WHEN i heard that a biographer had gone into therapy impersonating britney spears (that's the way it was teed up to me), i thought, this guy must be very cynical, or have really bad taste in music. or maybe both.
but the young biographer i met at a cafe in venice beach was an engaging, earnest lad from a small town in yorkshire who had made unorthodox use of a therapist to gain insight into the mind of the pop princess who had denied him the more traditional kind of access. (and steve dennis, who makes his living as a ghostwriter, ends up being a fan of singer songwriters like bon iver and david gray.)
does this method work? that's the question i put to a small panel of experts. dennis himself points out that meryl streep never met julia child, but was still able to render her with sympathy in "julie and julia."
here is my story from the LATimes. my favorite moment is when dennis called his british publisher, explaining his idea of therapy-by-proxy, and got a strange silence on the line. then: "you really have been in L.A. too long. forget the herbalist and soy lattes -- this is a step too far."
Photo by Max Halberstadt