Queenan, Joe 1950–
Queenan, Joe 1950–
PERSONAL: Born November 3, 1950, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Joseph and Agnes Queenan; married Francesca Jane Spinner (a certified public accountant), January 7, 1977; children: Bridget, Gordon. Education: St. Joseph's College, B.A., 1972. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Home—Tarrytown, NY. Agent—Joe Vallecy, 320 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10012.
CAREER: Barron's, New York, NY, writer, 1987–89; Forbes, senior editor, 1989–90; freelance writer, 1990–.
Imperial Caddy: The Rise of Dan Quayle in America and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1992.
If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble: Movies, Mayhem, and Malice, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
The Unkindest Cut: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.
Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler: Celluloid Tirades and Escapades, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2001.
True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Spy, Gentleman's Quarterly, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Movieline, Chief Executive, and Time; author of "Good Fences" column for the New York Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Joe Queenan casts a jaundiced eye on popular culture and reports his opinions on everything from film stars to chain restaurants—always using humor to bolster his views. According to Bruce McCall in the New York Times Book Review, Queenan has crafted "a lucrative career spent gleefully skewering Hollywood airheads and other hapless patsies for skewering's sake." Like many a humorist before him, Queenan has vented his spleen against easy targets in politics, movies, and music. Unlike others, however, he has taken his vision a step further, making his own low-budget film and setting off to immerse himself in lowbrow pleasures. Calling Queenan a "proven comic talent" in the New York Times Book Review, Lance Gould noted: "The very fact that a talented cultural critic is devoting time and energy to dissect the creative efforts of known hacks is certainly ripe with humorous possibilities." Gould added: "Queenan's razor-sharp rebukes can be appreciated by anyone who has done time in an elevator, supermarket aisle or dentist's office."
Queenan claims that his upbringing accounts for his cynical mindset. "I grew up in Philadelphia. Everyone from Philly is mean," he told the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. Indeed, the author has found a great deal of writing grist in his North Philadelphia Roman Catholic childhood. His favorite pastime as a youngster was attending the movies at the neighborhood theater, and after graduating from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia he gravitated to film reviewing and political commentary for magazines such as Spy and Rolling Stone. His disdain for the moviemaking community in Los Angeles won him a readership—and made him a pariah in Hollywood. In the American Spectator, Andrew Ferguson wrote: "Movies are a tempting target for the satirist, because most movies are made by dolts and it shows. Queenan was uniquely equipped for sustained labor. Not only is his knowledge of movies encyclopedic, his visual sense highly refined, his nose for cant and sham unerring. And not only is he a gifted stylist whose prose swings effortlessly from scabrous insult to semi-serious praise. Joe Queenan had something more: he was actually willing to stay home and watch movies for uninterrupted weeks at a time."
Queenan's movie criticism is collected in such volumes as If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble: Movies, Mayhem, and Malice and Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler: Celluloid Tirades and Escapades. The books are unsparing in their satire and are particularly unforgiving to some of Hollywood's biggest icons—Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, and Oliver Stone, to name a few. To quote Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor, "Queenan's acerbic aspersions upon icons such as [Martin] Scorcese and Streisand have made him persona non grata in Tinseltown, but not to silver screen addicts who love to see overblown egos deflated." In the New York Times Book Review, Michael E. Ross deemed Queenan to be a "Jeremiah of the movies, a kind of pop-culture consumer-affairs reporter," and a Publishers Weekly contributor called Queenan "a quirky, often perceptive movie maven" whose "insights are often so on-target that readers may find themselves wishing for more." The contributor added: "He is essentially a comic writer who delivers laughs in almost every essay."
In 1995 Queenan set out to prove that he, too, could make a bad movie. Inspired by the independent film El Mariachi, purported to have been made for a mere $7,000, Queenan decided to produce his own movie, Twelve Steps to Death, for the lesser sum of $6,998. His adventures during production are recounted in The Unkindest Cut: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card. Queenan took adult-education courses on film editing and script writing, cast his children and neighbors in the movie, shot it in his backyard, and tried to get the whole project finished in nine days. To quote Julia Phillips in the New York Times Book Review, "The bottom line of Twelve Steps to Death is a bottomless pit, and [Queenan's] tour de force balloons into a $6,999 farce de frappe." Phillips found The Unkindest Cut "an often hilarious, almost always unflinching account of the making of the movie." In Booklist, Taylor described the entire adventure as "a pretty atrocious movie with pretty good publicity that just might recoup Queenan's investment. Although Twelve Steps may never darken your local international film festival, this hyperbolic spoof of moviemaking shows what you're missing."
Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America charts a new goal for the author: complete immersion in pop culture for an entire year. "Queenan sets off to explore the real America," declared Gould in the New York Times Book Review. "Only the one Queenan visits is where Billy Joel and Michael Bolton are hailed as musical virtuosos and where a night out at the Olive Garden is considered a fine dining experience." Insight on the News contributor Rex Roberts observed: "Red Lobster is often funny, although Queenan's shtick consists of one joke." Roberts added: "To his credit, Queenan knows that his fusillades against such easy targets won't carry the day, so he invents a plot that has him falling even deeper into the morass of American culture." Roberts concluded: "These days, a little bit of elite-and-effete humor goes a long way." A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the book for its "hilarious venting of spleen," adding: "Cynics in general and fans of Queenan in particular will find many pleasures in this wonderfully comic diatribe."
A moral reckoning awaits Queenan in his work My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood. Taking stock of his voluminous output of nasty remarks and taking a contrite look around him at all the worthy causes championed by rock musicians and movie stars, Queenan decides to seek redemption by using ethically correct toothpaste and issuing apologies to those who have felt the sting of his pen. As New York Times Book Review contributor McCall noted, Queenan "is far from the first writer to identify the pursuit of human virtue as prime satirical fodder, but he's probably the first to do so by working within the system." McCall added: "There's barely a sentence in My Goodness without a risible time-out in the wrestling match between the author's guilt and his exertions to become a better person. And apart from the story of his epic struggle, pitting Queenan's congenital iconoclasm against the smug, sappy and hypocritical premises of the moral correctness movement is a book idea whose time has come." A Publishers Weekly contributor cited the work for its "gleefully barbed and insouciant tone that has made [Queenan] famous as an insult-meister." McCall also wrote that My Goodness "has to be the year's most sinfully rewarding guilty pleasure."
In Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, the author turns his satirical eye on the large generation of children born following World War II and writes about everything from the fads they have followed over the years to what Queenan sees as their outright failings. A.J. Andersen, writing in the Library Journal, referred to Balsamic Dreams as a "short and snappy book," adding: "The pages bristle with caustic wit and deadly parody."
Queenan includes himself as a target of his wit in his book True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans. For the book, Queenan visit the hometowns of various sports teams and writes about the sports, the fans, and the sportscasters who have turned sports in a rabid, emotionally overwrought pursuit. Library Journal contributor Jim Burns noted that the author "makes some thought-provoking observations" but added that the author "is at his best when ranting." David Wright, writing in Booklist, called True Believers a "thought- and laughter-provoking diagnosis of the forlorn."
Queenan takes on everything from Paul McCartney to rabid English soccer fans in his book Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country. Unlike most of his other books, however, the author also is liberal in his praise of England, including his fondness for English classic writers, pubs, and country roads. Writing in Booklist, Alan Moores noted that the book "is written with … depth and detail." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Waxing wroth, Queenan gets our British cousins to show us their knickers."
Queenan once told CA: "I write because it beats working in a factory. That's it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Adweek, December 5, 2005, Ernie Schenck, review of Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation, p. 14.
American Spectator, June, 1994, Andrew Ferguson, review of If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble: Movies, Mayhem, and Malice, p. 62.
Booklist, January 1, 1994, Gilbert Taylor, review of If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble, p. 800; February 1, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Unkindest Cut: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card, p. 910; October 1, 2004, Alan Moores, review of Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country, p. 295; September 15, 2005, David Wright, review of True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans, p. 48.
Insight on the News, August 3, 1998, Rex Roberts, review of Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Queenan Country, p. 853.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 17, 1994, Laurie Busby, "Joe Queenan Has Hollywood in His Satiric Gunsight and No Lack of Ammunition," p. 21.
Library Journal, April 1, 2001, A.J. Andersen, review of Balsamic Dreams, p. 101; May 1, 2003, Jim Burns, review of True Believers, p. 124.
Nation, November 9, 1992, Douglas McGrath, review of Imperial Caddy: The Rise of Dan Quayle in America and the Decline and Fall of Practically Everything Else, p. 547.
National Review, August 31, 1992, Joseph Sobran, review of Imperial Caddy, p. 69.
New York Times Book Review, October 11, 1992, Molly Ivins, "A Heartbeat Away," p. 13; January 28, 1996, Julia Phillips, "Movie Madness," p. 34; July 26, 1998, Lance Gould, "Awful! Terrible! Excruciatingly Bad!," p. 10; February 20, 2000, Michael E. Ross, review of Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler: Celluloid Tirades and Escapades; March 5, 2000, Bruce McCall, review of My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood.
Publishers Weekly, June 22, 1998, review of Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, p. 77; December 6, 1999, review of Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler, p. 60; January 10, 2000, review of My Goodness, p. 55.