Lee Siegel makes little sense...in a new way!

Usually I can't stand reading Lee Siegel for his pseudo-profundities and pretentious meaninglessness. This piece on Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke contains blessedly little over-dramatized over-generalizations about the State of American Culture Today. (He managed to limit himself to "In the inflation-deflation machine known as American celebrity, they provided the deflations to over-the-top luxury and privilege that kept those inflated lives viable and popular. The American public loves to help power up off the floor.") However, it is instead a strained, inaccurate analogy.
Finke has been described as a “digital-age Walter Winchell” by The New York Times, but she brings to mind not so much Winchell—who threw his steel net far wider than Hollywood into politics, crime, sports, and journalism itself—than those earlier queens of Wilshire Boulevard and Hollywood Hills: Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons and Rona Barrett.

Reasonable enough thesis. So how is she like them?
All three came from humble circumstances. Parsons was born in the small town of Freeport, Illinois, lived unhappily as a housewife in Iowa until her divorce, and then worked hard to make it as a single mother and screenwriter in Chicago before getting her first gossip column in 1914, when she was in her mid-30s. Hopper, from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, was one of nine children and the daughter of a butcher. She also married badly and struggled for many years as a character actor on Broadway and in Hollywood before landing her column in 1937, at the age of 52. Born in Queens, Rona Barrett was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was 9.

At first glance, Finke, a debutante from Manhattan, is a rarity in this wicked pantheon of secret-sharers. Her three predecessors were social and economic outsiders, who used gossip and schadenfreude as dubious levers of equality.

Yet there is more to marginality than material origins. When Finke’s detractors describe her many stints as a journalist at various magazines and newspapers, and her brief marriage, they may want to imply some type of instability or inner turmoil, but the effect is to make her as much as an outsider as Parsons, Hopper, and Barrett.

Really? Someone questioning a rich person's dilettantism and the tenor of his or her personal relationships renders them just as socially outcast as someone who grew up poor? I'll have to let biographers of JFK, Jr know.

The only other direct comparison of Finke with the earlier gossip queens was this:
Enter Nikki Finke, who writes about the studio executives and other Hollywood wheelers and dealers and never about celebrities. Unlike her precursors, Finke is a specialist whose densely written, narrowly focused blog lacks any kind of popular appeal—it is read, relished, and brooded over by the machers and their minions. She has nothing like the mass influence of Parsons, Hopper, and Barrett. What she has is power over a small group of people who influence the masses.

Finke doesn’t bother herself with people’s private lives. The spectacle of money coupling with power is sufficient. Watching money at work is the new pornography; greed or the merest hint of dishonesty in business is the new infidelity. (Adultery nowadays causes outrage in Washington, not Hollywood. The large sensationalism of pregnant Ingrid Bergman has given way to the micro-sensationalism of pregnant Rielle Hunter.)

The politics of personal destruction that Parsons and Hopper trafficked in doesn’t seem to interest Finke. Instead, she insults, and that, in this anxious, image-fretting, nuclearly competitive age seems to suffice. In fact, Finke seems just as anxious and fragilely egoed as her targets. Whereas Parsons and Hopper got sued, Finke is the one who sues anyone who she believes has insulted or cheated her. But her victims, in court and out, should take the long, historic view. This too shall pass.

So wait. How exactly is she like Parsons, et al.?

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