The Origins of the Modern Celebrity Pundit

Politico talks to Jennifer Frost, author of our new book, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism, about the controversial gossip columnist who wasn’t afraid to mix her serious opinions in with the typical juicy rumors.

Although Hopper, who died in 1966, has been often dismissed as little more than a “crank” known for wearing flamboyant hats, Dr. Jennifer Frost of the University of Auckland, who specializes in U.S. history, social movements and popular culture, has long argued Hopper’s cultural and political significance. Her forthcoming book, “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism” is her third published on the topic. POLITICO spoke to Frost about Hopper, her relevance today and the assimilation of politics and celebrity entertainment.

For Frost, whether it’s a politician embracing pop culture or a gossip column peppered with political messages, the consequences are the same: The combination can lead to the “debasing of political content. Making messages entertaining simplifies the political debate and obscures the political issues,” Frost told POLITICO. Frost derided the media’s emphasis on “sound bites,” which Hopper often employed, instead of persuasive argument. For example, when liberal Democrat Dore Schary took over as head of production at MGM in 1948, Hopper wrote in her column that MGM would now be known as “Metro-Goldwyn-Moscow.” Schary threatened to sue for libel and it was removed from later editions of the paper.

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