ARC received by the publisher via NetGalley.
I made it known on a message board I co-admin that I planned to read this book, despite having very little memory of Kennedy, as an MTV VJ or otherwise. I knew the name, knew she was somebody, but I honestly have no recollection of seeing her on the channel, or of watching MTV at all during her five-year tenure. The subtitle of her memoir defines the early-to-mid 1990s as the golden age of MTV, and some may debate that. Me, I saw it as the beginning of the end, the transition from grab-bag video roulette that scheduled Motley Crue to follow The B-52's to follow The Doors to more structured programming that parsed videos by sub-genre and gradually doled out time slots to irrelevant shows. The 1980s had music videos, the 90s had Beavis and Butthead and Jenny McCarthy. By the time Kennedy appeared on the scene I was a college graduate in Athens, Georgia spending more time outside.
Nonetheless, I wanted to read her book in tandem with VJ, the oral history of MTV's genesis as told by four of the surviving original VJs. I thought it interesting to see both books come out around the same time, thereby allowing us a personal view of the network's evolution. First response from my message board post: You're lucky you don't remember her. I do, and she fuckin' sucked.
I haven't asked for specifics, but the "fuckin' sucks" opinion is one Kennedy seems to acknowledge. You either loved her or you wanted to poke her with sharp, fiery sticks. To make up for my neglect of MTV in the 90s, I researched clips on YouTube to find a hostess resembling a bespectacled Darlene Conner, only more interested in her environment. Not enough material to determine if she fuckin' sucked at her job, so I'll let more seasoned critics decide that. In The Kennedy Chronicles, the author recounts her time at MTV and within the music scene at the time, devoting entire chapters to specific encounters and/or relationships with the era's notables - among them Henry Rollins, Billy Corgan, and Dave Navarro. There's also talk of her colleagues - some mentioned merely in passing, others with a hint of bemusement (*cough* Kurt Loder), and a few she viewed with respect (Tabitha Soren, the one I do remember watching in this time).
From what I gathered in this collection of rambling vignettes (which are interspersed with chapters that serve as interviews with a number of these musicians), Kennedy was basically the 90s rock galpal, couch surfing at rock stars' homes and grimacing as everybody at MTV kissed Clinton's ass during a major youth vote campaign - apparently Kennedy was quite a unicorn at 1515 Broadway, perhaps the lone conservative among her peers. While many stories provide nice gossip, not all have happy endings. There's little affection spared for Courtney Love and Puck from The Real World, and you'll learn more about Jenny McCarthy's bowel habits than you'll care to know. I do wish I had more access to MTV archives to know if Kennedy's broadcast style matched her writing, regardless of the twenty-year gap. To me, the book rambles, and while fans may enjoy the "interview" chapters I thought them out of place, as though others encroached on Kennedy's time by sharing their memories.
Whatever you think or thought of Kennedy, her legacy is cemented in her short MTV tenure, and The Kennedy Chronicles serves as an interesting, albeit uneven, history of the time. Fans of the VJ and the musicians featured in her anecdotes will likely appreciate the book the most.
Kathryn Lively is the author of the Rock and Roll Mysteries featuring Lerxst Johnston: Rock Deadly and Rock Til You Drop, and of the collection of short stories, The Girl With the Monkee Tattoo.