James Frey has had a pretty rough couple of months. First, the author of the best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces was exposed by The Smoking Gun website to have made up a lot of the alleged tales of his life as a drug addict, alcoholic and criminal. As a result, two different publishers, Doubleday and Riverhead have shifted their support for Frey and are reconsidering future contracts. Consequently, Frey’s credibility and integrity have both been damaged.
But what’s worse? He really pissed off Oprah.
Frey’s quasi-memoir was featured as part of Oprah’s book club. Let’s clear up a misconception about Oprah’s hugely popular book club – this isn’t a neighbor gathering of desperate housewives reading trashy Harlequin novels – Oprah controls the publishing world and sold 1.7 million copies of the book as a result. If it weren’t for the influence of Oprah, A Million Little Pieces would have inevitably ended up on the clearance rack along side Carson Kressley’s latest attempt to metrosexualize every last person with a Y chromosome and Hulk Hogan’s parenting 101 manual.
So after Frey ‘fesses up that he lied to Oprah and all of her 1.7 million devoted readers, she invites him back on the show to explain himself, then eat him alive.
I’ll be a man and admit it – I love Oprah. I love her style, wit, passion for helping others, her perseverance through insurmountable obstacles. I love everything she represents.
But in that love is fear, the same fear I hold for God and Osama bin Laden. You know how you hear horror stories about the sweatshops run by Rosie O’Donnell and Martha Stewart? Wonder why you never hear any about Oprah? Oprah doesn’t allow dissonance and she takes care of it before it ever goes public. Want to disagree with Oprah about a relationship advice dished out by Dr. Phil? She’ll have you for dinner. Didn’t care for the new Julia Roberts’ movie she just raved about? You’ll end up a mid-afternoon high-protein snack.
So just imagine the wrath of Oprah when she finds out she endorsed your lies, misconstruing and masquerades of non-fiction after she embarrassed herself on Larry King? If you missed the show when he finally ‘fessed up to Oprah, she looked as if she was clawing her nails into the sofa to keep herself from lunging at Frey’s neck. I think she should have – it would have been the best television since Tom Cruise’s couch incident.
The problem with James Frey is that even as he was groveling for Oprah’s forgiveness there was an arrogant cockiness about him. He just looked as though he knew, despite any chiding from the media, he was banking on all the exposure – and you could just hear Oprah’s stomach rumbling.
I’ve always thought Oprah has Saint Peter on speed dial. You disappoint the mogul of all media, the princess of philanthropy, the sultan of self-help and there’s going to be a ‘No Vacancy’ neon sign at the pearly gates.
So James Frey, don’t mess with Oprah.