It seems like there are about 500 entertainment-related awards shows every year, but the glitziest one of all is the Golden Globe Awards. The Academy Awards might be the most prestigious, but they can also be stuffy — plus, you have to sit through all those lame song and dance numbers. The Golden Globes are much more fun: Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are the hosts, for a start. The nominees sit at dinner tables and get sloshed on free fancy cocktails, so the speeches are more interesting than, “I’d like to thank my agent, manager, lawyer, and Botox. Amen.” Plus, they honor movies and TV, so you can root for Jill Soloway’s amazing show Transparent one minute, and Ava DuVernay’s Selma the next.
If you’re not actually going to the Golden Globes this Sunday (like most people on the planet), you can get lost in a bunch of juicy Hollywood books to get you ready for the show. You could reread Bossypants and Yes Please in honor of Fey and Poehler, and there’s a little bit of light gossip in both of those books. But I’m talking old Hollywood scandals, backstabbing starlets, and disgruntled screenwriters-turned-stalkers. The good stuff.
There’s some fact, some fiction, and a lot of melodrama going on in the 10 books listed below. Throw on your ostrich feather ball gown (or your pajamas, same diff), pop open some champagne-filled bonbons, and brush up on some Hollywood lore.
Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
This one is the trashiest book of Hollywood gossip out there, which is why it’s now a classic. Child actor turned underground filmmaker turned author Kenneth Anger in some ways comes off as a pre-Internet Perez Hilton with this book, so if you’re looking for fact-based reporting, please don’t quote Hollywood Babylon. Still, if you love old Hollywood legends like James Dean, Gloria Swanson, and Frances Farmer and don’t mind a little salaciousness, dig in.
You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again by Julia Phillips
Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips (The Sting, Taxi Driver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) did not give a damn about the saying, “Don’t burn your bridges” when she wrote this tell-all memoir. Her story of 1970s drug binges, backstabbing, and dirty deals had Hollywood on edge when it was published in 1991. No actor, director, or studio head that Phillips came across was spared, and whether it’s all fact or fiction, it’s a fun read.
The Player by Michael Tolkin
OK, this one really is fiction, but you can bet it’s based on the writer’s real experiences in Hollywood. If you haven’t seen Robert Altman’s film version of the book, stop everything and watch it right this second! It was nominated for four Golden Globes and won two (Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical and Best Actor for Tim Robbins). It’s a darkly comic story about an out of touch, narcissistic Hollywood exec (Robbins) that gets a little paranoid when a disgruntled screenwriter (is there any other kind?) starts stalking him. Satire at its best.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind
I firmly believe that American cinema in the 1970s was as good as it gets. Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange, Chinatown, The Exorcist, Klute, Harold and Maude — seriously, the list could go on. If you also love this era, then you’ll plow through Biskind’s book. If you’re iffy on the era... well, read it anyway.
This one’s by the same author, and it’s an equally entertaining and educational (in a fun way) book about a different golden age of film: the era of sex, lies, and videotape and Pulp Fiction. You’ll also get plenty of juicy stories about Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein.
The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans
Legendary producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Chinatown, The Conversation) is kind of a spiritual guru to all the guys in Entourage, which means his religion consisted of: Money, drugs, women, and power. So Zen! Still, he’s funny, smart, and the book was so entertaining it got turned into an award-winning documentary. The last line of the book is pretty memorable, too. Evans is producing a new TV show that’s supposedly like a 1970s Entourage, so the guy’s still at it, and if you read the book, you'll learn a thing or two about chutzpah.
Watch Me: A Memoir by Anjelica Huston
I can’t think of a better title for an actor’s memoir than: Watch Me. Huston’s book came out in 2014 and it covers her life as the daughter of famed director John Huston, her years dating Jack Nicholson, and her rise to fame. She’s one of those stars that’s just effortlessly cool, even when she’s starring in a show like Smash, tossing martinis in men’s faces and saying lines like, “The show must go on!” I can’t remember if she said those exact words in Smash, but she may as well have. In any case, her memoir is a fun read, especially if you want some dirt on “Jack.”
What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg
Circling back to the land of fiction, we have this classic 1940s rags to riches novel about Sammy Glick, a guy who works his way up through the ranks in Hollywood. It’s not all glitz and glamour, though. The book skewers Hollywood politics and greed, and it’s a dark (but funny) peek behind the curtain.
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Here’s another fictionalized account of the sad, lonely side of Hollywood, this time set in the studio lots and lima bean-shaped swimming pools of Los Angeles during The Great Depression. You’ll meet wannabe starlets, out-of-work actors, and cantankerous writers. It might sound like a bummer, but it’s a beautifully written book, and the characters and world that West created will stay with you. It was made into a movie in 1975, which got two Golden Globe nominations.
So there you have it. Read one or more of these books over the weekend and you can impress your friends with all your Hollywood knowledge before Tina Fey and Amy Poehler take the stage on Sunday.