Saturday, December 29, 2007

Accuracy of Celebrity News

My wife loves autobiographies, especially those by people in the entertainment industry. Her favorite autobiography is that of Michael Caine, the brilliant British actor. She's read it at least 10 times. Others she has read include Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, Mia Farrow, Laurence Olivier, Lauren Bacall and Maureen O'Hara.

Although they came from completely different backgrounds and had very different lives, they all had one thing in common: the press continuously told lies about them.

It is fascinating to see that from the 1930's right up to the present day the press lies and lies and lies about celebrities. From these books it seems to go this way: the press will try to dig up dirt and when they can't find any they'll make it up.

Most of these celebrities were unable to do much about the lies because the press is very clever in how they report things. For example: "a source close to the actor told me …." What follows is a lie, but the reporter is not saying it is a fact, merely that someone told him it.

One of the few celebrities that had success in fighting this was Maureen O'Hara. If you have seen the movie "LA Confidential" then you will recall the magazine "Hush, Hush" which used dirty tricks and blackmail to get its stories. This magazine was modeled on an actual magazine of the 1950's called "Confidential". In Ms. O'Hara's own words, "there was no tabloid more popular and more destructive than Confidential magazine. Confidential was devoted exclusively to the misadventures of Hollywood movie stars and other celebrities."

In 1957 the magazine published an extremely salacious story about what Ms. Hara got up to in the back row of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre with her "Latin Lover". The story was completely false so she sued.

At first the industry was behind her, but as time went by that support evaporated, many said because the magazine used blackmail to protect itself. She even had to have two FBI agents to protect her when it was discovered that the magazine planned to break into her house in an attempt to find dirt they could use to blackmail her.

Finally, in a truly Hollywood ending, after the magazine's representatives had given the exact date and time of the alleged incident, Ms. O'Hara pulled out her passport and handed it to the Judge. The official stamps proved that she had been in Spain at the time and the magazine was found guilty and had to pay millions in damages. In her book Ms. O'Hara says, "My victory was the first time a movie star had won against an industry tabloid."

Sadly, in the 50 years since her victory, very few celebrities have been successful in suing the media for the lies they publish. So the scandalmongers continue the vitriolic tradition of the catty old women of ages past who whispered their hateful lies in back alleys and across garden fences.

So, next time you read some scandalous story about a celebrity, realize that it's probably a lie that has been worded carefully to prevent a law suit.

I leave you with a quote from L. Ron Hubbard: "News media is parasitic on those who make news. It is not true that those who make news need the news at all. Who needs cancer?"

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