About the author
Rex Reed, the master of the celebrity profile, was born in 1938 in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent much of his childhood in the South, moving from one town to another because of his father's job as an oil company supervisor. He created his first of many firestorms when he wrote a blistering editorial about racism for the campus newspaper at Louisiana State University. As a senior he won a short story contest judged by Eudora Welty who urged him to become a writer.
According to Reed, he has been "a jazz singer, a performer on a weekly Louisiana TV show. . .a pancake cook. . .an actor in the summer stock company in the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana, and the editor of a college literary magazine started by Robert Penn Warren."
Reed's career as a master of the celebrity profile began in 1965 when he was still in his twenties after he submitted an interview with Buster Keaton he had conducted at the Venice Biennale Film Festival to The New York Times. In an irony not lost on his readers, it was Keaton's final interview and his last words to Reed: "Hell, the way I feel, I just might live forever." Thus became Reed's signature as a literary profilist: finding the indelible, telling detail and letting the subject paint his or her own portrait, whether they were aware of what the end result would be or not.
Upon Reed's return to New York he was deluged with offers and almost immediately took on the job of film critic for a succession of high-profile magazines including Cosmopolitan, Women's Wear Daily, and Holiday. Later he was the film columnist for The New York Daily News and The New York Post, among others. For the past decade he has been the critic for The New York Observer.
Until the success of the Ebert & Siskel television programs, Reed was without question the most famous American film critic, familiar to anyone who watched "The Tonight Show" or saw his campy appearances as a panelist on "The Gong Show." His featured role in the film version of Gore Vidal's Myra Breckenridge made almost as many headlines as his denunciations of the film after its release.
Along with Truman Capote, Kenneth Tynan, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, and Harry Crews, Rex Reed also achieved a literary reputation for a genre, the celebrity profile, once relegated to gossip journalists who as often as not wrote studio-approved fantasies of the lives of the stars. His profiles have appeared in a veritable Who's Who of the nation's best publications.
In his first book collection of profiles, Do You Sleep In the Nude?, Reed caught the comet tails of rising stars just tasting the fruits of superstardom, such as Barbra Streisand as she prepared for her pivotal television special Color Me Barbra and an elusive will-o'-the-wisp known as Warren Beatty as he was finishing Bonnie and Clyde. Reed also was brilliant at capturing the stars whose careers had eclipsed—for instance, a classic and much-anthologized piece on Ava Gardner. On occasion when the mood suited him, Reed could stray beyond Hollywood and the entertainment arts as he did with his stunning and revelatory up-close look at Lester Maddox, the Bible-verse-spewing segregationist governor of Georgia.
Writer Tom Wolfe has said about Reed: "Rex Reed…raised the celebrity interview to a new level through his frankness and his eye for social detail. He has also been a master at capturing a story line in the interview situation itself…Reed is excellent at recording and using dialogue."
Devault-Graves Digital Editions has reissued Rex Reed's quartet of best-selling profile anthologies in the ebook format: Do You Sleep In the Nude?, Conversations in the Raw, Valentines & Vitriol, and People Are Crazy Here. Virtually anyone who was anyone during the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s in the movie and theater world is captured for the ages in these books. When asked why he no longer writes celebrity profiles, Mr. Reed answered simply: "The movie stars of today are no longer interesting."