Neil Strauss dishes on celebrities in new book

March 18, 2011 9:34:09 AM PDT
New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss has spoken to hundreds of celebrities over the years.

He has compiled some of his more interesting interviews in a new book, "Everyone Loves You When You're Dead."

To create "Everyone Loves You When You're Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness" (It Books; Trade Paperback Original; On sale: March 15, 2011; $16.99), Strauss returned to the source -- the original tapes, notes, and transcripts from some 3,000 articles he had written -- and laboriously went through every word, every cough, every sneeze in order to find short moments that revealed the true face of these rock gods, teen idols, superstars, and starlets, underneath the mask they present to the public.

In the end, these crazy celebrity encounters read less like dry interviews and more like short, exciting plays, each with a beginning, middle, and end.

After pulling out over a thousand magical moments, surprising disclosures, and wild adventures, Strauss uniquely curated and interwove the best of these, juxtaposing multiple interviews to create subtle think pieces on creativity, spirituality, drugs, aging, war, death, the psychological toll of fame, and more. Then, finally, he analyzed these interviews, and pulled out common mistakes and lessons from the attitudes and journeys of these celebrities that readers can apply to their own lives.

For example, when meeting his musical heroes, Strauss was surprised to find many of them harboring so much anger and bitterness -- whether over a negative review, an award they didn't receive, or an old scandal -- while remaining completely unaware or unappreciative of their legacy, their good fortune, and the impact their music has had on the culture. Thus, the title of the book, Everyone Loves You When You're Dead, is not a cynical and fatalist aphorism, but rather a reminder to focus on the present and the big picture, rather than wasting away dwelling on errors and insults of the past.

Elsewhere in these pages, Lady Gaga, covered in stage blood and eating chicken fingers, reveals that she was a survivor of experiences so traumatic that she's tried to block them out; Christine Aguilera sits in her hotel room, disclosing for the first time her father's violence; and Ike Turner attempts to defend himself against accusations of abuse, while recalling the effect seeing his father killed by a group of white men had on him.

Tragically, with the benefit of the time that's lapsed since some of these interviews, one sees how performers haven't been able to conquer their demons: Rick James, for example, tells Strauss that his New Year's resolution is to "leave that motherf---ing cocaine alone," only to be found several years later, dead of a heart attack, with traces of cocaine in his body.

The circumstances and settings of Strauss's interviews speak volumes of the intimacy with which he tackles his subjects. He interviews Jewel as they lay under the covers of the bed in her mother's guest room. Snoop Dogg takes him along on a grocery store run for Pampers. He accompanies Neil Young on an aborted trip to the chiropractor, goes drinking with Bruce Springsteen, walks the halls of the Scientology Celebrity Center with Tom Cruise, and soaks in a hot tub with Marilyn Manson.

"You can tell a lot about a person or a situation in a minute," Strauss writes. "But only if you choose the right minute. As a writer, my job has ultimately been to hang around with people or research stories long enough to find those moments of truth." Offering 228 of those perception-altering moments, EVERYONE LOVES YOU WHEN YOU'RE DEAD is an instant classic in the history of rock and pop culture.

About the Author
Neil Strauss is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Game, Rules of the Game, and Emergency. He is also the co-author of three New York Times bestseller -- Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star," Motley Crue's "The Dirt" and Marilyn Manson's "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell" -- as well as Dave Navarro's "Don't Try This at Home," a Los Angeles Times bestseller. A writer for Rolling Stone, Strauss lives in Los Angeles and can be found at