Under the spell of the stars | VailDaily.com

Under the spell of the stars

Terri Schlichenmeyer

So you made your grocery list for the week, and you usually stick pretty close to it. At least until you get to the check-out, anyhow. No matter how hard you try, you can’t tear your eyes away from those tabloids. This star gained lots of weight, that one is cheating on his wife, another star is on trial, and what the heck is going on in Ben and Jen’s marriage? You can’t resist, and the paper goes home with you.According to the new book by Michael Joseph Gross, you’ve been “Starstruck” (c.2005, Bloomsbury).Remember writing that fan letter to Elvis Presley or Shaun Cassidy, asking for an autographed picture? If you were lucky enough to get a reply, you remember the thrill of opening the envelope and seeing your favorite star’s signature. Michael Joseph Gross says he spent his entire childhood eager for those kinds of moments.Gross grew up in a small town in Illinois. When he was ten years old, he became fascinated with Ronald Reagan and decided that he wanted to get to know Mr. Reagan. From this obsession sprang a new hobby: collecting autographs. From age 12 to 18, Gross penned letters to celebrities, asking for an autograph. Lots of letters.Almost five thousand of them.When he grew up, Gross stopped collecting autographs but he never stopped enjoying the brushes with celebrity that he craved. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and began to work as a journalist and spend real time with celebs.In this book, Gross takes a look at why we love people who are famous. Why, he says, do we put so much stock in a signature? Gross examines the autograph collecting industry, where “businessmen” conduct stake-outs for a celebrity swish of a pen, and fans pay big money to get snapshots of old television stars. He talks to Michael Jackson’s fans, and fans of Dolly Parton, to see why people put their lives on hold to follow someone famous. Gross also talks to the celebrities themselves about their fans, and he learns that sometimes, dreaming about meeting a famous person is much more fun than actually getting to know someone who’s famous.I read once that the word “fan” is a shortened version of “fanatic,” and this book may just prove it. Author Michael Joseph Gross interviewed people who are nearly rabid in their love of a celebrity; some, to the point of flying halfway around the world for the giddy possibility of a 10-word exchange with a star. Gross admits that sometimes he’s a fan, too, and while he can be deliciously catty at times, he becomes charmingly near-speechless in the presence of a few TV and movie greats.If you ever slapped a stamp on an envelope in hopes of getting an autographed picture from your favorite star, you’ll identify with everything Gross says in this book. At $23.95, “Starstruck” costs a little more than a tabloid, but it’s 10 times as much fun. VT

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