Chapter 16: Lifetime Achievement Award

CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #16: I will regret nothing.

***

“Unsurprisingly, male stars generally have an easier time of it than the ladies when it comes to growing older. Cue the surprise and shock. As we’ve indicated, Hollywood has some astonishingly retrograde ideas about gender, so it’s probably not surprising that the industry’s norms on appropriate dating ages stopped evolving around 1850 or so. Men with faces like parched deserts routinely date and even marry women whose high school diplomas are still drying. It doesn’t exactly make them appear younger, but it’s enough to keep them viable as celebri- ties for a little longer. His adult children will mostly refuse to be seen in public with his new child bride, and once she has a baby, the public will silently tsk at him for his irresponsibility while begrudgingly admiring him for still being fertile at his age.

Compare this to the lady side of the aisle, where a forty-year-old female star with the kind of bikini body that 95 percent of twenty-year-olds would kill for gets raked over the coals by the press and the public for allowing someone under the age of thirty to find her attractive and have sex with her. She’ll get compared to predatory animals and generally be seen as a slightly sad figure, trying desperately to stave off her inevitable descent into irrelevancy. Fortunately, most of these ladies couldn’t give less of a shit what the rest of the world thinks of them (hence the sleeping with men decades younger than they are), and they ignore the constant frowning and poo-pooing being directed at them in order to concentrate on having yet another orgasm that day.”

  • Chapter 15: Acts of Contrition

    CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #15: Everyone loves me! What do I need to apologize for?

    ***

    “Sometimes a star reaches a point where the arrests happen more frequently than financial reports or she’s done something that the public, not to mention the authorities, can’t easily forgive, like desecrating the flag or being photographed shooting up while nursing her baby. This is when you separate the winners from the nominees. It’s sink or swim time, and if a star has that special something, she’ll reach deep inside, find that inner strength, pry that rock out of her nose, wash her hair, borrow that dress, and show up on the courthouse steps sporting an eight-hundred-dollar pair of sunglasses and a renewed sense of purpose. The lesson here is, when you hit rock bottom, dress like you’re here to pick up your award.”

    ***

    “The Repentant Celebrity subgenre of reality TV involves the star and his extended family airing all of their dysfunction in front of the camera. The hope is that they will be seen as “colorful” instead of the usual “sociopathic” assessments thrown their way.

    The truly bottom-of-the-barrel stars will debase themselves on cheap reality television shows entirely cast with other bottom-of-the-barrel stars, where they will all be asked to perform ridiculous stunts, be subjected to the worst pop psychology by a licensed celebrity therapist (specializing in the problems of celebrities; licensed as a chiropractor), and forced to cry on camera each week. Some of them will get paying gigs out of this work, or at least some press, but most of the participants on these shows will quietly pass away from embarrassment within a year or two.”

    ***

    “Much in the manner of long-term convicts and former Miss Americas, some stars who put themselves through the wringer are eventually going to turn to that old-time religion as a way to get back in the public’s good graces. This makes an especially smart choice for country singers and former Playboy models. Jesus, of course, remains the perennial favorite, and the newly Jesus-touched star can be expected to talk about Him as if He were someone collaborating with him on a project. Every award or moment of acclaim will be attributed to his good friend Jesus, who can’t be bothered with disease and starvation but will move mountains to make sure the properly Jesus-thanking celebrities get nominated for a People’s Choice Award when the time is right.”

  • Chapter 14: The Full Chernobyl

    CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #14: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

    ***

    “As with all things celebrity, it’s full-speed-ahead, take-no- prisoners time when life gets a little rough. Instead of dealing with bumps in the road as they arise, like most of us do, a star will immediately veer off the road at the first sign of one and run straight into a telephone pole before bursting into flames and killing a bus full of big-eyed children from diverse backgrounds. Figuratively speaking. Full-on breakdowns are far, far more interesting this way and ensure that everyone around the celebrity pays constant attention to him, thereby potentially increasing his income down the line—although the likelihood of this is almost wholly supported by the star’s delusions at this point. It is important, however, that the celebrity choosing to melt down restrict his destructive behavior to himself, his spouse, his children, and the general public. Any odd or threatening behavior directed at business managers, agents, producers, or studio/label heads will result in immediate obscurity and the loss of future earnings.”

    ***

    “It’s not that we love assholes so much, and it’s not even that we love celebrities (although that is, of course, a huge part of it). No, it’s because once again, a celebrity stands in for our own fears and desires, and when one of them simply snaps, while standing in front of forty paparazzi, we try to see some part of ourselves in them, some bit of our own struggles reflected in the actions of the wild-eyed, underfed teen pop star shaving off her eyebrows on a sidewalk at 3:00 a.m. And when some middle-aged overpaid douche bag, after years of living in a diamond-hard bubble of privilege, has a tantrum that escalates into a full-blown psychotic episode, again we rise to our feet as one and cheer. Not because we love overpaid middle-aged douche bags of privilege, but because there isn’t anyone out there who wouldn’t love to indulge in a little “Fuck you, world” moment. But since almost all of us have to live with the consequences of our actions in one form or another, most of us never do it, preferring instead to applaud the privileged few who are allowed to live as consequence-free a life as we will grant them. Of all the odd celebrity/fan relationships, this one’s easily the oddest.”

  • Chapter 13: The Exhaustion Sweepstakes

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #13: I’m fabulous even when I’m unconscious.”

    ***

    “There is no greater suffering for a star than when they’re suffering from lack of attention. It’s like oxygen deprivation to them. You see, A-list celebrity bodies are covered with tiny, microscopic hairs that act as antennae, moving to and fro constantly and seeking out confirmation that someone is paying attention to the person they are attached to. When attention drops to dangerously low levels, these tiny antennae immediately send a signal to the celebrity brain, which causes the celebrity to feel weak and light-headed. When attention levels in the atmosphere plummet to zero, her body shuts down and she crashes dramatically to the floor. In a public place, of course. With cameras present. If she is not in a public place where cameras are present, her celebrity survival instinct will kick in and she will propel herself through sheer force of will to a place where people will notice when she collapses to the ground. Only one part of this paragraph is made up.”

    ***

    “It’s always great if the singer can collapse on stage in midsong, in front of an audience of thousands. If nothing else, the phone videos on the Internet will be the most discussed item of the week. If there’s vomiting involved or pyrotechnics gone wrong, all the better. Besides, it’s always kind of hilarious when they do it, especially if there’s dancing involved; the backup dancers always hesitate for that one split second, wondering if she’s improvising and maybe she’s going to start popping and locking or spinning on her head or something.”

    ***

    “Dehydration,” as everyone knows, is merely publicist-speak for “drying out.” Their client doesn’t need more water, she needs less vodka, but that doesn’t play well with the public, so everyone halfheartedly agrees to pretend that her whirlwind life of partying hasn’t worn her out to the point that she needs medical care. Bottom line: Of all the excuses given for mysterious disappearances from the public eye, dehydration is the one that no one truly believes. Imagine if stars really were dehydrated as often as their spokespeople say they are. We’d all have no choice but to assume the poor things have no idea what water is except for when they’re swimming in it or someone’s shooting it up their ass.”

  • Chapter 12: Flop Sweat

    A late addition to the book! This chapter actually didn’t appear in our original proposal, but as we were putting it all together, we realized we’d touched on every single aspect of celebrity (and “real world”) life except for one; a really BIG one: Failure. No one loves it, but celebrities are particularly bad at accepting or acknowledging it.

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #12: Failure is just success with slight alterations. “

    ***

    “All stars will have to face career failure at some point in their lives, and how they deal with it will determine whether said failure is a momentary blip in an otherwise commendable career or the first sign that It’s All Over. There are rare celebrities who can admit their failure, learn from it, and then move on. These celebrities are most commonly known as “character actors” or “one-hit wonders.” Real stars tend to gloss over the admitting and the learning and go straight to moving on.”

    ***

    “But they have a choice. They can either accept that what they were selling was not on the public’s to-buy list and move on to their next project (or at least go through the motions of moving on to the next project, because in the entertainment industry— unlike no other—looking busy is almost as important as being busy), or they can go through a period of mascara-tracked shrieking at partners, collaborators, and subordinates. We suppose we all pretty much have those choices, but the celebrity has the option of more vase throwing without recriminations.”

    ***

    “The far more likely route that a desperate, post-flop star will take is to run into the comforting arms of past career triumphs and try to replicate them. These are the rom-com stars who wind up making ludicrously dramatic and glamorous epic love stories, playing characters much younger than their actual age. Or the aging action star who thinks the last movie flopped because he didn’t make enough implausible leaps from moving cars to moving trains. Basically, these are the stars who run from career failure straight into a new project that’s all about saying to the public, “This is why you love me, right?”

  • Chapter 11: Giving Unto Others

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #11: The world is waiting for me to fix it.”

    ***

    “Having played out every major life event and career triumph in front of an audience of millions, a celebrity will quite often develop a messiah complex and decide that what the world really wants from her is to tell it what to do. Despite the supreme condescension, this is often born out of a fear of career or public decline. It’s every insecure busybody friend you ever had, writ large. You know that friend who’s always bouncing checks and dating guys with teardrop tattoos but takes the time out of fucking up her life each day to tell you what you’re doing wrong with yours? Imagine if that friend had a publicist.”

    ***

    “What’s most galling, of course, about these stars is how little they actually remember about being non-famous and how, in a typically narcissistic star manner, they can’t separate their own experiences from universal truths. “Life is all about taking time each day to enjoy the simple things, like a cup of organic birch tea or baking bread with your children.” Simple, homespun pleasures that require huge chunks of leisure time, lots of disposable income, and at least one personal assistant.”

    ***

    “Celebrities tend to turn toward formal charity work only when they’re ordered to by a judge or because there’s some possible career benefit to it. Otherwise, they try to avoid it, mostly out of laziness and a complete lack of applicable skills. Instead, they’ll offer to become spokespeople; not officially, after a formal invitation by some larger group, but simply by striking out on their own and choosing an issue or problem to spout off on, because they can’t express a thought without cameras present.

    Freelance spokespersonhood is a fabulous way to get a lot of credit for saving the world by standing next to the unfortunate and looking concerned as the cameras flash or standing in front of a problem and loudly declaring how much you’re opposed to it. “

  • Chapter 10: The Epic Breakup

    Oh, the dangerous and depressing world of celebrity relationships ending. Thank goodness it’s also HILARIOUSLY entertaining.

     

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #10: People who hurt me deserve to be destroyed.”

    ***

    “Each side will deploy a small army of friends, employees, and coworkers to drop rumors into the gossip mill about the other side. Common rumors include some relatively benign but gross venereal disease, the reveal of certain embarrassing private quirks like baby talk during sex or eating paper, and descriptions of body parts (like small penis size or inverted nipples) that would have most normal people hiding their faces for years to come. It’s warfare via publicist, and it’s very effective in getting the public to choose sides. It’s like any breakup where each person has to figure out who gets which friends, which cat, or custody of the kids, except it’s the public they’re fighting over. We’re the friends, the cats, and the kids in this tug of war.”

    ***

    “Due to a career-long mutually beneficial relationship with the entertainment media and all its various players, high and low, stars know exactly how to deploy these people to their benefit and will do their best to assure that their ex is photographed at a time and place where he or she is sure to look like crap, like leaving a whorehouse or a proctologist’s office. They will also deploy the blind item when it comes time to make the other side look bad without risking a slander suit. Since the period between struggling to keep up the façade of a healthy relationship and doing their best to destroy each other is remarkably brief, it’s not unusual for a front cover “Jènn & Erik: Why Our Marriage Works” story to be running at the exact same time Jènn and Erik are dropping hints to gossip writers that the other one really likes inserting things in his or her butt.”

    ***

    “The very best kinds of celebrity break-ups, the ne plus, is when each person involved is a singer. Oh Jesus, can you ever expect some lyrical payback when that happens. Actors don’t always get the chance to let their personal life inform their work so directly, but singers are encouraged to do so and rewarded for it. If those singers just happen to be bitter, vindictive, immature, and attention seeking, so much the better. Male rap and female country stars get the prize for most vindictive lyrics, but the dance-floor divas can achieve immortality if their song of triumph after pain becomes a gay or bachelorette party standard.”

  • Chapter 9: The Well-Orchestrated Cheating Scandal

    CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #9: When it’s all falling apart, slap on some lipstick and SOLDIER ON.

    ***

    “Celebrity adultery scandals come prepackaged with a set of archetypal characters, so that everyone gets to identify with one of them. Whether it’s a ladystar cheating on her celebrity husband with another celebrity or a male star cheating on his celeb better half with another ladystar, each character in this melodrama gets cast in one of three roles: the Temptress, the Bad Boy, and the Victim. There’s no room for any other interpretations. It always gets boiled down to a simplistic scenario straight out of a 1950s melodrama. Or The Old Testament. No matter who cheated on whom or who bears the most guilt, or which one of countless scenarios played out to get to this point, it always comes down to the Temptress, the Victim, and the Bad Boy.”

    ***

    “In rapid succession—hours apart, if she can manage it—it should first be announced that she has become a major spokesperson or ambassador for some sort of cause that no one can argue with, like International Fluffy Kitten Rescue or Feeding Big-Eyed Waifs, and then she should immediately show up un-announced at an event where there will be a lot of cameras, like Fashion Week, a big film premiere, or a natural disaster. It is imperative that she re-emerge looking better than she ever has, wearing the most expensive clothes she’s ever worn. The message here is ‘I have the genetic material to overcome the marriage vows of others and save the world.’ People will be awed by her. Inexplicably, refugee children will fling themselves at her. Drag queens will pay homage to her for years to come.”

    ***

    “The Bad Boy’s image is fairly simple and straightforward: I’m hot and I think with my dick. As much as the public will claim to hate him for it, he will be seen as a lovable rascal, charmed by an overwhelming force of sensuality in the form of the Temptress, even if he’s the married one in the scenario. If he’s the un- married one in this three-way, he gains instant Stud status, but he’ll forevermore be seen as a huge asshole. The best-case scenario for the Bad Boy is to be the one in the middle of the threesome. The public thinks it’s delicious when two women fight over a man, but seedy when two men fight over a woman. The former is a high-end soap opera with couture and paparazzi; the latter is best left associated with roadside honky-tonk parking lots at 4:00 a.m.”

  • Chapter 8: Acquiring Children

    Child-rearing! Probably the NUMBER ONE area of life in which no sane person should look to celebrities for guidance!

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #8: I believe that perfect children who reflect all my best qualities are my future.”

    ***

    “True stars know the value of dependents when it comes to managing one’s image, and they’ll plead with the world to respect the privacy of their children, even as they sell the rights to the first ultrasound to major magazines.

    To many celebrities, children are like little growing accessories, like purses that shit or shoes that require food. For the truly big stars, the little dears are more like luggage, because someone else is always going to take care of handling them.”

    ***

    “If a star is committed to going the conventional route and actually bearing a child and baking it to completion, there are a variety of tricks and techniques at her disposal to ensure maximum attention is paid. First, before she actually gets pregnant, she has to spend months, if not years, dropping hints about how she wants to become pregnant, all the while utilizing as much birth control as science and the human body will allow because she is currently relying on horny teen and college-age males to support her career, which means bikinis are a mainstay and stretch marks are a no.”

    ***

    “Continuing the practice of inducing maximum nipple-tweaking anticipation in the press and the public, it is important before a celebrity buys an African baby that she announces to the press her intention to buy an African baby. Optimally, this announcement should come six to nine months before purchasing. This ensures endless coverage and speculation as to the size and shape of the star’s hypothetical African baby. Smart stars will keep the topic on everyone’s minds by having “passport issues” or “custody fights” with their potential African baby’s “parents.”

  • Chapter 7: Symbiotic Rebranding, aka “Marriage”

    “CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #7: Every day is a special day, but today you bitches are going to sit down and look at me.”

    ***

    “As with so many aspects of a star’s personal life, marriage is approached from the vantage point of how it can be used to keep his stardom going, or better yet, how to use it to kick his stardom up to the next level. Ambitious stardom is like life in- side a constant video game. The star is always looking to over- come whatever obstacles he has on this level solely so he can advance to the next level, knowing there will be further obstacles to come.”

    ***

    “Imagine the royal courts of Europe around the sixteenth century, a time when the church wielded enormous power over the lives of the aristocracy and marriages were granted or annulled based on how willing several parties were to go to war. Now, replace all the princes and princesses, kings and queens with recording artists, reality stars, and actors, and all the bishops, cardinals, and popes with publicists, paparazzi, and high-ranking entertainment industry executives. Celebrity weddings, with their multiple competing agendas, loads of money on the line, massive public interest, and monumental displays of ego, are like the court of Henry VIII, except with spray tans and much tinier dresses, movie deals and recording contracts instead of wars and trade issues.”

    ***

    “Regardless of what kind of dress she picks, if she’s a star of any stature, she’s going to get a design house to loudly loan one to her or loudly make one for her. This will be announced early on, after the contracts have been signed by everyone involved, in order to drum up maximum speculation about the dress and to subject the public to meaningless drivel from entertainment journalists. “It could be long or it could be short! Her fans can’t wait to see!”

    ***

    “Honestly, take the most obnoxious bride and groom you’ve ever encountered—and let’s not pretend you didn’t immediately think of them just now involuntarily—multiply all their bad behavior and tacky nuptial attention seeking by a factor of several thousand, add couture, piles of money, and the press, and that’s your average celebrity wedding.”

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