Fearless Vulgarity: Jacqueline Susann's Queer Comedy and Camp Authorship (Contemporary Film & Media Studies)
The enduring queer feminist engagement with Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann's camp comedy legacy.
Catalyzed by her notoriously "dirty," fabulously successful bestseller Valley of the Dolls, the "Jackie Susann Sixties" brimmed with camp comedy that now permeates contemporary celebrations of the author, from Pee-wee's Playhouse to RuPaul's Drag Race and Lee Daniels's Star. First christened "camp" by Gloria Steinem in an excoriating review of Valley of the Dolls and compounded by the publishing juggernauts The Love Machine (1969), Once Is Not Enough (1973), and Dolores (1976), the comedy of Jackie Susann illuminated conflicting positions about gender, sexuality, and aesthetic value. Through a writing formula that Ken Feil calls sleazy realism, Susann veers from gossip to confession and devises comedies of bad manners spun from real celebrities whose occasionally queer and always outr antics clashed with their "official" personas, the popular genres they were famous for, and the narrow, normative constructions of identity and reality shaped by the culture industry. Susann's promotional appearances led to another comedy of bad manners, this one populated with critics alternately horrified and delighted by an upstart woman vulgarian barging into the male literary firmament, and which continues to inspire fascination for the author, her novels, and their legendarily bad film adaptations.