By Meghan Jenkins and Mark Aldrich
[Editor’s Note: In what seems now to be a series, Meghan Jenkins and her collaborator Mark Aldrich decided to co-review something, here, the gossip writer Perez Hilton’s new memoir, TMI: My Life in Scandal. What follows here is a conversation between Meghan, a gossip fan who loves Perez Hilton’s work, and Mark, who is not a gossip fan and who was only dimly aware of Perez Hilton before now. Spoiler alert: Both of them like the book!—Mark]
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Meghan: Oh, god, I love that title. Just typing it out gives me an adrenaline rush, and makes me want to punch the air with a, “Yeah! Get it!”
I love Perez. He looks hot as heck on this book cover too (seen above), and I know I can’t have him and that makes it even more alluring. That’s not the point of this article, though, I’m here to review the book.
If any reader of MeghaZine knew me back in early … mid … well, all of the 2000s, you already know how entranced and obsessed I was by celebrity gossip. I’d talk about things I knew that were going on in the lives of the Kardashians and I’d continue on with all my celebrity gossip “knowledge” as I watch your mouths and eyes slowly start to gape in confused amazement or horror (maybe? I choose to see amazement) as I gave you a quick peek inside my brain. Things only got worse when I was working in beauty salons with all of the gossip rags around and so much extra time on my hands in between clients. (I wasn’t good. I was not booked up, so I read all of everything.)
Mark: To our readers, well, this is still somewhat true in 2021. Conversations with Meghan may no longer be celebrity-obsessed or dominated by the Kardashians, but chats with her can sometimes be, well, Kardashian-seasoned. Back to Meghan:
Meghan: Unbeknownst to me, I had been following and loving Perez Hilton for longer than I even knew.
While reading TMI, I come to find out Perez was the genius behind PageSixSixSix.com!!! “The most hated website ever!” Or something amazing like that it got ranked. I just LOVED IT. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough. He was a freelance writer for In Touch and Star magazines; Perez was involved behind the scenes in or on literally every bit of entertainment media I consumed for more than half of my life. He is only a couple years older than I am, too, which makes it all the more impressive. To me anyway. Watching Perez navigate this world has been a beacon of light for me, and I didn’t even realize it until I realized it.
Mark: Myself, I have a lifelong antipathy to gossip, either personal (I and my family have been topics of public gossip on different occasions about different things, and I hated the experience each time) or the professional gossip media. Growing up as I did near New York City, gossip columns were in the two tabloids, either Liz Smith or Cindy Adams (who is still active in the gossip field in her 90s) praising their friends and reprinting public relations copy for them, or the gossip of vitriol that certain tabloids specialize in. I dislike both. Online gossip by the 90s felt like it was only the vitriolic stuff and none of the positive unless somehow the celebrity befriended the gossip blogger.
So Perez came along back in the 00s, and I confess that if I gave him a thought it was that as a gossip blogger I was inclined to not like him, but he employed the gossip in a different way: He became a celeb himself. I didn’t know if I hated that or admired it.
I see now a pretty positive guy. The Perez Hilton of social media today still assumes that we are all obsessed with the simple fact of celebrity; after all, his livelihood depends on that, but most of what he amplifies with his platform is celebrities fighting to create their own happiness. Sometimes they fall short, but he does not point and laugh at them when they do so. Some who remember Perez Hilton, circa 2008, say, are not inclined to trust this now, but I can only represent what I see as personal and career development. What did you think, Meghan?
Meghan: In the book he talks about past regrets and mistakes, but the entire time I can’t help but wonder and yell out loudly to no one: “No! There are no regrets! Please have no regrets! You are perfect and beautiful, Perez!” I will tell you why:
… Perez, you are a leader. A teacher. A guru. You have shown me and many others how to do this life the right way. We ALL make mistakes, we all react in ways we shouldn’t sometimes, and we all have said or done something that maybe wasn’t the best. But, you see, you are so deep. You are SO DEEP, Perez. You go inside of yourself in this book, and you think-think and ask yourself why. You are leagues and leagues (Mark, what’s bigger than a league?) above so many people in this regard. It takes so much strength and intelligence and honesty and truth-seeking to be able to do that. Most people never want to do that. I don’t understand that at all, except that I do, sadly, but again that is a topic that will divert me from this: So many people steadfastly refuse to see Perez for who he is. They only see his past. It’s just wild, though. He’s brilliant. Just brilliant.
Back to the book, I’m sorry for getting off-topic so often—you know, if any psychiatrist is reading this, maybe you can recommend a nice A.D.D. medication, please? I’m kidding. I apologize for this sideshow, where were we? Oh, yes:
TMI: My Life in Scandal by Perez Hilton was more of a yearbook for me than any of my school yearbooks were. This is where I lived. In my fantasies. In my dreams. I always felt the pull of Hollywood, knew that somehow, someway I belonged there. At the beginning of each chapter, Perez lays out the most talked about entertainment gossip that year(s). It was actually heartwarming to have the trip down memory lane, like visiting old friends, and in some instances, catch up on some “lost time” I never thought I’d get back due to drinking (2012-2015). So you can imagine the excited scream that popped out of my mouth when I turned onto THAT page.
Perez is a naturally gifted storyteller, in the sense that he knows how to tell a story, where to start it, the precise wording to use. He knows how to draw the reader in, which comes as no surprise, since I’ve enjoyed reading him for years. With more pages and space to stretch out his writing, I only enjoy him more. This book is just hands-down spectacular, and even if you aren’t into celebrity gossip (*ahem* Mark), if nothing but to read the writing, see the words and how they are laid out, the pure innate talent Perez Hilton IS. It’s impossible to not enjoy.
Xoxox, Meghan Jenkins
Oh! And P.S.: Go get MY TRUE 10 CBD gummies!
Here are Mark’s last thoughts:
Mark: The curious thing for me as a reader of TMI is that I found that I would sometimes root for Perez Hilton to go deeper in his emotions because he starts to do so. TMI is good enough that it carried me through it with a hope for more insight, and I concluded that he has a deeper and better book yet to come … not despite this book, but because of this book.
Much of the text is an amends for the general snarkiness of his past website and for the spirit of “bitchiness” that he started to display later on in his writing. Sometimes, the amends are specific and personal, to Ariande Grande for instance. Because so few individuals actually make amends in life, much less in such a public fashion, I have nothing but applause for that.
Most celebrity memoirs follow a familiar pattern: a well-written, detailed, exploration of the celebrity’s childhood that evokes memories so well that the reader can almost smell the home cooking, then a section about the movies/TV shows/celebrities they’ve worked with (the reasons the person is famous enough for you to buy the book) that can read like little more than an extended entry in a Leonard Maltin movie guide but with an untold story here and there for headlines, then a detailed and well-wrought section about life as the celebrity lives it and understands it now.
TMI follows the same pattern: a detailed evocation of his painful childhood in Miami in which he is bullied and as he discovers he is gay but has no clue what that may mean, a detailed and hilarious recitation of his many failed early forays in employment, and then the bulk of the book is his misadventures in celebrity gossip told with a blog-like brevity but with his amends for his snark and anger at the very celebrities he was obsessed with and writing about (an untold story about John Mayer and Jessica Simpson for headlines). It concludes with a truly moving meditation on life now as a young single father and what it means to be a dad.
Hilton understands that he was snarky and angry at the celebrities he writes about, that he viewed them as characters in a story rather than as human beings—even while he got to know some of them as human beings and friends. He does not, at least in this volume, yet try to understand the anger and why it was there. Perhaps he has started that journey in his personal life; the fact that he makes amends in this memoir leads me to think that he may have.
Meghan, you introduced me to a man who is constructing a kinder life after he earned huge rewards for not being kind at all. At the end he promises a deeper version of himself in his 50s (several years from now for him), which I can assure him from experience is indeed what comes.
Ultimately, it could be said that Mario Lavandeira, Perez Hilton’s birth name, wrote the more emotionally true parts of this brief memoir, and Perez Hilton is still in the process of figuring out how to be emotionally open in a way that is not a performance. That is a worthy journey, and it is all-the-more brave to follow that path in public. Thus, TMI is breezy, and Hilton is good company throughout, but one wishes there was more. Not more celebrities but more Perez Hilton, who seems to have developed into a more kind-hearted self, closer to the Mario Lavandeira than he might ever have been so far.
I think I am inclined to read any sequel.
Mark Aldrich is a journalist, award-winning humor columnist, publisher/editor of The Gad About Town, and writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirtieth season:
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Meghan Jenkins is an actor, comedian, radio personality, artist, author, musician, model.
Meghan is a brand ambassador for Pineapple Clothing. Use the code “MegJen” for a 20% discount!
Meghan’s brand new internet comedy show, “Mark Aldrich and Panda,” debuted in August 2021:
The Adventures of Pizza Alien, a novel of interlocking short stories by Meghan Jenkins, is out now and is available through Lulu.com and the online book retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The Adventures of Pizza Alien is available for $18.
Panda’s Dance Party, Meghan’s first music album, was released in December 2020. It is available to purchase, download, and stream on every music platform: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.
A social media influencer, in the spring of 2020 her photos of life in quarantine led to an invitation from Maxim magazine to participate in a cover model contest for which readers could submit votes. Her grassroots campaign against professional models brought her to a third-place finish.
Meghan is the founder and host of the live comedy improv show The The Ding Wrong Show, recorded on Zoom and seen on YouTube:
In 2018-’19, she was one of the feature performers in the longest running improv comedy show at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, California, The Ding Dong Show.
Follow Meghan on Instagram!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.