Book Review: “The Bling Ring”
Author: Nancy Jo Sales
Plot: The true journalistic account of how a group of celebrity obsessed teenagers staged a series of burglaries targeting the homes of Pairs Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and other trendy celebrities.
Review: The story of the Bling Ring is once again in the spotlight with the release of Sophia Coppola’s film version of the story. To be fair, most of the internet has taken away only one thing from the whole movie…
Whilst Coppola’s movie is blatant about being a fictionalised account of the crime spree this book is very much a journalistic account, focusing on the facts rather than the drama. Not that there isn’t plenty of that, with the culprits turning against each other at the drop of a hat.
For those unfamiliar with the story behind the movie and the book, here’s the skinny. During 2009 and 2010 a string of burglaries were reported through Hollywood. The victims were tabloid fodder such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Audrina Patridge. What made the story so bizarre was that the criminals weren’t desperate people in need of money but a small group of celebrity and fame obsessed teenagers from an affluent neighbourhood whose only motivation is wanting to dress like famous people.
When reading the book there are two aspects of the story that will leave the reader speechless. Obviously there’s the home life of the celebrities themselves. Paris Hilton’s house (which can be seen in the movie) sounds like a completely demented farce, with every wall covered with framed pictures of the heiress, and every cushion is screen printed with her face. It sounds like a narcissistic nightmare, like falling into the mind of a person who has never given a thought to another person.
Partly because they live in a gated community, and possibly in part because they didn’t expect it to happen, security seems to be surprisingly lax in these circles. The culprits found Paris Hilton’s alarm system was never turned on, and a spare key was under the door mat. When they took the key for themselves it was replaced with a new one the next time around. In the house they’d also find that Hilton’s safe would be left lying open and containing incriminating photographs. Most shockingly Hilton was robbed three times before she began to notice that clothing and money was going missing. It’s downright surreal.
The second and more shocking part of the story centres on the criminals and the sheer audacity of them in carrying out these crimes. Being a journalist Sales does not speculate, and if a source refuses to comment then we’re left in the dark as to their motivations and attitude. This means that Rachel Lee, who is painted as the instigator of the crimes, is mostly skipped over in this account. Nick Prugo, one of the original criminals, has already come forward with the whole story and shows plenty of remorse for what he did, and gives good insight into how things happened. The star of the show is undoubtably Alexis Neiers who manages to both fascinate and revolt.
At the time of the robberies Neiers was already the feature of a reality TV show called Pretty Wild, and everything she says paints her as the absolute worst you would expect of a fame seeking valley girl. Throughout the book she is interviewed a number of times, screaming at her mother to ‘shut up’ whenever she tried to intervene. You will be downright astounded by this self-proclaimed ‘Buddhist’ who breaks into people’s houses to steal their designer clothes, who talks about possibly being a great leader (“like Angelina Jolie”) while giving pole-dancing lessons, and works on the assumption that any media coming to her doorstep is there to help her become a celebrity. The level of entitlement shown by Neiers is almost zen in its encompassing attitude. Neiers genuinely believes that everyone is going to let her get away with these crimes and that everyone will be clambering to tell her story. It is impossible to feel any sympathy for someone so completely oblivious to the emotions of other people, and her drastic attempts to justify herself rather than take responsibility.
It all comes to head at the end of the book when Sales receives a scripted message on her phone from Neiers complaining about he coverage in the story misrepresenting her involvement in the robberies. If anything it demonstrates a total lack of understanding of how phone messaging works as she tries to ‘re-record’ the message. Observe.
Although it’s easy to focus on these pathetic excuses for criminals involved and the big name celebrities Sales paints a much wider picture. The education and home life of the criminals are examined and quotes from their friends are used to illustrate these backgrounds. The modern culture of the celebrity is also given plenty of discussion, as is the early sexualisation of teen girls. The angle of the book is on how youth culture in some areas has reached the point where these kids felt justified in carrying out these crimes, and their sense of entitlement in becoming famous for having done so very little. It creates a very frustrating and frightening perception, which is only relived by reminding yourself that these assholes only represent a very small percentage of youths.
Absolutely worth checking out for anyone interested in celebrity culture, pop culture trends or unusual true crime stories.