Writing biographies is a difficult undertaking. It becomes virtually impossible when writing about a subject where there is nothing interesting to say about. The other extreme can be found when there is so much of the same to tell that it becomes repetitive. This happened to Peter Biskind.
Peter Biskind’s Star, a biography of Warren Beatty, was published by Simon & Schuster. The author tries but abysmally fails to get Warren Beatty out of bed. While the book doesn't tell anything about a star actually achieving anything in his life, the book makes good reading for the scandal mongers at least.
Do you remember the musical Evita? In it, Evita Peron is being accused of sleeping herself to the top. Presuming that story and content of the musical are near to the truth, she was not only more successful than Warren Beatty but incomparably more efficient.
The book charts the life of Warren Beatty from bed to bed. Where there is no bed, it goes from fling to fling. The size of a book is limited, Peter Biskind had therefore to leave out a lot of them but managed to mention more than enough. Warren Beatty had to go through all this for a few measly and mediocre movie roles. How devastating must that be for him? It made me almost pity him. The book claims that this proclivity was his choice. Since Tiger Woods, everybody knows that sex addiction should be treated.
In between all that, the author tries to get the spotlight away from the bedroom and onto a few forgotten movie sets. The movies with Warren Beatty got lost in the sea of mediocre movies; equally, the few work related sentences get lost in the book. The author can’t manage to get the attention away from the private life (or was it all work?). This is not the authors fault, but the consequence of having to write about a 'star'.
While I read the book, I started to wonder when on earth Beatty had had time to do any work. But then, he probably wasn’t expected to while providing other services. I remember a time when providing this kind of service was called something other than acting. Even if some commentators of the biography might compare the succession of women to lemmings, in an age where toy boys become more acceptable this at least gives Warren Beatty a proper work title.
The author managed to completely miss the point, though, when he tries to make Beatty one of the greatest film icons besides Orson Welles. The latter had multiple Oscar nominations at a time when Hollywood was still producing movies. Warren Beatty got a few roles during a total crisis in the Hollywood film industry. In fact, the films coming out of Hollywood during that time were so bad anything leveling out merely substandard was considered a great success.
The only pertinent comment in the book comes from Warren Beatty’s sister Shirley McLaine. She said that he is ‘50 from the neck up and 14 from the waist down.’ Unsurpassed is the self delusion of the subject in contrast when said: ‘I know that the press has to cut people like me down to size ...’
Once you have read this book, you get a perspective on all those hypocrites that deplore promiscuity in (from their point of view) gay lifestyle. Compared to Warren Beatty, hardened gay promiscuous icons working as escorts and porn actors have to graduate from kindergarten first.
The book is one biography too many about a non-star. It is amusing enough to while away an afternoon while you are snowed in or bedridden and unable to do anything more sensible than drink water. Get it from the local library, though; it’s not worth spending money on.
Arthur Miller and The Witch Hunt
Roger Moore Biography
Quantum of Solace: The Source