If you’ve been on the Internet in the past 24 hours, you have probably giggled your way through VICE editor Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s account of attending Corey Feldman’s $250-a-head birthday party. Despite Feldman demanding final approval on the feature, it’s largely been interpreted as depicting him and his party in… well, let’s just say a less than flattering light. Feldman is up in arms about the piece, and now seems to be threatening to sue: “It’s called defamation of character and slander,” he tweeted last night, “and I’m pretty sure those things are still illegal in this country.” They are, but does Feldman have a leg to stand on here?
In one way, you have to hand it to Feldman for being self-aware enough to realize that VICE are taking the piss, although the fact that he allegedly got final right of refusal on the feature rather undermines any claim he might have to being defamed. In any case, it appears that he’s not complaining about the wording — whether you read sarcasm between the lines or take Taete’s account of being excited at seeing “the hottest names in Hollywood were going to be living it up in a mansion with some of the hottest bitches on the planet” at face value is entirely up to the reader, but it doesn’t seem to bother our Corey.
No, Feldman’s main complaint appears to be with the unflattering nature of the photos that VICE published — he published a bunch of email correspondence via Twitter where he accuses Taete of “lying,” and tweeted plaintively that “Every1 who was there last Fri had an amazing time, and it was beautiful, I truly hope U aren’t deceived by those horrid photos!”
But let’s take a step back here — Feldman wanted final approval on the text, which he apparently got. Once he realized that the photos VICE had taken were, um, not airbrushed publicity shots, he wanted to impose the use of photographs taken by his “official” photographer, too.
What Feldman wanted, then, is advertising. Whatever the merits of VICE‘s article, this is not what journalists do. Despite what Hollywood seems to believe, the fourth estate is not a sort of extension of celebrities’ PR agencies, and as much as anything else, the whole sorry affair sheds an interesting light on the kind of give-and-take that exists between publicists and journalists.
Clearly, no one likes gutter journalism, but there’s a weirdly symbiotic relationship between celebrities and the press, especially if those celebrities fall into the category of “aging former child stars desperate for any publicity they can get.” Feldman’s belief that he has some inalienable right to be portrayed exactly as he wants is pretty typical, but it’s also wrong. He’s been retweeting various sycophants, including one “journalist” who seems to be cozying up to write the next account of a Feldmansion party by saying, “I’ve done journalism for yrs. and anyone who appears on my site gives me their approval before I post. It’s called RESPECT.”
That’s as it may be, but it’s not called journalism. And really, all that’s happened is that Taete has played Feldman like a violin. His email to Feldman is a masterclass in circumventing the restrictions that celebrities place on journalists trying to do their jobs: “I think you look great in the pictures… I understand you wanting your event to look the best it can be, but the post is an account of what I saw during the evening, and I think the pictures reflect that.” Oops.
Such are the perils of being a celebrity and trying to sell tickets to your version of the Playboy mansion — VICE called it as they saw it, which is what journalists do. You can argue that their post is nasty and cynical, but then, so is trying to exploit journalism to get free publicity for your $250-a-head sub-Hefner underwear party. If you dance with the devil, you can’t complain that he knows the steps better than you do.