**In which the Rotten Correspondent comes down off her moral pedestal and decides to dish on the Hollywood years. This decision was made for several reasons. 1) Virtually all of this stuff has been written about elsewhere, 2) I checked. The confidentiality agreements I signed applied to very specific parameters that became moot years ago and 3) I really do have some good stories. In a sick and twisted kind of way. Stay tuned for more...**
I was standing in line at the grocery store recently and couldn't help but notice how many tabloid magazines there are these days. Clearly, the market for this sort of stuff is booming lately. It's an odd chicken and egg dilemma. Did the tabloids get so hot because of the celebs they cover or did the celebs get so hot because of the tabloids? Does it really matter one way or the other? We seem to live in a celebrity obsessed culture, like it or not. And while I think we're in a state of massive overkill right now in this regard, the fascination has certainly always been there. There have always been people affected by it in ways that you wouldn't necessarily imagine. It always hits me with a thud when I remember that I was one of those people.
Let's just start with the tabloids, since I already have. The first thing to keep in mind is that very often their story is correct. Or kind of correct. As in the basic kernel of the story may be true (Celeb A is pregnant), but then they have to embellish (Celeb A is pregnant by Celeb B's husband) , and exaggerate still more (Celeb A is pregnant by Celeb B's husband who was once abducted by Guatemalan aliens) until they've gone totally over the edge. But it's pretty likely, once the dung is cleared, that Celeb A really is pregnant, no matter how much her "people" deny it. Not always, but usually.
And why is this? Simple. Because a staggering percentage of people working in Hollywood sell information to the tabloids. And why is this? Simple. They pay a fortune. What isn't so simple about this? It can be about more than the money. Have you ever noticed that a lot of the bad press tabloid wise is about people who have burned quite a lot of bridges? They've pissed people off, basically. And their $7 an hour pool boy, who may have put up with unmentionable treatment at their hands, wants a little revenge. And a lot of cash. Call it payback, if you will.
One of the people that started out in my office at Paramount became a Production Assistant on a very hot talk show on the lot - The Arsenio Hall Show. PA's make crap, work very long hours, do degrading scut work and are pretty much a whipping post for anyone who is "above them." Which is everyone. It's all in the guise of "paying your dues." This show became an out of control hit almost immediately and I still have the scars to prove it. As with most "hit" shows, the talent involved stops being quite so grateful for their initial success and starts feeling a little full of themselves once the show really takes off. Egos begin to run amok. This is what is known as prime tabloid territory.
Well, the guy I knew was tired of running his butt off for minimum wage and started selling stories. He sold a big house in the hills with a view amount of stories. He sold a brand new BMW convertible worth of stories. And, because he was basically a lying, cheating sack of crap, he covered all of this up with more lies. He told everyone that the fabulous house he lived in belonged to a relative. He drove an old beater to work to cover his tracks. None of us had a clue what he was doing. All we knew was that someone in the know was singing hard on the Arsenio set, because for a good two years you couldn't sneeze on that stage without the tabloids covering it. And virtually every story they printed was the truth. But the truth was so far out in left field by that point that no one believed it anyway. Repeat after me. Egos. Run. Amok.
The actors, usually just called "talent", ran the gamut. Generally speaking, the smarter the talent the more they were on top of the whole tabloid situation. I had this illustrated for me in a bizarre way. One day about three months into my tenure at Paramount, I was at a Friday night after shoot party on the Family Ties set. I had spent enough time on the set to know people and was only slightly surprised when Michael J. Fox walked up and started talking. What surprised me was what he was talking about. A load of guns, combat ammo even, had arrived at his house in a package, and he had no idea why. Isn't that odd? I took another swig of my Corona and said yep, it sure is. More small talk about earthquakes and hockey and then he was off talking to someone else. He was huge at this point, the cover boy of the moment, and I honestly chalked it up to paranoia. It seemed, at that time, like everyone was gunning for him.
I mentioned this a couple of weeks later to someone who worked on the show. It was just such a weird encounter. The person I was talking to laughed. "Oh, that's Mike," they said "always trying to stay a step ahead of the tabloids." Come to find out he dropped these little bombs on purpose, so he would know who was talking to the tabs. If a gun story had been printed after he talked to me, I would have been in a serious hot seat. Each person got a different story and he was astute enough to keep track. If your particular story showed up in print you were up the creek. Permanently. Once he knew you were okay, he let down his guard some. But never totally. He had too many weirdos gunning for him to ever totally relax. All this meant is that none of the weirdos was actually standing next to him. He was being seriously stalked by two different women at this point and this would involve me later in ways that still make me cringe.
But all I could think, a few weeks later, when I saw some outlandish headline involving him on the front page of the National Enquirer was ...good for you, Mike. YOU NAILED 'EM.