Gatecrasher: How I Helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruin the World by Ben Widdicombe
Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: July 7, 2020
Genres: History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Pop culture, Social Issues
Gatecrashing is more than just an art form; it’s a human right. It is the fifth freedom. After all, who are these good times for, if not for you?
Ben Widdicombe is not a name you’re likely to recognize, but in his own way he’s had quite an impact on America. In fact, based on his book, Gatecrasher: How I helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruin Society, we ought to run him out of the country. Widdicombe is a journalist who came to America in 1998 from Australia. As the subtitle suggests, his arrival and work coincided with the point where the rich decided money wasn’t enough, they also needed to be famous. The outcome has led to the downfall of civilization is depressing, but Widdicombe’s stories are pop culture fabulous.
Writing for an art magazine put Widdicombe in an uncomfortable space—wanting to live in Manhattan, but not earning enough to afford it. His Australian credentials didn’t always get him into the events he needed to write about hence his career as a gatecrasher. One he ultimately rode to writing gossip columns at Page Six, The New York Daily News, TMZ, and The New York Times. Along the way, he ascended from crasher to guest to VIP. And writes about it all.
What Widdicombe witnessed, and contributed to, was the new trend of wealthy people wanting publicity rather than avoiding it. The most notable harbinger of this cultural disaster is, of course, Paris Hilton. Who had oodles of money but no brand until the early aughts when she became known for not wearing underwear and having a sex tape go public. She parlayed both of these into a TV show, sponsorships, and fame. Also, rankings in the Forbes Top 100 Celebrities list for several years. She paved the way for other talentless individuals such as Kim Kardashian West, and as theorized by Widdicombe, our current president.
As one of the people interviewing, writing about, and publicizing all of the names above, Widdicombe holds himself somewhat responsible for where we are now. It may be a stretch, but in Gatecrasher he writes knowledgably about the wealthy throughout history, illuminating the fact that prior to the 20th century it was only people in entertainment who wanted publicity. The wealthy wanted to be known only in high society. Now, people on Instagram vie to be Influencers and everyone wants a publicist.
Interesting historical perspective aside, Gatecrasher is wonderful simply because Widdicombe has been around celebrities of all stripes for over 20 years. His wit and his memory are outstanding. The book is filled with tidbits about celebrities in all fields, art, fashion, literary, and entertainment as well as trenchant observations about the changes in American pop culture. Celebrity gossip may not be your thing, but Widdicombe’s humor and experience is nonfiction brain candy.
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I get a small commission (at no cost to you).