spends much time gushing over herself and her exciting life. She's disingenuous, dishing dirt on celebs, then claiming she admires them. And she pulls punches. She worked for the Enquirer from 1975-95, yet concentrates on 1970s celebs now safely dead: Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Tammy Wynette. Blurbs from B-list celebs and players further indicate that she pulls punches. But she does provide useful info on tabloid undercover reporting techniques.

GROSSED-OUT SURGEON VOMITS INSIDE PATIENT!  An Insider's Look at Supermarket Tabloids, by Jim Hogshire

A critique of tabloid coverage from a Left deconstructionist perspective. Hogshire believes tabloids are Rightist institutions that reinforce the "traditional patriarchal power structure." E.g. tabloids' "Rags-To-Riches" tales support the notion that anyone can succeed under capitalism if they are honest and work long hard hours. Tabloids' "fat obsession" reinforce oppressive sexist standards of beauty. And "Fall of the Mighty" stories alleviate class antagonisms by assuring working class readers that the rich and powerful are always punished for their greed and wrongdoing. Hogshire also speculates about the tabloids' CIA and Mafia ties in the 1960s. A short (147 pages), lively, and informative book despite its biases, by a former tabloid writer (who bites the hand that fed him).  Released in 1997.

POISON PEN: The True Confessions of Two Tabloid Reporters, by Lysa Moskowitz-Mateu & David LaFontaine.

A husband-and-wife team (since divorced) of tabloid reporters recount their adventures. Breaking into a hospital for the first photos of Madonna's new baby, interviewing Dana Plato after her arrest, participating in a Gulf War- sized tabloid operation to infiltrate Liz Taylor's wedding. Names are named, and their book is lively and entertaining. Yet one senses the authors are being disingenuous, putting the best spin on their own motives and behavior, while hypocritically distancing themselves from past employers and coworkers. Another case of former tabloid writers biting the hand that fed them.  Released in 1996.

RABID NUN INFECTS ENTIRE CONVENT: And Other Sensational Stories from a Tabloid Writer, by Tom D'Antoni.

Others have written about working for the National Enquirer or Star, but this is the first "insider account" by a writer for one of the "parody tabloids." The author wrote freelance pieces for The Sun (similar to the Weekly World News). He didn't earn much and eventually "exposed" the tabloids on Oprah's TV show by admitting he invented all his stories. Oprah was likely upset by the Globe's stories on her (as revealed in Poison Pen), but "exposing" The Sun hardly discredits the Globe or other non-parody tabloids.  Most of this book is the author's unedited Sun stories, interspersed with commentary about how he got his idea, tales of working for Sun editor Vader, etc. Released in 2005.  108 pages.

For Enquiring Minds:
FOR ENQUIRING MINDS: A Cultural Study of Supermarket Tabloids, by S. Elizabeth Bird.

Unlike the above writers, Bird is not a former tabloid "insider," but an academic: assistant professor of humanities and anthropology at the University of Minnesota. She relates much of the same tabloid history and categories as Hogshire (both are hobbled by having released their books before the 1999 mergers). After interviewing tabloid editors, writers, and readers, Bird analyzes tabloid stories within the context of folklore theory. She claims that tabloid readers are savvier and better-educated than is assumed, and that working class readers (as much as upper class readers) realize that many tabloid stories are false or exaggerated. Released in 1992, by the University of Tennessee Press. An easy read, despite its academic author and publisher.

SLEAZY BUSINESS: A Pictorial History of Exploitation Tabloids 1959-1974, by Alan Betrock.

The 1960s were a Golden Age for tabloids. Over 40 were published at one time, some very marginal and lasting only a few issues. This oversized book is mainly an anthology of lurid, black & white frontpage covers, one per page.  The text is scant but interesting.  Generously illustrated (naturally), and lots of fun! A great book for fans of gonzo psychotronic subculture.  Released in 1996. 128 pages.

Smash His Camera, directed by Leon Gast.

A 2010 documentary about legendary paparazzi pioneer Ron Galella. "Famously and successfully sued by Jackie Onassis, and slugged just as famously and successfully by Marlon Brando, denounced from the pulpits of punditry for decades, Galella has been a man easy to hate. But whether he can be blamed for sparking the current celeb-ysteria, he certainly created a body of work that is historically irreplaceable." -- Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times.

No Pictures, by Ron Galella.

A book by legendary pioneer Ron Galella (featured in the film, Smash His Camera). If you loved the true-life movie, and want to read more -- in Galella's own words, this is his book. Released in 2008. 212 pages.

Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon, by Anthony Delano

Porn star Joyce McKinney kidnapped and enslaved a Mormon missionary -- because she fell in love with him! A true story that was prime tabloid fodder in the 1970s. This book has far more information about McKinney's criminal trial, and its tabloid coverage, than about her actual crime -- the details of which remain in dispute to this day! First published in 1979, this 2009 reprint has additional "where are they now" material. 168 pages. Also see the documentary, Tabloid.

Tabloid, directed by Errol Morris.

Porn star Joyce McKinney kidnapped and enslaved a Mormon missionary -- because she fell in love with him! This 2010 film documentary is a great compantion to the book, Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon.

THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER: Thirty Years of Unforgettable Images, edited by Charles Melcher, Valeria Virga, Steve Coz.

Big coffee table book of glossy Enquirer photos, from Michael Jackson to Elvis to O.J. Simpson. Celebs and serial killers.  Released in 2001. 256 pages.

TABLOID LOVE: Looking for Mr. Right in All the Wrong Places, by Bridget Harrison.

True-life story of a British journalist who crossed the Atlantic to work for the New York Post. She ended up writing a column about her love life. One critic gushed: "A real-life Bridget Jones meet Sex and the City." I've never seen either of those, so I can't say. On the plus side, she includes her experiences writing and reporting for the Post on matters other than her love life, such as her interview with a man who just lost his wife during a Christmas hit-and-run accident, which made her feel ghoulish. I'd have preferred more of the latter, and less personal love life stuff. Worth a look for some insight into the inner workings of New York tabloid journalism.

Paparazzi, by Peter Howe.

Huge trade paperback. Lots of splashy color photos sampling the work of paparazzis, but also informative text of the history of paparazzis from early Hollywood to today (2005). 176 pages.

DISH: How Gossip Became the News and the News Became Just Another Show, by Jeannette Walls.

Despite the "dishy" title, this is a detailed history of personality journalism in America from about the time of Louella Parsons & Hedda Hopper to Matt Drudge & Monica's semen-stained dress. Topics include Confidential magazine, Walter Winchell, Rona Barrett, Liz Smith, Night Beat, 60 Minutes, Marilyn Monroe & the Kennedys, the death of Elvis Presley, People magazine, Barbara Walters, Geraldo Rivera, Carol Burnett's lawsuit vs. the National Enquirer. Several chapters on the Enquirer and Pope, including material on OJ and Princess Di. Readable and enjoyable, with a good index and surprising revelations.


DVD documentary that follows paparazzi "Louie D." following celebs. The DVD claims that "Louie D." is a "world famous" celebrity photographer. A reasonably insightful "inside look" at the life of a paparazzi -- but isn't it ironic that paparazzi now imagine themselves to be celebs in their own right?


Paparazzi "Louie D" insists on extending his own 15 minutes of fame with this sequel DVD.

Bat Boy Lives!: The Weekly World News Guide to Politics, Culture, Celebrities, Alien Abductions, and the Mutant Freaks that Shape Our World

Not real tabloid journalism, but rather, reprints from a parody paper. (Well, it's some people's idea of tabloid journalism.)

CONFESSIONS OF A TABLOID WRITER!: "News" I Wrote for the Tabloids, by Sam Post.

Self-published book by a man who claims to have written for tabloids.








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