Breaking News

Euro Area Manufacturing Unexpectedly Expands in October
Tweet TWEET

Hiaasen Adds Pop Slut Cherry Pye to Snooki, Palin: Interview

Having ingested a mix of “vodka, Red Bull, hydrocodone, birdseed and stool softener,” pop singer Cherry Pye lies naked, “twitching like a poisoned cockroach on the carpet.”

Welcome to “Star Island,” Carl Hiaasen’s 12th novel, which skewers the cult of celebrity. Cherry’s rabid stage mom blames tummy problems for all the trips to the emergency room, her music promoter “nurses a criminal fondness for underage girls,” and a crazed paparazzo who thinks he’s Annie Leibovitz is out to kidnap her.

There’s a lot at stake since Cherry, who supports a “colony of leeches,” is about to embark on a major comeback tour. During her last concert, immortalized on YouTube, she tried crystal meth just before going on, totally lost the ability to lip-sync, and mooned the jeering crowd before passing out.

Hiaasen and I spoke at his publisher’s office in Manhattan.

Lundborg: Cherry is a “barely legal slut” who is just plain stupid and spoiled, so how did she become a star?

Hiaasen: People who are dumb as a box of rocks have often been pushed into some form of celebrity. Some of these poor kids are a manufactured product, so it’s no wonder they delaminate.

But even the celebrity catastrophes, the shoplifting, the drunken episodes, the rehabs are choreographed.

Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Star Island." The book is the latest by author Carl Hiaasen. Close

The cover jacket of "Star Island." The book is the latest by author Carl Hiaasen.

Close
Open
Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Star Island." The book is the latest by author Carl Hiaasen.

Lundborg: The star-making machine is pretty efficient now.

Hiaasen: They could put my Labrador Retriever in a studio with a Pro Tools sound board and Auto-Tune, and in two hours he’s Pavarotti.

Lundborg: Why is the celebrity business thriving when it’s clearly so bogus?

Mad Mel

Hiaasen: The public appetite for this is endless. There’s an instinctive hunger to be pleasantly diverted from what the real headlines are.

We have two wars, an incredible economic slump, a huge oil spill, and people are more interested in Mel Gibson’s vocabulary.

Lundborg: Even the New York Times is writing about Snooki.

Hiaasen: You don’t have to be anything -- it’s so easy, just crash a White House party and you’re famous.

Have eight kids and you get your own reality show. In the old days, that was called a Catholic family, no big deal.

Lundborg: Did you do a lot of research for this novel?

Hiaasen: The worst part of writing the book was having to immerse myself in this crap, read the tabloids, watch the shows, just to familiarize myself with who these people were because they are of no earthly significance whatsoever.

People were going nuts for Sinatra and the Beatles, but they had talent.

Photographer: Fenia Hiaasen/Random House via Bloomberg

Author Carl Hiaasen. "Star Island" is the latest book by Hiaasen. Close

Author Carl Hiaasen. "Star Island" is the latest book by Hiaasen.

Close
Open
Photographer: Fenia Hiaasen/Random House via Bloomberg

Author Carl Hiaasen. "Star Island" is the latest book by Hiaasen.

Woods’s Mistresses

Lundborg: So this isn’t going away any time soon?

Hiaasen: It’s an obscenity, but it’s only getting bigger. Just look at the time and resources spent chasing the mistresses of Tiger Woods.

If you took half that much journalistic energy and pointed it in the direction of Washington, you’d have front page stories that would matter to every single American every single day.

Lundborg: Why did you switch from making fun of evil developers and money men to pop stars?

Hiaasen: The developers are not entirely missing, but when you write satire you have to wait to be moved by whatever absurdity seems to prevail.

Lundborg: I love the names of the themed clubs your celebs frequent: “Abscess” and “Pubes.”

Hiaasen: South Beach is the epicenter of pretension and vacuity. Nothing important happens -- it’s just be seen, be seen! The real purpose of the place is total dissolution.

Mortgage Broker Crooks

Lundborg: How did you come up with Cherry’s murderous ex- con bodyguard, Chemo, who used to be a mortgage broker?

Hiaasen: That was based on a true story. I think there were over 2,000 convicted felons, including a murderer, armed robbers and drug dealers, packaging and selling mortgages in Florida during the bubble.

Photographer: Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was arrested and helped back to the boardwalk by Jenni "JWoww" Farley on July 30, 2010 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Polizzi is on the MTV show "Jersey Shore." Close

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was arrested and helped back to the boardwalk by Jenni "JWoww"... Read More

Close
Open
Photographer: Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was arrested and helped back to the boardwalk by Jenni "JWoww" Farley on July 30, 2010 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Polizzi is on the MTV show "Jersey Shore."

Lundborg: Why did you bring back Skink, the ex-governor of Florida who fled office?

Hiaasen: He needed to take care of the developer. When I created him, I imagined what would happen if a totally honest person got to Tallahassee and realized he is surrounded by corruption.

He rips off all his clothes and runs into the mangroves, a perfectly normal reaction to the political world of Florida.

Lundborg: Florida isn’t the only cause for pessimism, is it?

Hiaasen: There’s total obstructionism in Washington, the Republicans haven’t had an original idea in I don’t know how long, and whatever Obama suggests, they’re going to oppose it.

All the votes are predictable -- they’re robots. That’s why voters are so pissed off.

Cult of Palin

Lundborg: Is reality making your job harder?

Hiaasen: Totally. I wrote a novel years ago, called “Sick Puppy,” about a scummy political operative. I thought I’d invented the most despicable lobbyist ever, and then Jack Abramoff comes along and makes my guy look like the Dalai Lama.

Take Sarah Palin. If you’re a novelist, you couldn’t invent a character like that, not that anyone would buy, anyway. No achievements, nothing in the resume, and now she’s being talked about for President.

Lundborg: Is the Gulf oil spill fiasco the subject of your next book?

Hiaasen: The weight of it all seems too heavy for satire. Maybe the denials, the Tony Haywardisms, but the tragedy itself is so enormous that our kids and grandkids will still be dealing with it.

Lundborg: Why do you stay in Florida?

Hiaasen: I hate to walk away from a fight. It’s too precious, and there are still some great places where I can go, like parts of the Everglades.

You sit and get close to a higher spiritual presence. You say, this is what it’s all about, this is why you have to stay pissed off.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Zinta Lundborg is an editor for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Zinta Lundborg at zlundborg@bloomberg.net.

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.