"Tom had come to Hollywood looking for love and fame and fortune, the same things people had been coming to Hollywood to find for a hundred years. He was at the edge of the world, there was no farther to go.
“He walked through the kitchen, out the back door and into the beautiful afternoon, sundrenched and warm, and he looked at the skyline of the city in the distance. It was the American Dream. Blue-collar kid from upstate New York with money in the bank and living in the Hollywood Hills with a gorgeous actress. It was what everybody in upstate New York and places like it dreamed about."
The "Hollywood novel" -- a decidedly oxymoronic terminology given the overtones of seriousness associated with the word "novel" coupled to the name of a city whose reputation is imbued with frivolity and artificiality -- has captivated readers nearly since Tinseltown came into being.
The struggle for fame, status and money - and the superficialities, insecurities, naked ambition, self-absorption and cut-throat competitiveness that accompany it - all aspects of Hollywood culture that fill the pages of not only glossy celebrity mags at the supermarket check-out, but also, incongruously, some great works of American literature.
"The Last Tycoon" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1941), "The Dream Merchants" by Harold Robbins (1949) and "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann (1966) are representative of this literary subgenre. And now, with his latest novel "Fame Whore", Mike Hudson will soon have his name up in lights among these notables.
Forget the bearded guy in the beer commercial. Hudson is the Most Interesting Man in the World. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Hudson founded the punk band the Pagans, which charted the hits "Street Where Nobody Lives" and "Six and Change" in the late '70's. Lead singer Hudson recounted the history of the band and all the sex, drugs and violence that fueled it in his 2008 "Diary of a Punk".
While not an overwhelming success during their recording years, at least in commercial terms, the Pagans have since garnered critical approbation, and one of their early pressings recently fetched over $1800 on Ebay.
Having toured and recorded as a punk rock star, Hudson's next chosen career was journalism. To the good fortune of the city of Niagara Falls, and misfortune of various corrupt entities that ran it, Hudson left the Niagara Gazette after a brief stint there as city hall reporter and founded the weekly tabloid Niagara Falls Reporter, for which he is still a top contributor.
In addition to "Punk", and his prodigious output at the Reporter, Hudson found the time to write several books, including "Niagara Falls Confidential" and "Mob Boss", a biography of Western New York mafioso Stefano Magaddino, and "Never Trust the World" a somewhat jaundiced fictional portrayal of the Falls. Having found success as a journalist, novelist and musician, Hudson recently relocated to Los Angeles where he's been procuring various movie and TV roles.
"Fame Whore", more than anything, is a love story. Former musician and writer Tom Heaton, in his fifties with a bad liver and attitude towards life to match, meets beautiful Angie Roscelli while in Hollywood on business. Angie enjoys the stimulating life every gorgeous, outgoing and well-adjusted mature woman deserves, with friends, career, glamorous Hollywood parties, hobbies and volunteer work for shelter animals filling her days. Transcending the surroundings where she's always lived, she has a real life. The two fall in love and embark on a deeply satisfying existence together, although subject to frequent blow-ups due to Tom's inability to moderate his drinking and womanizing.
Serious danger is just around the corner, however. A frustrated loser named John Harris chances upon Angie in line at the local Starbucks, and commences a weird obsession that culminates in him getting a job there just on the off chance she'll come back someday for another soy Chai latte. Meanwhile, Tom's wife back in New York is causing trouble, spreading nasty rumors about Tom through emails and messaging. Worse, after live accounts of Tom's clumsy and drunken advances towards a woman half his age are broadcast over the twittersphere, his soon-to-be ex is contacted by the producer of "Cheaters".
The development and climactic resolution of these conflicts will have you turning page after page, but the book actually offers far more. Hudson gives us a non-stop parade of fame whores, individuals who are drawn to and remain in Hollywood despite receiving near constant clues that their mediocre talents are surpassed by their ambition and shallowness. Melissa Totten, for example, a frustrated lingerie model who resorts to taunting celebrities on Facebook in vain attempts to get their, or anybody's, attention:
"Nobody thought her commentary was interesting and she was discovering that desperation is never sexy. Even at the age of twenty-eight, this final realization was coming to her a bit late, as it does to all beautiful women.
“’And her ice cream melted because she spent 45 minutes looking for parking in Koreatown. - Excerpt from my suicide note"' she wrote finally. They all thought about suicide from time to time. They had to. It was the biggest move a fame whore could make."
Strong characterizations and narrative drive interspersed with trapdoor-surprising side excursions into love, life and literature - "Fame Whore" puts you in the front row.