Bona-Fide Celebrities: Nikki Finke on the Late ’80s ‘Literary Brat Pack’

Cover image from Bright Lights, Big City via jaymcinerney.com

In 1987, a young Nikki Finke profiled the “Literary Brat Pack” (choice Brat Pack members included Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, of Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City fame, respectively) for The Los Angeles Times.

A quick refresher for those who don’t follow the entertainment press: the legendarily feared Finke is best known for founding Deadline.com which she left in 2013 after a lengthy legal battle with the site’s owner Jay Penske. If you’ve seen her name in the news recently, it’s likely due to the non-compete clause in her settlement with Penske. Legally barred from reporting on the entertainment industry, Finke turned to fiction and launched HollywoodDementia.com earlier this week (the site showcases short fiction about Hollywood written by Finke and others).

But back to the profile at hand: if you miss Finke’s acid-tongued (nonfiction) take on Hollywood, you will thoroughly enjoy this 2300-word dive into the celebrity-machine of the late 1980’s publishing world. A choice excerpt:

Current Brat Pack thinking seems to be that bad reviews actually help sales. “If I get people really screaming about the book,” says [Tama] Janowitz, “it’s more to my advantage than a boring review saying, ‘Oh, this is just lovely.’ That would make me want to puke. So my bottom line is I don’t care what people say. I just want them to buy the book.”

The Literary Brat Pack share other similarities as well. They all live in New York and hang out, sometimes even together, at the same nightspots like Nell’s. They get invited to the hottest parties and placed on the most pompous literary panels. They write slim volumes or short stories, the perfect medium for an MTV-nurtured generation with a short attention span. They sell their books to Hollywood in lucrative option deals. They pontificate about life, love and writing for trend-tracking magazines like Esquire, Rolling Stone and Interview. They get offers to hawk Scotch and other products for advertisers.

In short, they are in demand, transformed from mere writers to bona-fide celebrities.

Read the story