J Randy Taraborrelli. What a name! I could write an essay just on that name alone (but I’ll keep it brief).
First there’s that mysterious J initial (so American, though initials tend to the midway of monickers, usually) and that thought takes me to The Great Gatsby and its hero Jay – the man who came from nowhere, who has found himself somewhere, whose soul is elsewhere. Is that Mr T? Probably not, but that’s the way my brain’s working today.
Then there’s the Randy bit – oh yes. A man who writes shagadelic books as big as Mr T’s has got to have a lot of go in him. This is a man who has oceans of surplus energy. His books need shrink-wrapping just to keep your lap dry.
And finally, the climactic, the polysyllabic Italian opera: Ta-ra-bo-rrell-i. It’s the sort of name the Kevin Kline loon Otto might have enunciated over and over again for seduction purposes in A Fish Called Wanda. No one else is called Taraborrelli. It’s a brand designed to trip the tongue-tied. And the brand is: Big BIG pop biographies. So big that just buying a copy presents a health and safety issue. BIG because they’re chock-full with revelation, exclusivity, high carat goss. And BIG because Mr T doesn’t write about small people – just about some of the biggest bitch divas on this planet.
Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson (honorary bitch), Cher, Elizabeth Taylor ... shall I go on? His current Diana Ross: An Unauthorised Biography is just out. I caught up with Mr T for brief intercourse.
Greetings Mr T! You’re the world’s top popular biographer – any message to your nearest rival Kitty Kelley?
Just one word: WHO???
Miss Ross did not deign to speak to you for your latest book. Does she hate you? Have you heard of any ructions arising from the book in the Ross Empire?
I did draw from interviews I conducted from Miss Ross years ago. I first interviewed her way back in 1972. Sure hope she doesn't hate me...but great divas will be great divas!
How many people did you speak to for the latest Unauthorised on Ross and how many for all the books you've written on her? How many researchers do you have?
Hundreds of people... more than I can remember if I had to total the sources for all three books, from the members of the Supremes, to Diana's mother and father and siblings and... all of the Motown stars... many, many people. I have five researchers who help me conduct interviews and then transcribe the tapes. But I write the books myself...
How long does it take you to write a bio blockbuster?
Usually about two years... but I always have more than one book in the pipeline at a time. I was writing Diana Ross at the same time I was working on Elizabeth Taylor, for instance.
Give me one reason why I shouldn’t propose marriage to you …
Because if I accepted, you'd then have to put up with me!
Cher, Madonna, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson et al: who’s your favourite among that lot and why?
Miss Ross, always. Why? Because she's Miss Ross, for goodness sake!
Do you hold back more than you put in to your books - perhaps for legal reasons?
Oh yes, of course. And also because I think you don't have to write everything you know, just what helps tell the specific story you're trying to tell.
Where’s home?, please give us a brief description of it. And what did you have for breakfast this morning?
I live in the Hollywood Hills in a big ol' castle I bought from one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's a great home, and I love it. For breakfast? Cheerios, baby!
How young were you when you realised what your life purpose is? What’s the best education to become a biographer?
I was about 10 when I knew I wanted to be a writer. The best education to become a biographer is to live your life to the fullest. And fall in and out of love a few times. Only then can you understand another person's experience.
You seem drawn to divas or les monstres sacres – why why why?
Because they live BIG lives. They love hard, they lose hard... they fall hard... and when they come back -- and they always come back!-- they do it with a vengeance.
The country with the worst press is …. (and why)
America, I'm afraid. We've become very... unpopular, I'm afraid.
Tell us your worst defamation/libel/threat of libel experience with a diva
Madonna once came up to me backstage at someone else's concert and said, 'Now you've done it, and I've had it with you.' Then, she turned and walked away. To this day, I have no idea what she was talking about!
Who’s your next “victim” and why?
It's a secret. There are so few great subjects left, I'd have to divulge his -- or her -- name. (Of course, it's a "her.") It will be my 14th book!
Will Michael Jackson ever make a comeback do you think? Can he be as big again? Did he like your book on him?
He did like my book about him. I think that if MJ wants to make a comeback -- if he truly wants it -- he can do it. I'm not sure he has that fire in his belly, though. And without it? Can't happen.
Your advice to Mr and Mrs Beckham (if any)
Thank you Mr T. Here you are a hero.
And thank YOU. I'll be sure to include you in my next acknowledgments. :-)