In 2002, Good Charlotte released the song “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous” which included lines such as “If money is such a problem, well they got mansions, think we should rob them.” In 2008, a group of teens took these lyrics a bit too seriously.
The Bling Ring, a nonfiction book by journalist Nancy Jo Sales, reveals the story of seven teens who ripped off Hollywood. Between the fall of 2008 and the late summer of 2009, the “Bling Ring,” as they were labeled, broke into the homes of such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge and Megan Fox, where they stole clothes, jewelry, money, art, and anything else they could find. Sales reveals many different sides to the story, and attempts to uncover not only how this was pulled off, but why. Through extensive interviews with the suspects, victims, family members and lawyers, she offers insight to the mindset of these fame-obsessed teens.
Although this book is an account of a completely true event, it reads more like a fiction novel. Just when it can’t get crazier, it does. What started as a one-night, two-person adventure (the robbing of Paris Hilton’s mansion) progressed into a carefully planned, seven-person system. These kids just kept stealing because they never got caught. Even with security cameras at several of the houses they broke into, there were never any repercussions. Until Nick Prugo, one of the original two who started this trend, couldn’t live with himself and began talking to the police, these kids were golden.
The most astonishing piece of the story was the guts these daring teens had. These were not high-tech operations; by using everyday systems such as Google Maps and TMZ’s website, they were able to track down where their targets lived, and then figure out when they would be away. Before breaking in, they would simply go up and knock on the door to check if anyone was home. Then, they would find an unlocked door or open window and go inside, walk around, take what they wanted, and leave. That easy.
The “how” aspect was a simple one.
The “why” is what was harder to unravel.
Rachel Lee, the girl who started this (along with best friend Prugo), was altogether
obsessed with celebrity life and was willing to do whatever it took to gain that kind of life herself. As Prugo said, “She wanted the lifestyle, the lifestyle that we all sort of want.” (It’s important to note how he assumed that everyone wants that type of life.) Growing up in Calabasas, California, these teens were only half an hour from Beverly Hills, a prestigious neighborhood in California, and subsequently more exposed to material lifestyle than the rest of America. What effect does this have on a person’s mentality?
Sales attempts to answer this question in The Bling Ring, both through interviews and statistics. From talking about the increasing number of young girls dressed in raunchy outfits plastered across the media to talking about the effects of reality television, many valid questions about society as a whole are raised: Are these burglaries the fault of parents? Media and television as a whole? Or are kids hard-wired to be narcissistic and fame-obsessed?
I would definitely recommend this book. While it reads like a fictional crime novel, an extra element is added when you remember it’s true; it is also filled with concepts that will make you question what kind of society you’re buying into.