From the moment I picked up my Kindle and started to dig into MOMMIE SMEAREST: See Joan Crawford In Bitch Selfie Ain’t Make You No Movie Star, the fake posthumous autobiography of Joan Crawford, I knew I was going to be lost in a campy, catty, silly story. But the camp is used as a way for delivering an arrow into the heart of the allure so many people have for Hollywood stardom and celebrity status. And with “Joan” writing this story, it is a comical way to question why, what, and how this all plays out in today’s society where everyone, not just a few chosen ones, are clamoring to be the next superstar.
After she departs the Earthly realm, Joan is stopped at the gates of Hollywood Heaven and told she’s really being sent to Hollywood Hell by a sleeve-tattooed security guard. As she beguiles the security guard with her womanly seductiveness and high Hollywood status attempting to gain entrance to Hollywood Heaven, she soon learns she may enter Hollywood Heaven but on probation.
Before gaining full entrance, she must first, “…go forth on Earth on parole in a real-life screen test and explain Mommie Dearest, which cracked the Hollywood illusion. And, since her big movie star ego got her into this mess, Miss Crawford is to do good works by exposing the folly of ego, and the related cheapening of American celebrity that now includes reality starlets and civilian selfies. She is to publicly unmask one big trophy of somebody who acts like they are a movie star but are not: this can be a reality starlet, or somebody who thinks they are a reality starlet — like an executive, or a politician, or a bishop — and not just kids in rap-drag at the food court.” So, off Joan goes.
Joan bases herself in a fake Florida town and works to unmask several pseudo celebrities and reality starlets including the one who she targets as her big trophy for getting into Hollywood Heaven, Sharon Taylor Parker-Pope, the twice-divorced “Boss Lady in da house,” whose top priority is presentation of her personal “brand clarity.”
I was indeed whisked through many phony locales that give tremendous flavor to the story, such as the Starlite Trailer Park, the Floridaville Plantations Mobile Estate, boardrooms, Trump Tower, Times Square, and the mall. The descriptions of some of these places really had me chuckling. As Joan arrives to Hix Court, a dirt street within the Floridaville Plantations Mobile Estates, she describes, “As we pulled up to the ‘house’ as the girls call it, a red luxury sedan tore out of the yard at high speed in a cloud of dust and dog shit.”
Then there are the colorful characters like Tami, CEO of Permanent Makeup by Tami, and Bobbi and Candi Hix the “under-informed thirty-something sisters,” $aint Luke, Malcolm Hix and his partner Theo, and Michael Thomas Mayfield, Sharon’s snippy assistant “whom [she] carries about with her like one does a Pekingese dog.” And of course there is the Christian rap-thug-porn-star R.E.L.E.N.✝.L.E.$.$.B.B.C. with whom Joan performs her rap-dance smash hit “Bitch Selfie Ain’t Make You No Movie Star.”
Mommie Smearest is a quick, easy read that is fun and light-hearted and had me at times laughing pretty hysterically. There is a ton of celebrity call-outs and references and the story does make one think about where we have come with respect to fame, celebrity status, and realness. The underlying commentary provided throughout this campy, comedic story is why in the hell are so many people caught up with being the next reality-star by having their YouTube or Instagram video going viral. When we are all doing the “Step. Pose. Selfie. #Tweet. Repeat.” in an attempt to be the next superstar, then what have we become?
And as Joan says, “As Hollywood Royalty of the First Magnitude, let me tell you something: if everybody is a star, then nobody is.”