Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness By Neil Strauss

Reveiwed by Rebecca Colbeck

“You can tell al lot about somebody in a minute, if you choose the right minute. Here are 228 of them”. And so starts Neil Strauss’ Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. For those of you unfamiliar with Strauss, he is a veteran pop-culture journalist for such publications as Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Source magazine and countless other publications. He has also written or co-written several bestselling books including one of rock and roll’s most iconic books: Motley Crue: The Dirt. (Which if you haven’t read, you should. It is Hedonistic voyeurism at its best). By his own count, Strauss has conducted some 3,000 interviews with the famous, not-so-famous, used-to-be-famous and ought-to-be-famous denizens of pop culture. He brings together the best of these interviews into this massive tome.

All the well-knowns are here, including Snoop, Gaga, Bowie, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Puffy (is he still called that?), Chris Rock, Radiohead, and Kenny G (?). Strauss also includes many lesser-known artists, such as pioneering electronic-music artist Patrick Miller, who was taken early by drugs – as are too many of the subjects here. Known or unknown, they all have something to say. Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash are achingly poignant as they speak of death and courage. Bruce Springsteen is typically modest, noting that his main motivation for his music is “to try to be useful”. Motley Crue get’s arrested. Strauss makes Gaga cry, tucks Christina Aguilera into bed, spends the night with Trent Reznor, shops for diapers with Snoop, is kidnapped by Courtney Love and gets molested by the Strokes. And so it goes with hundreds of other interviews. He has busted through the veneer guarding the psyche of some of the most revered celebrity personalities in the world of music and entertainment, allowing us to peer into the deepest crevices of their well guarded worlds at their most vulnerable moments.

This book starts off slow, but it becomes progressively more interesting and engaging as you read on. He packs a ton of information into small enough snippets that you can take small bites, although I had a hard time putting it down. Strauss sometimes loses the thread as he often introduces an interview, drops, it and returns to it many pages later, but I suppose that is part of the fun of his anarchic style. I expect that a collection like this can never really achieve narrative continuity. I also found it frustrating that the dates of the interviews were left out. I was left to my own devices to determine how what was said fit into each persons’ life. The book is a fantastic read regardless of whether you care about celebrities or not. It’s not about celebrity, but rather about understanding ourselves and what we believe. It’s about learning to talk to people and learning to listen.