By Kara Warner
No matter how easy it may seem to get famous people to talk about themselves (typically their favorite subject), there is a definite art to conducting a celebrity interview. And not many people fully understand the process better than bestselling author and prolific celebrity profile writer Neil Strauss who, over the course of his two decades in journalism, has career highlights that include making Lady Gaga cry, fielding drug offers from Marilyn Manson and shopping for diapers with Snoop Dogg.
In his newest book, “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead,” Strauss (who also wrote the pickup artist insider tome “The Game” and the Mötley Crüe biography “The Dirt”) combed through the source materials from over 3,000 articles he has written in order to bring fans further inside the minds of celebrities via their inner-most and honest commentary on topics like creativity, spirituality, drugs, aging and the psychological toll of fame.
MTV News was lucky enough to get Strauss on the phone for a few minutes to talk about the book and the crazy, shocking and unbelievable star encounters that fill out its 500-ish pages.
MTV News: Looking back on all the memorable celeb encounters you’ve had, what were some of the most outrageous or unforgettable?
Neil Strauss: I interviewed Snoop Dogg right after Tupac and Biggie had been shot and he’d just left Death Row records. [He] felt like everyone was saying that he was the next guy to be shot and we were driving around in my car and he was shopping for pampers, sitting in the driver’s seat. I’d just moved to L.A. and learned how to drive, and I was like, “Oh man, I’m in trouble.”
The first time I interviewed Marilyn Manson, they had a bunch of drugs spread out on the back of the tour bus and were telling me to “go do the dust.” And because they kept calling it dust, I didn’t know — was it angel dust? What was this stuff? I didn’t know if it was cocaine, angel dust or something else, and I remember I did that move where I tried to blow it around with my nose and I ended up blowing it all over the floor and looked like an idiot.
MTV: Have you kept track or kept in touch with any interview subjects? Particularly someone like Trent Reznor, who was unhappy at the time you interviewed him but seems to be doing well now?
Strauss: It’s interesting to see where people go, especially because Trent Reznor in the interview said “I’m never going to move to L.A. and marry a model,” and he of course bought a home in Beverly Hills and is married to an artist who was a Playboy model. Every musician who has ever said, “I’m never moving to L.A. and dating a model” always ends up moving to L.A. and dating a model.
MTV: Do you ever keep in touch with the people you interview?
Strauss: I’m really bad about it. I never make friends with them, I don’t know why. The exception is Courtney Love who, after the Rolling Stone interview, moved in with me.
MTV: What about someone like Britney Spears?
Strauss: Yeah, she did actually call me a year later and invited me over to her house. It turned out she wanted to write a book and she wanted me to write it, and she had all these crazy stories about her life that she had gathered about sexually acting out and trying to escape the control of her parents, all these things. We stayed in the touch for a little bit and her people took away her phone. Poor thing.
MTV News: Given your time in the business and exposure to so many musicians, can you predict or see someone’s career potential upon a first meeting? And what do you think about Lady Gaga? Will she be around for awhile?
Strauss: Gaga is going to be around. You can never predict, but she is somebody who is going to have that career where, even if she doesn’t realize it, she’s going to have that career of ups and downs. Culture will trash her and then culture will bring her back up and claim that she’s back. That will happen. She’s such a hard worker. But on the other hand, you never know with these people. I do think when the backlash happens, I remember in the interview she said, “My karma’s good, I’m never going to have a backlash,” and so we’ll see how she psychologically handles it when it happens because it seems to be starting already.
MTV: What’s the latest on the big screen adaptation of “The Dirt”?
Strauss: I know they’re looking at a few different directors for it. I gotta say, the screenplay is amazing. I really hope they make it. I think it will be great. I think they’re just scared because it’s obviously going to be a hard R-[rated] movie. I think they’re worried they won’t make enough money off it.
MTV: Do you have any thoughts or preferences on who they might cast?
Strauss: No, but I got a text from the screenwriter, Rich Wilkes, and he told me who he’d love to see in the film. Here’s who he sees: Brad Pitt as David Lee Roth, Jared Leto as Vince Neil, Jack Black or Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Patrick or Justin Timberlake as their first manager (a guy called Alan Kaufman), Sam Rockwell as Mick Mars, Ashton Kutcher or Russell Brand as Tommy Lee. He’s got it all thought out. That would be amazing.