Marketing Booze, Sex and Drugs? Call Oprah

How do you get middle class suburban women to go crazy for depraved sex, booze and drugs? Oh, wait a minute, they already are. I meant to ask, how do you get them talking about it comfortably? If you are James Frey, you write your memoir and get Oprah to endorse it. For those of you crawling from under your rocks, real or crack, I am talking about the book, A Million Little Pieces.

Two months ago I would have had nothing to say about this book. But then, a girlfriend turned me on to it. I resisted as it is not my normal genre-I may smoke some cigs and drink some scotch, but I don’t do the hard stuff or want to read about it. But, with a family vacation in the works, I succumbed to ever powerful peer pressure and purchased the item from B&N. After finishing State of Fear and In Cold Blood, I was in desperate need of a fix. I opened the book. I was not hooked.

You see, the book is the author’s story of drug addiction and the real life accounts are, today, being called lies. According to, Oprah has been had.

…a six-week investigation by The Smoking Gun reveals that there may be a lot less to love about Frey’s runaway hit, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies and, thanks to Winfrey, has sat atop The New York Times nonfiction paperback best seller list for the past 15 weeks. Next to the latest Harry Potter title, Nielsen BookScan reported Friday, Frey’s book sold more copies in the U.S. in 2005–1.77 million–than any other title, with the majority of that total coming after Winfrey’s selection.

Damn, I knew that Oprah influenced popular opinion, but I did not even begin to imagine the scope of that influence. Here we have the book flying off shelves, and it is not even good. I struggled to get through it- my husband, through eye watering laughter, told me to just say no, and stop. But he knows that I am fighting my own demon- that I am addicted to finishing bad books because I don’t want to feel that I wasted my time. (Bad rationalization, but is that not the cause of most addiction?) Never mind that I can cut my losses- I have to see it through. In this case, I am glad I did.

Nowhere in this book did Mr. Frey ever describe addiction as a “disease.” As far as his drug use, real or fictitious, he never claimed to “find ‘anything'” before “quitting.” In fact, he adamantly spoke of personal responsibility for his choices. There is a chapter in which he talks about his rehab love being forced to leave the facility. Co-ed relationships were forbidden and they had been caught playing around. He left to find her, confronted a pimp/dealer in a bus station restroom and learned that his sweet Lilly was with an old man and some rock. He tracked her to an abandoned building filled with crack heads and found her high, and sucking a pipe of a different sort. His love for her and his determination to just stop using allowed him to rescue her and escape without using. He had faced his demon, and, according to the memoir, he never used again.

Is his story a crock of shit? Who knows? If he is a liar, he played it well. If false, society- by offering the medical term “disease”- helped him along. (As am I by offering that excuse.) Society now deems most lapses of good judgement a medical affliction and therefore worthy of mainstream attention. If the story is true, kudos to him for taking responsibility for his life. Whether memoir or fiction, I have to applaud the marketing. Oprah can sell anything from Coach handbags to Fords. Why aren’t we talking to her?

  1. I have that same addiction! I have crawled through so many horrible books in my time for just that reason.

    Personally I can’t stand Oprah’s show, but you’re right-there’s a lot of potential there. One day, if some libertarian can write a book compelling enough to get mentioned on that show, it could mean something big-or at least decent.

  2. Michelle, I think you’re totally right that Libertarians should make any efforts possible to reach out to Oprah. Since her power to influence the masses is so great and any crap she might endorse would fly off shelves, she’d easily be able to sell liberty (and even the LP) if she were so inclined.

    She does display some libertarian leanings now and then. And a semi-libertarian couple in Minnesota have been doing a “Draft Oprah” campaign since before 2000. They’ve now teamed with a professional, and here’s what’s up on that front for 2008 —

    If Oprah ever wanted to get into politics, she could pick any office she wanted and run on any ticket she wanted and win. I think she intentionally avoids getting too political, but you never know…

    btw, is also trying to draft her for 2008

  3. you say if he is a liar he played it well.–no he didn’t, not by a long shot. it is not only the issues raised by the smoking gun that are lies, it’s everything else. the plane ride-please,no airline is going to let a blood/urine/vomit covered, bleeding from the head, mouth and eye, under the influence person on a plane.the dentist-ever hear of malpractice? not to mention anesthesia is non-addictive. he would have been thrown out of rehab for doing once what he claims to have gotten away with many times.killing the gay priest-used just to show what a badass, and real man he wants the reader to think he is. the list goes’s not a bad memoir, it’s a bad novel.-he’s a loser, and oprah’s an idiot.

  4. Sean, you are right. Even in 1st, I have to fight a flight attendant if I have to pee after champagne and a long delay. How would a broken man with newly missing teeth wake up bleeding, smelling of urine be allowed on a flight, let alone gain sympathy? I am the choir. He marketed well. He used the strength of the drug war to sell his book. Addict or not, he gained cash and household mention by riding the coat tails of America’s misinformation on drugs. And he had a bigtime sponsor. I am, obviously, as shitty a writer as he. If I were better, you would understand that I care nothing about his honesty and everything about his marketing.

  5. Considering that Oprah is on the list of the Top 5 people racing to destroy America, I am so glad she got nailed on this. I’m so looking for a picture of her weeping at this guy’s book club show for my blog. ;-)