A fast, fun look at fame and our star-struck so­ci­ety

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - BY KARIN TAN­ABE book­world@wash­post.com Karin Tan­abe, a for­mer Politico re­porter, is the au­thor of four nov­els in­clud­ing her lat­est, “The Di­plo­mat’s Daugh­ter.”

Al­most fa­mous? Nah. When it comes to celebri­ties, we like them re­ally, re­ally fa­mous. We don’t want to scratch our heads won­der­ing why we rec­og­nize some­one. We pre­fer to run into A-lis­ters, peo­ple we can In­sta­gram and then watch the “likes” roll in.

Why have we be­come such shame­less star chasers? In “The Stars in Our Eyes,” Julie Klam at­tempts to an­swer this cen­turiesold ques­tion. Yes, cen­turies. She as­sures us that the “ru­mors about Genghis Khan and Henry VIII and Marie An­toinette and Rasputin were as tit­il­lat­ing to their king­doms as the lat­est Kar­dashian nude selfie is to our world.”

In this part light-anal­y­sis, part mem­oir, Klam in­ter­views fa­mous friends, binges on real­ity TV with her fire­cracker of an aunt and talks to tourists snap­ping away at TV lo­ca­tions such as Car­rie Brad­shaw’s house from “Sex and the City.”

But her sharp hu­mor re­ally shines when she re­flects on her awk­ward youth, es­pe­cially her child­hood in the mon­eyed en­clave of Bed­ford, N.Y. As she came in last in gym class, “be­hind the girl with the crutches,” she fan­ta­sized about “Blue La­goon” hunk Christo­pher Atkins galloping in and sav­ing her from the an­guish of ju­nior high.

To help her an­a­lyze the ups and downs of fame, Klam en­listed ac­tors Ti­mothy Hut­ton and Grif­fin Dunne, who were A-listed in their youth but have since slipped down a few rungs. If the movie “Or­di­nary Peo­ple” still makes you cry, you’ll love all of Hut­ton’s in­sights, but mil­len­ni­als might won­der why Klam chose guides who have been out of the spot­light for so long, their beach bod­ies no longer the thing of pa­parazzi dreams.

Be­tween chap­ters de­voted to how stars are made and how celebrity sta­tus has changed, there are dozens of short rec­ol­lec­tions by “a large swath of peo­ple” high­light­ing their most mem­o­rable celebrity en­coun­ters. Tag along as Au­drey Hep­burn buys a cash­mere sweater at Saks, a screen­writer dines with Princess Diana, a young fan gets picked up (lit­er­ally) by Muham­mad Ali and a TV as­sis­tant runs up to Luke Perry be­cause she’s sure they went to high school to­gether. They didn’t, but Perry gets that all the time. Celebri­ties, es­pe­cially the ones we choose to like, “are the us we want to be,” Klam muses. Or per­haps the peo­ple we wish we’d gone to high school with.

“The Stars in Our Eyes” is a fast, fun look at celebrity culture that reads like a bub­bly con­ver­sa­tion at an Os­cars view­ing party, where we gos­sip with glee and then won­der why we know so much about these strangers’ lives.

THE STARS IN OUR EYES The Fa­mous, the In­fa­mous, and Why We Care Way Too Much About Them By Julie Klam River­head. 222 pp. $26

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