Feud is a show on FX that has become incredibly popular. The plot chronicles the infamous 1960s-era feud between aging screen icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford who co-starred on the smash hit Whatever Happened To Baby Jane despite their dislike of one another. Feud delves into this historic ongoing argument as well as the legendary lives of Joan and Bette.
The success of the show has renewed interest in these two long-dead celebrities, and there has been a spike in sales in media and books about them. One such book is the inactive novel titled Mommie Smearest which was written by an author mysteriously known only as “L. LeSueur”. It reads as if Joan is speaking to the reader directly from movie star heaven using her birth name of Lucille. In the book, she discusses her issues with Bette Davis and comments on the modern-day entertainment landscape, smartphones, and more.
The book opens with Joan’s spirit seducing her way out of hell but being forced to return to earth to redeem herself for her past sins by finding a way to salute unpretentious underdogs and skewer quasi-celebs. Along the way, she visits boardrooms, stadiums, Trump Tower, and reveals interesting little-known facts about her life, such as how she auditioned for “The Brady Bunch.” The storylines converge in the end, leaving the reader feeling as if this hyper journey is meant to convey the importance of being true to yourself and seeing how unreal fame is when anyone with a smartphone can find themselves publicly recognized.
Recently, ‘L. LeSueur’ discussed the book and the inspirations behind it.
Meagan Meehan (MM): What prompted you to write about Joan Crawford?
L. LeSueur (LL): Joan Crawford was a very smart, driven person with many internal conflicts. She came from a very difficult childhood and against many odds, became a movie star.
MM: What most interested you about the woman?
LL: Her unrelenting energy and drive.
MM: Joan was known to be a tough cookie. Do you believe some of the tougher stories about her?
LL: The Mommie Dearest movie cemented the image of Miss Crawford as a tough, glamorous, conflicted—and therefore interesting—figure. I do believe many of the stories about her as the majority of accounts from her professional and personal lives seem to support one another.
MM: The plot of ‘Mommie Smearest’ is quite intricate and zany and fun. How did you think of all these elements?
LL: We live in this crazy cultural moment in time where everybody with a smartphone seems to think they’re a star. Whether we’re a politician, a CEO or a coffee barista, it’s like we all have this personal publicity machine in our pockets and we’re eager to use it.
MM: What do you think stars of the past would think of today’s celebrity scene?
LL: Some of them might admire the moxie of starlets who manufacture themselves with social media. Others might be resentful of how ‘easy’ stardom is these days. You don’t need talent to become a Real Housewife or Honey Boo-Boo.
MM: What other books have you written and what’s in the works?
LL: Mommie Smearest was my first book and likely, my last. Where do I go from here? I feel like I’ve covered the best topic. With the phenomenal increase in book sales lately (thank you FX and Feud!), I am considering a sequel but writing a book is so much work. It’s much more difficult than tweeting, I’ll tell you that!
MM: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
LL: The core message from Mommie Smearest is to reject superficial fame, whether reality or social media-built. Stop the selfies, people. Stop the oversharing. We all need to embrace our true “normal” selves and stop foolishly filling everyone’s feeds with our personal drama. Leave the storytelling to Hollywood. Joan would appreciate it.
[Featured Image by Jeff Dorta]