Ranging from trashy to tragic to triumphant, the biographies and memoirs in this compilation not only tell the stories of the women who've helped define "celebrity" in the past 100 years, but also provide some pretty entertaining bathroom reads.
1.) No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel, by Janice Dickinson
The best thing about Janice's memoir—an account of how she survived an abusive home, became a highly paid model, became a drug addict, and fucked lots of famous guys—is that she's really funny, irreverent, and (edited to be?) lucid. The second best thing about it is how deliciously TMI she is about everything: her binge-and-purge episodes before photo shoots; when she tried to trick Sylvester Stallone into thinking he was the father of her baby when he wasn't; fucking her best friend's (Jerry Hall) boyfriend (Mick Jagger); getting totally fucked up on coke and booze at Stephanie Seymour's bachelorette party until she puked; what a scumbag Bill Cosby is; and describing—in detail—Liam Neeson's penis size. The third best thing about her book is that it caught the attention of Tyra Banks, who then hired Janice as a judge on her new reality show America's Next Top Model, introducing her particular brand of inanity to a new generation, and helping create the second phase of Janice's career, as an arbitrary—yet weirdly reliable—source of inanity.
2.) Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland, by Gerald Clarke
Get Happy is the probably the most comprehensive biography of Judy Garland. It delves into the sad—which have since come to be cliched—consequences of child stardom spurred by stage parents and industry people who are more invested in nurturing a kid's talent than nurturing the kid. Instead of merely giving the salacious details of her life—of which there are plenty—Clarke also investigates the reasons behind the sadness that propelled Garland's addiction, which ultimately led to her death at 47. Also interesting is the investigation of Garland's popularity with gay men, which ties into the book's revelations that her father, Frank Gumm, was homosexual, as well as one of her husbands, Vincente Minnelli. (Additionally, the fact that Liza Minnelli's grandfather and father were gay shines a whole new light onto her marriages to Peter Allen and David Gest.)
3.) Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor, by C. David Heymann
Like Judy Garland before, and Drew Barrymore since, Elizabeth Taylor grew up in the public eye, didn't have much of a typical childhood, and began self-medicating at a young age. This book focuses mostly on the trashier aspects of her life and career—like the pills, the booze, the marriages, and the fluctuating weight—but is mostly interesting for its account of all of her "firsts" as a celebrity woman: the first to be at once vilified and idolized in the tabloid media as a "husband stealer" (decades before Angelina Jolie); the first to break the glass ceiling on actresses' salaries; and the first to pave the way in celebrity fragrance lines.
4.) The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown
What's interesting about Tina Brown's account of Princess Diana's life is that she managed to write a compelling book using all of the anecdotes and history that pretty much everyone already knew about our "Queen of Hearts," by approaching the subject matter from a different angle, illuminating how feminism (or a lack thereof) played a role in antiquating the kind of woman Diana Spencer was raised to be (with an emphasis on finishing school, rather than college), and how it contributed to the gilded cage in which she eventually found herself.
5.) Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker, by Stacy A. Cordery
Before Paris Hilton there was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the eldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. A teenager when her father became president, Alice captivated the attention of the media, and was perhaps the first "It Girl" to ever become famous for simply being the daughter of someone famous. She was photographed all the time, trading cards were made with her face on them, and everything she did made headlines, which was a huge taboo, as women of her ilk were to abide by the "three times rule" (in which they were supposed to only appear in newspapers when they were born, married, and dead). What makes Alice's story interesting is that at a time when women were plagued with a bunch of social restrictions, she did whatever the fuck she wanted, without particularly offending anybody in the long run, proving how needless those restrictions were. Instead of a porno, Alice's scandals involved having a pet snake, drinking, smoking in public, partying, riding in cars with men, and gambling at racetracks.
6.) Mommie Dearest, by Christina Crawford
I highly recommend that anybody who even remotely enjoyed the movie—or has horror stories about their own mothers—read this book. Joan Crawford comes off way worse, breaking down into psychotic episodes about things like Christmas card lists, thank you notes, and, duh, wire hangers, enforcing the rules about these manners with severe beatings.
7.) I, Tina, by Tina Turner with Kurt Loder
I read this book cover-to-cover in the eight hours that I was sitting in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood before my first abortion. I remember not being able to put it down and sort of forgot my impending surgery as I flipped the pages. Suffice it to say, Ike is a dick.
8.) Call Me Crazy, by Anne Heche
Anne Heche's acting career was overshadowed by being Ellen DeGeneres' first public girlfriend, a role which was then overshadowed by her seemingly compulsive need to confess that she believed that she was from a fourth dimension, where her name was Celestia. Aside from being bisexual, she said she was also bilingual/fluent in an alien language. Call Me Crazy is a quick, somewhat unbelievable, and often uncomfortable read—not because Heche describes her childhood in a sort of religious cult or the sexual abuse at the hands of her father (who turned out to be gay and died of AIDS, but not before partying regularly at Studio 54 with a teenage Brooke Shields). No, what makes the book uncomfortable is Heche's wording of some of these events, like when she confronted her mother about how she got oral and genital herpes as a child.
Your baby has welts on her baby-size pussy and you can't put a diaper on her and you don't give a shit enough to trash your fucking beliefs for one goddamn second and taker her to the doctor? Any-fucking-body who might tell you what was wrong with your baby girl's pussy?
9.) Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, by Izabella St. James
If you want some trash, this is some trash. Izabella St. James was one of the original "Seven Blondes" in that harem that Hugh Hefner put together in the 1990s, until Holly Madison came in and streamlined the operation prior to Girls Next Door. I'm pretty sure that St. James wrote this all by herself with no ghostwriter because the typos are so egregious that sometimes there are semicolons in the middle of words. Anyway, she's obviously biased about her experience living at the Playboy Mansion—Madison had her ousted after it was discovered that St. James was merely using Hef—and complained about a lot of things, even though she was paid an awful lot of money (an "allowance" which she never invested) per week, on top of extra money for outfits and beauty regimens for special events and unlimited funds for plastic surgery. St. James went to law school, and instead of taking the bar exam, she moved into Hef's place and became one of his paid girlfriends, an experience that left a bad taste in her mouth (but that might have been caused by the baby oil... apparently that's what Hef uses for lube). Also, he would have group sex with the harem one night a week, during which he never wore condoms, and instead used a rag to wipe off his dick between women, always finishing the evening by cumming in Holly Madison's ass. See? Trash. Also, Hef loves Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy." I read this book over a course of four bowel movements.
10.) Confessions of a Video Vixen, by Karrine Steffans
While we're on the subject of trash, here's an account of the employment of a video star, which actually was more like hustling blow jobs and ecstasy from famous people. She goes into a lot of detail about rappers and athletes, like who likes to cuddle (Ice-T), who likes drugs (Ja Rule), who wears condoms while getting head (Jay-Z) and who gave her the most cash (Shaq). Frankly, Steffans would've been more likable if she'd been unapologetic about her kissing and telling, but she couched her tale in feigned remorse and redemption that only made her look like an asshole when she continued to be so one-note in her career (more kissing and telling and blow jobs and hustling) after the fanfare of her first book died down. Still, it's a nice little behind-the-scenes snapshot of hip-hop life in the late '90s.
11.) What Falls Away, by Mia Farrow
This book could also have been titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Woody Allen But Were Afraid to Ask Because You Might Not Like His Movies Anymore. Mia Farrow's life pre-Woody is actually incredibly fascinating. She was raised by famous parents as part of Hollywood royalty, became a child actor, hung out with the Maharishi and the Beatles, married Frank Sinatra, married Andre Previn, gave birth to and adopted a bunch of kids, and then started a life with Woody Allen, who eventually betrayed her. While we all know the shit about Woody and Soon-Yi, Mia also goes into detail about how he possibly molested the daughter that the couple adopted together. When her pediatrician learned about it, he was obligated to report the incident to the authorities, which sparked the whole custody battle between Woody and Mia. When Woody lost the legal fight, he actually didn't have anything to do with Mia or her children again, including the kid who is Woody's biological son.
12.) Elvis & Me, by Priscilla Presley
With so many books published about The King, this one actually has some golden nuggets that aren't available in less biased accounts, like the time that Elvis and Priscilla did acid together. Also, she goes into detail about Scientology, and how the organization works.
13.) Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, by Dolly Parton
I actually didn't read this book. Instead, I listened to the audio version of it, because Dolly narrates, and I think it only makes the experience more enjoyable, as she occasionally breaks out into song. It also ups the awkward factor of when she talks about her bath time adventures with her siblings and inspecting everyone's genitalia. Additionally, she gives hillbilly makeup tips (burnt matches make good eyeliner), her diet (chew food but don't swallow it), and explains her open marriage with her husband Carl Dean. It's a testament to how fucking likable she is, regardless of what she says.
14.) Barbra: The Way She Is, by Christopher Andersen
This Barbra Streisand bio—which she hated when it came out—is a rags-to-riches story in which a girl hits the big time based solely on her exceptional talents and determination, rather than her outer beauty. While the book does focus on Babs' obsession with the way she looks and how she's shot and lit, it also details how she's embraced her own beauty, rather than change it with surgery. (And she's particularly fond of her naturally perfect fingernails and ass.) But beyond that, it goes into detail about her many lovers, and her crush on Bill Clinton.
15.) Audition: A Memoir, by Barbara Walters
Walters opens the book with, "My sister was mentally retarded…" and the rest of the book is impossible to read without hearing her maybe-accent-maybe-speech-impediment voice narrating in your head. Babs has led a really interesting life, beginning with her father winning and losing the family's fortune over and over with his risky nightclubs. (When her family moved to Florida—Al Capone was a neighbor—they lived for a time with a homosexual mobster and his driver/boyfriend.) More interesting than the famous people she's interviewed, or the famous men she slept with, is Barbara's very candid account of her relationship with her sister Jackie, whom she resented for most of her life due to Jackie's disability, and the feelings of guilt she still carries about it to this day.
16.) Learning to Fly, by Victoria Beckham
The fact that Posh Spice has managed to stay relevant long after the dissolution of the Spice Girls is sort of baffling, but it makes a lot of sense after reading her autobiography. She's super funny and honest and her appeal makes sense when you realize that she has no problem giving people what they want—the juice (her anecdote of the brief time that she dated Corey Haim is worth the read alone). Also included are tons of pictures, the best of which is a cake her mother ordered for her 22nd birthday, which was in the shape of low-fat yogurt and fruit, which she says was "a reference to my eating habits, I think."
17.) My Face for the World to See, by Liz Renay
Liz Renay was a B-movie actress who sometimes stripped as a way to make ends meet, but eventually discovered that being a girlfriend to rich guys (Joe DiMaggio, Regis Philbin, Cary Grant) was the way to go, at least, for a little while. Her memoir tells the salty story of her life, which involved dating mobster Mickey Cohen, whose trial she testified at, and for which she was subsequently convicted of perjury and served over two years in prison, turning her journey for fame into a destination of infamy. Like other campy icons, John Waters took a shine to her and put her in his film Desperate Living.
18.) My First Five Husband…And the Ones Who Got Away, By Rue McClanahan
OK, if you love the Golden Girls (and who doesn't?) then this is all you need to know about this book in order to convince you to read it:
People always ask me if I'm like Blanche. And I say, 'Well, Blanche was an oversexed, self-involved, man-crazy, vain Southern belle from Atlanta—and I'm not from Atlanta!
19.) Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield, By Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham
Written by two women from her inner-circle, the book chronicles the highs of Dusty's career and the lows of her personal life without getting too icky or intrusive (covering her lesbianism, plastic surgery, mental illness, and addiction). Perhaps because the authors really liked Dusty, and understood her as much as they could, anecdotes that would typically seem sad come off as funny memories of crazy times—literally. (Dusty would frequently check herself into Bellevue Hospital because she viewed it as a free hotel, where people cleaned up after you and made your bed.)
20.) My Life So Far, by Jane Fonda
Fonda's memoir is an essential feminist text, a record of how one woman navigated her way through exploiting, and later owning, her sexuality; body-image; and activism; and how she came to resolve the woman she'd been with the woman she wanted to be. Also, there's lots of sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, hippies, and Ted Turner.