Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

Special K

Books


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The Kardashians: An American Drama by Jerry Oppenheimer; St. Martin's Press, $27.99

Jerry Oppenheimer, the Hollywood king of the unauthorized celebrity biography, flashes his laser pointer across the throne of the Kardashian dynasty and lets the glitter fall where it may in "The Kardashians: An American Drama."

The opening prologue shuffles readers back to the October 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial, where Robert George Kardashian held court as the longtime friend and legal "dream team" attorney defending the arrogant football star. As the Kardashian name was repeated across the airwaves, it also began to stick into the minds of onlookers and television viewers worldwide.

It was a name that a pretty former junior flight attendant named Kristen Mary Houghton committed to memory well, and the kind of unlimited credit she was more than eager to hitch her wagon to. Described as a "mother of four and cougar extraordinaire," Kris, now 62, embodies a reputation for being a street-smart fast-talker. The author notes that she harbors a fetish for relationships with "attention-getter" men like Kardashian and former husband Bruce Jenner. This may be the residual effect of growing up in the shadow of an overbearing mother and the heartbreak of having an alcoholic father who abandoned the family when Kris was seven and her sister Karen was four.

Oppenheimer's unauthorized tell-all book swims with the sharks in the best way possible. It leaks gossipy tidbits and the dirty details on all of the nastiest deeds within the context of a biography that, on the outside, appears like glittery publicity to jack up the ratings on a sagging 14-season E! television series that has certainly seen better days. Oppenheimer nips at the Jimmy Choo-heeled daughters' "legacy" as a manufactured brand that pushed hard to get attention and notoriety. But he probes the deepest into Kris Houghton Kardashian Jenner's past as a wanton woman who, from a young age, had her Sugar Daddy headlights focused on the wealthiest men she could seduce and marry.

After a cavalcade of chapters justifiably preoccupied with Kris, the biography continues onto the family empire itself, branching out to include the lives of her daughters, particularly third-born Khloe, who receives the softest narrative touch of anyone in the book. This may be due to the "seriously questioned" nature of her parentage, or that the author needed a break from all the literary carnage that comes before her personal profiling, a la Kim and Kourtney.

From "Superstar" Kim with her sex tape and rampant narcissism, to Kourtney with her three children out of wedlock and identifying as "the least scandalous" of the group, the contemporary stories of the Kardashians in the book's final third will prove the most interesting to actual fans of the family or their shows.

Caitlyn Jenner isn't spared Oppenheimer's Exacto knife either. In one of many scandalous scenes, Jenner is caught, prior to his transition, by a family friend posing "in front of a mirror with his genitals tucked between his legs so that he was flat in the front." Things just become even more untucked from there.

None of the details receive the editing process. Every page free-flows like hot lava from the mouth of the Hollywood gossip volcano, including interview quotes from unnamed sources and extraneous Hollywood name-dropping.

Anyone with even a tinge of interest in the Kardashians will find this book a big, breezy, brazen chunk of pungent tabloid cheese. It's a cinder block of reality that Kris tried to stop from being published once her failed attempt at a show of her own, "Kris," crashed and burned in 2013.

Ridiculed, vilified, and despised as much as they are deified and idolized, the Kardashian clan gets flambeed in the red-hot flames of Oppenheimer's journalistic bonfire. Marshmallows not included.






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