Lauren Weisberger, the New York Times bestselling author of the debut novel turned mega hit movie THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, is our ticket backstage as she exposes how a little known singer-songwriter becomes an international star in LAST NIGHT AT CHATEAU MARMONT. Tabloid headlines entice us all. But how do they affect both the stars themselves and their family and friends?
Julian and Brooke Alter are a happily married couple living in New York. Julian is an aspiring singer-songwriter interning at Sony to learn the music business, and Brooke is working two jobs to support them and pay for studio time for Julian. It’s a “crazy ride” to stardom, beginning with a showcase in front of Sony music executives. Julian’s toxic manager Leo and sneaky publicist Samara orchestrate Julian’s every photo op and call the paparazzi to capture his “killer smile” standing alongside the starlet of the moment. Brooke tries to see these publicity photos for what they are --- staged --- until Julian confesses he had a moment of weakness and the photos in the latest issue of Last Night contain some horrifying truths. Brooke denies she is the betrayed wife, but is estrangement in her future?
Brooke makes every effort to be at the most important events, but her job as a nutritionist for a hospital and a posh girl’s school suffers from her frequent absences. Weisberger’s attempt to make Brooke’s jobs seem important against the high-profile events in Julian’s life falls flat. Brooke is her own worst enemy, and she almost loses out on the fruits of supporting Julian’s early career.
We’ve all wondered what it would be like to walk the red carpet, appear on “The Tonight Show” and be adored by the masses for our talents. Julian’s success comes with album deals, suites at the famed Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, VIP parties, celebrity appearances, concert tours, a segment on “The Today Show” and a Vanity Fair cover. Gift baskets with Veuve Clicquot and Patrón suddenly come with gossip-seeking paparazzi strings attached. Temptation is rampant, betrayal is a personal phenomenon, and the strain of fame are implied in revealing interviews.
Sacrifice and change define Julian and Brooke’s lives as Julian is groomed to take center stage worldwide. He is surrounded by PR people, stylists and band members as he travels endlessly meeting publicity and concert commitments. Brooke shares the glitzy details with her best friend Nola, just as Weisberger shares them with readers.
Does the Julian who Brooke married still exist inside the made-over image Sony’s publicist has created? Brooke still swoons for the Julian whose singing caught her attention in the local dive bar, but when his career takes off overnight and she barely sees him, except in compromising photos in national tabloids, she wonders about the seduction of fame. Weisberger reveals that “alone” for Julian is without Brooke in the Chateau Marmont bar surrounded by an entourage of starlets, and “alone” for Brooke is home with the couple’s dog. Even Julian’s mega success doesn’t garner the parental praise he desires, and he must live with this disappointment. It appears that success separates and divides as much as it opens doors and sells music.
Weisberger’s lavish descriptions of the life of the rich and famous are intoxicating. The reader feels as though he or she is Brooke. I was mesmerized as I imagined myself sitting poolside at the Chateau Marmont sipping a Bloody Mary and gazing at the people in the “discreet, quiet sexiness” that defined the area. “Each one is more gorgeous than the next.”
The highlight of LAST NIGHT AT CHATEAU MARMONT is Brooke getting ready for Julian’s Grammy appearance and their walk on the red carpet. Readers are no longer watching the action on television; instead, they’re fantasizing that they’re in a penthouse suite in the Beverly Wilshire slipping into a custom-fitted “magnificent Valentino gown” and being presented a dazzling array of diamond jewelry from which to select. Brooke and the reader are seduced head to toe.
The lessons learned from Julian and Brooke’s story are universal: Make wise choices, get rid of toxic people, believe in love, share successes together, and always, always make time for romance.
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 12, 2011
Last Night at Chateau Marmont