The Fame Game

Alan Brien

  • Hype by Steven Aronson
    Hutchinson, 198 pp, £5.95, May 1984, ISBN 0 09 156251 1
  • Automatic Vaudeville by John Lahr
    Heinemann, 241 pp, £8.95, September 1984, ISBN 0 434 40188 9
  • Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical by Ethan Mordden
    Oxford, 244 pp, £19.00, August 1984, ISBN 0 19 503345 0

Steven Aronson’s Hype, a guide to the latest techniques of mass manipulation, may have less impact on British readers than it has had on American. The word is a recent coinage, but since the days of Dickens’s American Notes or, even earlier, of Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans, we have been accustomed to associate the practice of hype with what many Brits still call the Yank. For a century, in boys’ comics, thrillers, magazine humour, music-hall sketches and pre-war films, the American was a loud-mouthed, boastful vulgarian who always claimed that whatever he had must be the biggest, the rarest or the most expensive in the world. The Yank was never satisfied with a fair share, we thought, and I well recall hearing Tommy Trinder complaining on stage during the war that there were only three things wrong with the GIs – they were ‘overpaid, over-sexed, and over here’ – and how I cheered along with the rest of the uniformed audience.

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