Hollywood adores making big-budget biopics about rock stars and their eternal struggles with booze, broads, and diverse demons. And we love watching them. Some they nailed; others not so much. Jamie Foxx was a respectable Ray Charles, for instance, and Gary Oldman made a fine Sid Vicious. But Joaquin Phoenix basically croaked his way around the screen as Mr. Johnny Cash, and that 50 Cent one was, uh, delightful.
Word has it that Elijah Wood was just cast as Iggy Pop, and seven people are playing Bob Dylan in a biopic, including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and a little black child. (Sounds downright avant-TARD!) The Germs are coming to the big screen, along with Dusty Springfield. And there's a nasty rumor going around the Internet that Mr. Foxx may be cast to play Bob Marley.
Fair enough. But where are the deep and corrosive stories of the less talented? The one-hit wonders, the flashes in the pan, our pop culture's pond scum? Oh, right. It's all about the box office and Oscars, huh? Well, shame on you, Hollywood. Bad, multinational, money-hungry conglomerates! The losers have tales to tell too. These poor people deserve some attention. Not a lot, OK, but some. So before that Phil Spector picture is green-lit with Tom Cruise or Don Cheadle is cast to play Miles Davis, here are some ideas for future biopics. Paging Spike Jonze!
It's No Secret
American Bad Ass
Remember Kid Rock? The Early Morning Stoned Pimp? The Bull God? Macaulay Culkin will own this role, trust us.
The decadent lead singer of Judas Priest, Rob Halford, had lots of demons (he didn't come out of the closet publicly until almost 20 years after his group's heyday). Two words: Clay Aiken. Come on the impish American Idol crooner is the Leather Rebel! Two tortured and haunted artists become one. The Claymates are an untapped buying market.
So what if the Latin Explosion went out with Interngate and Beanie Babies? The world deserves no, yearns to hear the saga of Gerardo, AKA Mr. Rico Suave. The incident with the Chilean death cult. We're thinking Wilmer Valderrama. Can you imagine him in those tight Z. Cavariccis as the "Latin Elvis"? ¿Es muy caliente, no?
Sammy Hagar's life on the fantastic island of sun, sand, and high jinks sorta like a soft-porn Frankie-and-Annette beach romp. This good-natured caper stars Carrot Top in a career-defining role as Hagar, using no props whatsoever.
All That Glittered
Mariah Carey gets the Ray treatment as Kelly Clarkson literally chews into the celluloid in a cinematic tour de force co-starring Al Pacino as Tommy Mottola. Heartbreak, horrible records, and very public meltdowns, baby. And big ol' ham sandwiches, with Cool Ranch Doritos instead of lettuce. Craig Hlavaty
In It's No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, From Seduction to Scandal A Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All, Carmen Bryan does more than wield the longest book title known to man. As someone whose name was smeared in one of hip-hop's biggest lyrical battles, Bryan attempts to return some of the embarrassing blows she was dealt.
The book speaks of her sexual relationships with rap stars Jay-Z and Nas (with whom she has a daughter) as well as basketball hotshot Allen Iverson. These trysts resulted in the former Def Jam receptionist getting dragged into the middle of a very public rapping match in 2001. ("Me and tha boy A.I. got more in common than just ballin' and rhymin'/Get it?/More in Carmen," Jay-Z sneered in one of the kinder lines about her on a track called "Supa Ugly.")
Bryan has a right to share her side of the story, but unfortunately, she's not very eloquent. Her claim to "tell all" in Secret is a misnomer. Save for some colorful sentences about Iverson, Bryan gives few intimate details about the sexual encounters, which is frankly the only reason why curious readers would pick up an exposé in the first place. (Those looking for trashier rap-world scenarios should be directed to Karrine Steffans' Confessions of a Video Vixen, though it too mostly just alludes to the juicy bits.) Bryan's candor is usually misplaced, as when she reveals Jay-Z's habit of flossing his rear end with a washcloth in the shower. That's simply too much information.
Secret was likely ghostwritten (one clue: In the liner notes, Bryan profusely thanks freelance journalist Vanessa Satten). While the penmanship won't win awards for technique, whoever did write these admissions certainly captured a sense of superficiality. Bryan makes little attempt to hide that when it comes to people, she often judges a book by its cover. Her own work is pretty on the outside, but the fact that she performs poorly between these printed sheets well, that's no secret. Tamara Palmer
Old Wives' Tale
Courtney Love and Sharon Osbourne have a lot in common. They are both outspoken, headstrong women who married men who later became monstrously famous musicians. They both have had plastic surgery. They are both known for throwing things Love for hurling makeup at Madonna, Osbourne for pelting Iron Maiden with eggs. And now, they've both written books about themselves. But the tomes of the two most (in)famous rock wives since Yoko Ono take us on vastly different but equally sensational trips. Here we roll out the high (and drunken) points of each:
Sharon Osbourne, Extreme: My Autobiography (Springboard Press)
Format: Chronological memoir, with a modern-day narrative thread piece at the beginning of each chapter that has the reader following Sha-ron around Beverly Hills for a day April 20, 2005, to be exact.
Synopsis: Sharon Arden grows up in England. She works for her music mogul father, Don Arden. He rips her off financially and treats her like crap. She marries Ozzy Osbourne, becomes his manager, and severs ties with her father. Ozzy gets drunk and abusive for 11 of the next 12 chapters, but the epilogue is serene.
Surprising scene: Ozzy Osbourne, "obsessed with Phil Collins" and playing Collins' first solo album, Face Value, over and over at full volume, until his bandmates throw the cassette out of the window.
Interesting quote: Sharon Osbourne referring to Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan as "a lightbulb in trousers, Yul Brynner's mutant brother."
The point: Survival. Survival and sarcasm and also knowing where to find a fabulous pair of custom Heidi Klum Birkenstocks, dahling. Osbourne tells her tale with candor and humor, and it makes for an entertaining (and alternately horrifying and touching) read.
Courtney Love, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love (Faber and Faber Inc.)
Format: Schizophrenic scrapbook, with post cards, letters, journal entries, handwritten lyrics, and Polaroid snapshots arranged in chaotic, semi-chronological collages, not accounting for blackout periods.
Synopsis: Courtney Menely grows up in Oregon, is a problem child, travels to England, then later L.A., then later Seattle, with various stops in between. She changes her last name, starts the band Hole, marries Kurt Cobain, and gives birth to their daughter, Frances Bean, and becomes the "grunge widow" after Cobain's death. Admittedly still recovering.
Surprising scene: Love penning a letter to Cobain some ten years after his death, asking him to put a hex on Frances Bean's teacher.
Interesting quote: From an early letter from Cobain to Love: "Let's be mountain junkies and breed Satanic mall rats."
The point: Many people especially Courtney Love are morbidly fascinated by Courtney Love. Part of that is her drug-induced duality she can be an amazingly intelligent, talented woman as Sober Courtney or a plane wreck hitting a train wreck as Stoned Courtney. Dirty Blonde shows bits of both but leaves plenty of demons unexorcised. Niki D'Andrea
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.