''Celebrities....at Their Worst Volume 2'' catches the rich and famous in the act of making fools of themselves. It will definitely take the stars out of your eyes

By Chris Willman
Updated March 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

It’s Barbra Streisand’s voice you hear when you slip the disc in, but mellifluous is not what comes to mind. ”Uh, you are intruding on my privacy,” she is heard explaining to a stranger on the street, ”and I would appreciate it very much, if you don’t mind, if you would just f—- off!” Gulp. There follows a medley of profane in-studio outbursts, a reminder that before the century’s premier diva was buttah, she was Brooklyn.

That’s the first of dozens of off-the-record delights and horrors on Celebrities…at Their Worst! Volume 2, a two-CD set that, like its predecessor, is an underground smash. Along with an impending third volume, these sets represent the best finds of tape traders fulfilling the biblical prophecy that all sins shall become known. Locker-room rants, musicians’ infighting, drunken stage ramblings, racist Friars Club jokes — they’re all fair game. Of course, eavesdropping has gone mainstream: After Congress’ release of the Tripp tapes, it’s clear few bad deeds go undocumented these days and that in showbiz, politics, and the private sector, we’re well into the Blooper Epoch.

Shows like Howard Stern’s have popularized Celebrities‘ bits, like Linda McCartney’s failure to hit a right note through seven minutes of ”Hey Jude,” Orson Welles’ tirades against bad commercial copywriting, and the hilariously banal argument among the Troggs that inspired Spinal Tap. Some function as substance-abuse PSAs: Worst! Volume 1 opens with John Wayne at an ROTC gathering, dissing hippies but seemingly as soused as any pothead. On 2, James Brown feels inexplicably good during a radio interview right after making bail, answering most questions with grunted song titles.

These CDs come via collector/provocateur Nick Bougas and the Mad Deadly Worldwide Communist Gangster Computer God label, who believe cutting-room-floor material is ripe for appropriation. ”These were never intended to reach such an aboveground audience, but they’ve caught fire. And I did think, My God, I might hear from some of these people,” says Bougas, who adds that no celebs have objected yet. His other projects reveal a predilection for a far darker side of voyeurism, especially his serial-killer fascination and two video volumes of — yech — Death Scenes. Since Bougas also directed a documentary about his devil-venerating pal Anton LaVey, could the source for these tapes be…Satan?

Maybe, but most have circulated thanks in large part to disgruntled engineers, journalists, and lackeys seeking revenge on famous tormentors. Certainly you’ll be rooting for whichever musicians surreptitiously taped Buddy Rich and Paul Anka sadistically haranguing their big bands. More poignant is a lengthy tape of the Beach Boys being hectored by the Wilson brothers’ meddling manager dad, Murry. It’s these overheard arguments, naturally, that provide the greatest theatrical charge.

If there’s a theme here, beyond the unsurprising revelation that adults (yes, Art Linkletter!) say the darndest things, it’s a joylessness underlying the veneer of the business there’s no business like. Perhaps, when artistic honesty is elusive and even reality TV seems prefab, the eavesdropping impulse is forgivable: We’re just that desperate for an authentic moment. Even if its truth is only that entertainment is hard, degrading, contentious work characterized by murmuring most foul.

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