The original version of “Hollywood Babylon” first appeared in France in 1959. An incredibly scandalous reveal of Tinseltown that had to wait until 1965 for a US publisher brave enough to put it out. Within ten days it was banned and did not appear again until a decade later. Written by American film-maker Kenneth Anger ,who claimed to be in the know concerning scandals, the first volume had an emphasis on the stars of early Hollywood and the silent era. A second volume appeared in 1984. Many of Anger’s claims have been strongly denied if not always completely unproven so they have hung around as rumour and urban legend. The books are sleazy and compelling in equal measures, I’ve read both over the years.
So enthused by the format were Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince that in 2008 they claimed “it’s back” with another volume of scandal, rumour and sleaze ranging from the Hollywood in its hey-day to modern Tinseltown. (Tom Cruise certainly does not get off lightly here). Anger was decidedly angered by Porter and Prince muscling in on a direct copy of style, format and general grubbiness.
Truman Capote (a source of a number of the scurrilous titbits in this book) reputedly said that gossip will become the literature of the twenty-first century (and he should have known being a tremendous gossip himself) so maybe what we have here is literature in its purest form. Movie heart-throb Rock Hudson (another gossip) said “In Hollywood you can keep a mistress, or a boyfriend, maybe both. You can go gay, bi or pan-sexual. Just don’t tell anybody and don’t get caught. What do you expect when you bring the world’s most beautiful people together in the same town?” This quote does seem to be the raison d’etre for this book.
It’s not an easy read. By adopting the style of the original and of classic scandal magazines from “Confidential” of the 1950s to the National Enquirer it has ended up as vague, repetitive writing, keen to go off on tangents, with grainy black and white photography which may or not provide proof to their claims.
It will rouse strong emotions. I read a (withdrawn) library copy and there’s a chunk of pages which have been roughly ripped out (hence the withdrawal and not by me I hasten to add). I know where there’s another copy (hopefully undefiled) and will be keen to see what has been so forcefully extracted (oddly enough from the contents it seems to be the end of a section concerning Lucille Ball!)
The lips are pursed and the dirt is dished throughout. Some may be familiar stories and there’s a great deal of emphasis on who slept with who, who was secretly gay, and what was the size of the equipment they were doing all this sleeping around with. Thus Ivor Novello is linked with Winston Churchill, Mick Jagger with Eric Clapton and James Dean and Marilyn Monroe with just about everybody. Does any of it matter? Of course not, but there is still something compelling in this catalogue of stories with dubious provenance that kept me reading even when I felt quite grubby doing so.
I recently watched on Netflix the documentary film “Tab Hunter Confidential” in which the 50’s heart-throb movie star and singer puts into context his hiding of his sexuality in a calm, admirable way. It is the weird attitude of Hollywood and its hypocrisy (recently brought into focus with all those accusations against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey) which has brought about all this net curtain-twitching from Porter and Prince.
This book is one of a sizeable output from Blood Moon Productions who on their website claim to be “applying the standards of today to the Hollywood scandals of yesterday” and they do this in volumes dedicated to performers such as Rock Hudson, Lana Turner, Peter O’ Toole, The Gabor sisters – the list goes on, including even politicians (Donald Trump: The Man Who Would Be King is a recent Porter and Prince work). Scanning down this back catalogue on bloodmoonproductionscom I couldn’t help but think “Ooh, I’d like to read that” on quite a few occasions. I know it’s all a far cry from the literary blogger I strive to be (Ha Ha!) but sometimes I just can’t help looking to the gutter for inspiration!
Hollywood Babylon It’s Back!” was published by Blood Moon in 2008
7 thoughts on “Hollywood Babylon– It’s Back! – Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince (Blood Moon 2008) – A Real Life Review”
Ooh. I love a good gossip. I used to read the Nationsl Enquired weekly, one of my colleagues bought it to read the saga of the murder of little Jonbenet.
I also read a book that ‘dished the dirt’ on a lot of Hollywood stars, written by a supposed columnist, who sounded quite bitter that these people had fame and fortune.
Rock Hudson. Ah. Rock Hudson. I had a huge poster of him on my bedroom wall, I thought he was gorgeous.
At the time there were a lot of his films being shown on t.v. and of course Macmillan and wife, I stayed up late to watch that on a Monday night.
One of my greatest days in London was in the 70’s when my friend Chris and I got on the wrong tube train and ended up who knows where. We came across a film unit. Rock Hudson and a couple of English actors. I almost buckled at the knees. There weren’t many people spectating but my idol came across and gave us his autograph. I cherished that autograph. No phones in those days to take a selfie.
I met him again a few years later when they were filming The Mirror Cracked. He was with Tony Curtis and they followed my friend and I into a pub in Bidenden, we were there for lunch and they sat at the next table. The waitress delivered our food to the wrong table and both men joked about it. They were extremely gracious and signed napkins for us. I still have mine.
But I digress and remember fondly. Tony Curtis wore a lovely after shave, but I didn’t have nerve to ask what it was.
Back to the book. It sounds like it’s one to read in instalments, I suppose if you are into wanting to know all about the ‘stars’ this could be the book for you.
I didn’t know you were in such close contact with Hollywood stars, Kay. Keep that napkin for “Antiques Roadshow”!!! A lovely story and probably you shouldn’t read the book by the same authors about Rock which is entitled “Rock Hudson: Erotic Fire”. I think that may be a little too much for you!!
Haha. I was extremely lucky. Just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Getting a wrong train was a real stroke of luck and we really only stopped at the pub to use the ladies.
We do of course have a Beatle for a sort of neighbour, years ago Paul and Linda bought the windmill just round the lane from us, they renovated the house, had the windmill restored and built a recording studio. There have been a lot of famous people driving through the lane. When I worked in our local pub, they would sometimes close it for the evening for Paul McCartney and his guests, the amount they spent was worth it.
Rod Hull lived along the main road and could be seen at the local shop in the mornings, sometimes in pyjamas and dressing gown, collecting his paper. He had asked Heidi to be his partner in a charity boule competition, she used to.pmay in the league, unfortunately he died before the competition.
No matter how famous they Are, they’re still people underneath. Thanks for the heads up about the book.
I try not to read too many “biographies” or books about anyone, they seem to want to dish the dirt and sensationalist things.
Anyway that’s me done.
I’m going to sit here and look at the box of Ferrero Rocher, I have a blood test in the morning and can only have eater now. It’s pure torture.
Kay. excuse my ignorance, but who is Rod Hull? great story about meeting your idol…The only rubbing on with famous is Jamie Carragher (Liverpool’s ex football player) in flesh, in the local gym and he works out hard….(my hubby says)…sorry no film stars, sorry when I came over to England Liverpool, my hubby was a regular extra…and I met aged Richard Harris…(everybody tiptoeing around him and I went full throttle “Who is Richard Harris?” that was back in 2001, maybe his last big filming of Last Kingdom….(based on Shakespeare’s King Lear)…Just to put the foot in it even more….who is Barry Manilow? Never heard of him….(what can you expect from originating from behind the iron curtain:)?)
I can help with this one, Monika. Rod Hull had an emu puppet which made him a regular on television in the 1970’s. It once famously attacked Michael Parkinson. He died falling off his roof whilst trying to adjust his television aerial. As for Barry Manilow – I have no idea, perhaps Kay knows! !!!!!!
hijacking your post again…We were both right about Saoirse Ronan-I only watched Brooklyn
Barry Manilow? Seriously? He had a FEW FAMOUS HITS, in that film I mentioned one of his songs was used, Mandy….you know him, but cannot picture him….He is in his 70s now with numerous plastic surgeries, face stretches lifts…basically he looks far too artificial, esp. the cheek bones…I am sure you saw him….but cannot remember….or HEARD.