The loser in the Kitty vs. Oprah grudge match? You, me, everyone we know
The thing to remember in this week’s media tempest — Kitty vs. Oprah — is that Kitty Kelley and Oprah Winfrey, however sincere their differences, are essentially on one side: call it Mt. Celebrity Olympus. And you, an obscure mortal scratching out a living by the sweat of your brow, are on the other.
Kitty and Oprah have more more in common with each other than they’ll ever have with you. Yes, Kitty has dug up some outrageous details Oprah would rather keep hidden (and some of them may even be true!). And no doubt Oprah is gritting her teeth in rage right now, ordering pals like Rachel Ray and Larry King and Barbara Walters to blackball Kitty, as reported in the Baltimore Sun and elsewhere.
But Kitty will sell a few hundred thousand books in hardcover (Oprah: A Biography is currently No. 3 on Amazon’s bestseller rankings–but if you must buy the thing, please go to a local bookstore), and probably a million or three in paperback later on. Oprah, however piqued and embarrassed she may be, will go on with her media empire as one of America’s richest and most popular women.
And you, dear reader, will remain unknown and poor.
Did Oprah call herself a “teen prostitute?” Does Oprah really keep her phone number secret from her own mother? Did Oprah and John Tesh really live together when both were first starting out in Nashvillle (wow, those two in bed: There’s an image I’ll be trying to forget the rest of the day)?
Why do we care? I was going to call this blog post “Leave Oprah Alone!” You know, a clever (heh-heh) reference to Chris Crocker’s “Leave Britney Alone!” viral video. But Heather Havrilesky, over at Salon.com, beat me to it. Difference is, Havrilesky is defending Oprah on the basis of all the good works she’s done.
And Oprah is certainly defensible. But so is Kitty Kelley. For more than 20 years I’ve stood back in grudging admiration of Kelley, a driven and gifted investigative journalist, as she’s produced one scathing and seemingly impossible celebrity expose after another:
Jacqueline Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, the British Royal Family, the Bush family — she’s written bestselling books airing the dirtiest possible secrets of them all. But while she’s been excoriated (Nancy Sinatra once said, “I hope she gets hit by a truck”), she’s never been successfully sued. She’s still in business.
So I have to admire her talent and persistence as an investigative reporter. But it’s also repulsive. She’s the Marilyn vos Savant of journalism. Why isn’t Vos Savant, the smartest person in the world, curing cancer instead of writing a brain-teaser column for Parade magazine?
Why isn’t Kelley digging up the next Watergate, instead of dirt on passing celebrities?
I’ve never found it necessary to read one of Kelley’s books, and I urge you not to read them, either. Play with your kids. Read a good novel or a “real” nonfiction book. Do just about anything but contribute to this pretend game of celebrity “Gotcha!” It’s not real. None of it is real.
No doubt a lot of you are muttering, “Who does this guy think he is?!” Fair enough. So let’s play: Do you plan to read Kelley’s book? Do you think it shouldn’t have been written? Do you think Oprah needs to be taken down a notch or two?