Why Is My Mom So Obsessed With Our Obsession With Celebrities?

Julie Klam's teenage daughter sits down with the writer to discuss her new book about our culture's love affair with famous people. Which may or may not be cool.

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Around the time of publishing a book, you get interviewed—a lot. As wonderful as an interviewer is, they generally ask very similar questions, and the people reading more than one of them tend to stop after the first question because they need a nap. (Except my mother: She’ll read them all.)

My DAME publisher had a fabulous idea to shake up this convention to discuss my new book on our obsession with celebrity, The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, the Infamous, and Why We Care Way Too Much About Them (Riverhead Books), which goes on sale on Tuesday, July 18: She suggested that my teenage child, Violet, interview me. Well, Violet didn’t ask the questions you’d think she would because actually she could not care less about this book or appearing as if she does. When we were doing the interview she would ask a question and then say, “Is this enough?” (I told her if she was going to get paid for this, she had to do some work, so she typed, and thus the questions became shorter and shorter … also apparently it wasn’t enough money to get her to use capital letters, that cost extra.) So here is Violet talking to me very little about my book. If you’re interested in really hearing about it, I was interviewed by a lot of other people who weren’t trying to get back to their Tumblrs. Also, NB: I told her to ask anything, it didn’t have to be the usual “What inspired you to write this book” type of questions.  

The Big Interview

Violet: Okay, first off, why were you listening to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” at max volume when you got home today?

Julie: It was a trailer for the movie A Wrinkle In Time. Someone put it on Facebook, I don’t know why they picked that music, but that’s what they chose.

V: Uhhhh, why is your book about … you know.

J: Celebrities? I am very interested in celebrities, have been my whole life, and I realized a lot of other people are too. And I was curious about why. When you write a book you have to sit with a topic for a very long time, and I thought this one was one I would want to sit with. I also usually write about myself and I didn’t want to this time.

V: Did you give Wisteria her medicine?

J: Not yet. But you should ask me why I didn’t want to write about myself this time. When you interview people, you should ask follow up questions.

[Violet glares at me.]

V: How do you feel about Eric Andre?

J: Who is Eric Andre? 

V: He’s the guy who does ‘The Eric Andre Show.’

J: Is that a YouTuber? 

V: He’s on Adult Swim.

J: Is he funny? 

V: Yeah.

J: I’ll take your word for it—I really haven’t heard of him. Guess that makes me a square.

V: is there a scientific reason behind people’s interest in celebrities?

J: There are two studies cited in the book. The first one was they gave rhesus macaque monkeys a very salty snack and they gave them a choice between having their favorite drink—cherry-flavored Juicy Juice—or looking at celebrity monkeys. The monkeys chose looking at celebrity monkeys. They then had to bribe the monkeys to look at non-status monkeys. B-list monkeys, I call them. 

[Here I see I am losing her; I decide to ask her some questions. She still does the typing.]

J: Have you ever read any of my books?

V: No.

J: No interest?

V: Not really.

J: What does it feel like to have your mom be a writer?

V: It’s, uhhhhnnnnh, uh-huh.

J: Would you rather I had a different career? 

V: No.

J: Why do you think Uncle Matt (Matthew Klam, author of Who Is Rich?) and I are both writers?

V: Maybe Bubbe or Papa wanted to be a writer?

J: Neither of them did. Bubbe read a lot.

V: Maybe it’s that.

J: Do you want to be a writer?

V: Yeah.

J: What do you wanna write?

V: Movies.

J: A screenwriter. That’s what I wanted to do when I went to NYU. I think you’d be a great screenwriter. Can I ask you another question? What celebrity do you love the most right now?

V: David Byrne. He’s a soft, sweet boy, and that appeals to me. And he’s not as popular as say, Taylor Swift, and it makes it easier to like him.

J: Because you have a better shot at him?

V: [Laughs] Do you know who’s going to be on the ‘Tonight Show’ with you?

J: Charlize Theron.

V: She’s big! Wasn’t she married to Sean Penn?

J: Engaged, she broke it off before they got married. Also the singer SZA and Michael Phelps, the swimmer.

V: Why him?

J: He’s won a million Olympic gold medals. Also, he’s going to race a shark to kick off Shark Week.

V: That’s mean!

J: I don’t think the shark knows. I don’t think they’re putting a bathing cap and Speedo on him.

V: It will embarrass him.

J: Do you wanna know who my favorite celebrity is?

V: One second, okay?

J: Barack Obama. He’s the only man I fantasize about—but not sexually. Is that too much information?

V: Yes.

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