Ian Halperin, Hollywood Undercover, Interview
Ian Halperin - Hollywood Undercover - Interview
Hollywood Undercover: revealing the sordid secrets of tinsel town.
Terms like exposé and investigative journalism carry a certain stigma that many instantly question. So when asked to interview the author of a book called 'Hollywood undercover: revealing the sordid secrets of tinsel town' forgive me for thinking that this might be a kiss and tell account of self inflated egos and sexual conquests.
Thankfully it turned out not to be.
Hollywood undercover is a candid and intelligent look at the fame game from an insider's point of view. Ian Halperin blagged his way through auditions, casting calls and film sets posing as an aspiring gay actor. Along the way he appeared in The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorcese, uncovered anti-Semitism in Hollywood, infiltrated the Church of Scientology and met numerous celebrities including; Anna Nicole Smith, Sigourney Weaver, Barbra Streisand and Leonardo DiCaprio - All with no real plan or experience of acting.
I started getting cast from very early on without any acting experience, not even a high school play - because I dressed so crazily and because I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Ian's look at the fame game is one of education not voyeuristic embellishment. Anyone can document even second guess what has become this parodied industry, but dissecting the complex intricacies based on empirical findings is hard to do.
To me Hollywood is to acting, what professional wrestling is to sport.
If you weed out all the sleazebags there are a lot of legit people in Hollywood and all you have to do is get rid of these con artists.
A purveyor of meaning and substance his thoughts on the power struggle that resides firmly between the big wigs in Hollywood is intriguing. Money is power and with the droves of actors and actresses that migrate to Hollywood trying to succeed, it's shocking to read how used and abused they are.
It's a complete power struggle; it's not just who you know but who you blow.
One guy bragged to me that he could never get laid in high school or college but since he became an "Agent/Producer" he'd bedded more women than Nick cage, Al Pacino and Brad Pitt put together. He also said he won't even look at someone unless they suck his dick and this is typical of Hollywood, it's filled with sleazy stories.
An infotainment look at what some shun as being trashy, Ian paints a scientific picture of the industry without being pretentious- although he did give himself a pseudonym 'His highness' which really opened doors for his cause.
People became obsessed with the notion that I was Royalty. I'd get the top tables in Hollywood and get access to all the top actors, models and auditions.
Along the way he made a string of celebrity connections, but the one which has brought the most exposure is the late Anna Nicole Smith, which obscurely resulted in them making love at Marilyn Monroe's grave - although Ian was quick to correct any sensationalist claims made about the relationship.
I had this very beautiful, poetic, symbiotic relationship with Anna and we met several times and she was definitely a sad case.
She contributed all her success to Howard K Stern but she called him a modern day svengali.
Surrounding her untimely death at the age of 39, Ian also recalls how she envisaged dieing young.
I thought she was talking out of paranoia but she did tell once that she was in fear for her life and that she thought she would die and looking back now it's pretty powerful how she described it and how she thought she'd die young.
Apart from the celebrity element of the book - Hollywood undercover also documents the infiltration of the church of Scientology where he spent several weeks in the church. This controversial and guarded subject has raised a lot of debate over the years and the experiences he had certainly will add to this.
Scientology portrays itself as a religion and even Time magazine accused it as being a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a mafia type manner, to me that was powerful and I wanted to see how that really worked.
They were reluctant to let me shoot but I convinced them that my uncle who was very rich might be interested in investing tens of millions of dollars into the church if I thought it was a viable product.
And they said ok, we've never let anyone film before but they signed the release and let me shoot.
Whilst inside he also uncovered the openly homophobic slant that the church had.
When I told them I was gay they told me that they could de-programme my homosexuality though a technique called auditing and that was one of the first times that they admitted on record that they could do that.
It's this link between the supposed accumulation of Hollywood real estate by the church that neatly ties it into the greed and corruption of Hollywood.
Scientology controls Hollywood, which I find pretty scary.
The church owns a lot of property and land and if movie executives want to make a film they have to play ball.
These levels of depravity make it increasingly hard for actors and actresses to make a career on talent alone. Something which Ian saw first hand:
Unfortunately there are people who are genuinely trying to make it and they haven't got a hope in hell because they play it straight.
There was one woman I met in an acting class who was so depressed, she was shooting heroin under her toenails or under her tongue to hide track marks. Because you're not going to get cast if you come in and you're got track marks all over you.
She claimed she'd been raped several times by casting agents and was scared she'd never work again if she filed charges.
This is just one example of how crooked showbiz is, where in a multi billion dollar industry: talent, perseverance and luck can't help you become who you want to be.
The stories don't end there with talk about the infamous Hollywood sign and its contrasting façade. On the one hand it represents the glitz and glamour of show business but on the other it has this dark draw to it by failed actors.
They've recently put a fence around the Hollywood sign and that's because all these kids have gone out their, spent their life savings pursuing their dreams and jumped off it to their deaths.
There are people waiting to prey on you and take all your money with big business cards that haven't produced anything, then they lure you into prostitution, drugs and milk them for everything they have.
With such a widespread and in depth look at show business the book is almost a Michelin guide on what to look out for and avoid in Hollywood. It's not just for wannabe starlets or those interested in the movie industry either. The first hand experiences and investigative journalism slant Ian has taken is commendable and shows that he's not just in it for the money, but deeply compelled to warn others.
I don't worry about what people think of me. I wanted to contribute to educating the public, if I can help a few people avoid misery I've done my job.