Notes on the Death of the Celebrity Profile

Or, why you shouldn’t trust any story whose first paragraph begins with what the star is eating or wearing (unless the star is naked).

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  1. Exhibit A. A few years ago I had a brief and mutually unsatisfactory conversation with one Charlotte Parker, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s PR flack at the time. I had just met Arnold while reporting a Planet Hollywood story for Esquire when Parker drew me aside: “We’d like to get Arnold on Esquire’s cover,” she said. “He’s been everywhere else.”

    “Oh?”

    “How much time with him would you need?” Parker asked. “Half an hour? Forty-five minutes?”

    “Well, if I were going to do it, I’d want to hang around over a few days,” I said, rather stiffly.

    “Oh, God,” she said disgustedly, “this wouldn’t be one of those profiles where you try to figure him out, would it?”

    ***

    Exhibit B. Us magazine, December 1997.

    Us: “What [do] you loathe about yourself?”

    Richard Gere: [Laughs darkly] “You are someone I met ten minutes ago, and now you want to get into the deep, dark questions about my being?”

    ***

    Exhibit C. In the October 1997 Esquire, Tom Junod wrote a cover story entitled “Kevin Spacey Has a Secret.” Junod was sheepish about his hateful task—trying to out Spacey. So he began by quoting his own mother: “Well, I hear he’s gay.” Then Junod sought to confirm his “reporting,” growing increasingly sour and antagonistic as he looked for someone, anyone, “to betray [Spacey], to divulge his one essential secret, to give him up, finally, once and for all.” Esquire’s editors archly justified this ninja mission by asserting that “a celebrity has no secrets; he belongs to all of us, completely, not onl...

Originally published in Spin, March 1998