Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Hollywood Years

**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.


willowtree said...

One of my oldest friends lives within sight of that sign and has worked in the film industry all his life. His father was a Keystone Cop. Yet in all the years I've known him, I've never heard him dish on anyone, and I didn't even realise it until I read your story!

Sweet Irene said...

It does take a certain mentality though, doesn't it? There has to be some lowering of the common decency level that is built in to all of us. These people know they cross a line and do so for financial reward, which makes me not want to read those kind of magazines anyway. I already wasn't, but now I won't even less so.

Anonymous said...

I always feel a lot of these celebs are so far away from my world I take it all with a pinch of salt anyway. Enjoyable blog.

Crystal xx

Flowerpot said...

you've been memed, correspondent!

Mya said...

Ha ha! I always knew that Michael J Fox was a smart cookie. Good for him.

Mya x

Jen said...

I knew, I just knew you were going to crack and give up a story.

We must be on the same wavelength, because I did a radio story this morning. Not as juicy or good as your story, but radio is small timey compared to Paramount.

I remember hearing about some creepy woman who stalked Michael J. Fox, but I never heard the full story of it.

code word: arboso, which is a kind of rice, I think.

laurie said...

fascinating! what a strange mixture of lives you have lived so far.

and let me be the first to say that checkbook journalism is not just wrong, it's evil.

even when you're talking about arsenio hall. (a name i had totally forgotten.)

Amy said...

Woo! Woo! Woo!

You have to tie up those loose ends, you know. Please.

Kaycie said...

I always loved Michael J. Fox. Very cool that he's as smart as I thought he was.

Diana said...

Fascinating and what a good way to ferret out who's dishing the dirt on you. I love reading about this because it's just so foreign to me. I can't fathom being or wanting to be famous.

la bellina mammina said...

What s smart one MJF is!

ciara said...

so weird how my comment from yesterday didn't show up lol i was saying that i couldn't wait for more hollywood gossip...i'm going to become a gossip WH*RE lol michael j fox was one smart cookie and seemed totally w/o that ego you mentioned. as for arsenio's show...i used to watch that, but then that ego thing started happening. my favorite late-nighter? CONEY!(conan o'brien) got any good stories on him?? lol

Iota said...

I know it must be miserable, being hounded by paparazzi and never being able to trust people, but I do think most celebs bring it on themselves. I imagine they start out enjoying the attention, and then by the time they no longer enjoy it, it's got way beyond their control. I think most of them must feed it and encourage it in their early days though. I say this because there are some people who manage to stay pretty much entirely out of the public eye. but I really don't follow celeb news much at all, so this is probably a very naive opinion - I'd be interested to hear your view. (I'm that woman who says "um, yes, I've heard of them, but, um I'm not sure who they are?" when anyone tells me a little nugget of celeb news)

The Rotten Correspondent said...

willowtree - so are you saying I shouldn't either??

sweet irene - the covers seen from the checkout line alone raise my blood pressure.

crystal jigsaw - believe me, it isn't my world either. don't want it to be!

flowerpot - on my way to look!

mya - sometimes fame does happen to the good ones.

jen- so we've both cracked on the same day? or are we both just pretty much cracked? hmm...

laurie - evil about covers it. I agree that celebs ask for it, but out of basic human decency they deserve some respect.

amy - just that Woo! Woo! Woo! alone and I had to go lay down with a cold compress for a while. Shiver. What loose ends did I leave? Let me at 'em!

kaycie - I have a soft spot as big as Texas for him. Class. Act.

diana - you couldn't pay me enough have people chasing after me looking for dirt. Not that they'd have to look hard.

bella- very smart indeed. did you have any earthquake issues?

ciara - love Conan O'Brien and have absolutely no dirt on him. Sorry!

iota - I totally agree, especially these people who are famous simply for being famous. I think it does become all about the hunt to them and I think it's kind of pathetic.

merry weather said...

That's a different way of viewing the celebrity news system. I'm amused by the celebrity culture but not really hooked enough to read the magazines etc.

Hearing you tell us the real stories, now that is much much more interesting...

PixelPi said...

Very interesting stuff. WTG MJF!

Funny story: Pixel with corn behind her ears goes to LA to visit Her sister, an HR exec (not in the industry). So she's driving me through Beverly Hills in her leased black Benz with tinted windows, and as we come out to the main drag, there's a guy parked illegally across the road with a camera, head swiveling. A camera with a long long lens. So being the insane pranksters we are, I grabbed OUR camera and started taking shots of him. He saw me through the windshield, and threw his camera down and peeled away so fast you'd think I had a gun instead of a crappy digital camera. We laugh every time we see those photos! Slime! They're slime!

Dumdad said...

This is GREAT. More, much more please.

There was a copy of MJF's autobiography in our holiday cottage in England this summer. A fascinating read of not only his huge fame but also his fight against Parkinson's Disease.

I finished the book admiring and liking him.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I always have liked Michael J. Fox. Great story, smart guy. But I guess you can't tell us the real dirt about the stalkers? Arsenio -- crash and burn victim, wasn't he? I seem to recall something about cocaine.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

merry weather - it is an amusing culture isn't it? no relation whatsoever to my life.

pixel pi - that's so funny. I bet you scared the crap out of him!

dumdad - thanks. I haven't read his autobiography, but am sure I'd really enjoy it. The Parkinson's is so sad.

wakeup - actually that's going to be an upcoming hollywood post. before you all get tired of them!

Gemini Girl said...

I work in the media industry too and am upset that the "celebs" who you thought were cool, are jerks in reality.

Cant wait for you stalker story with MJF!

Jo Beaufoix said...

How late am I to this story RC?


I had a teenwolf party when I was little and videos were a new thing.
I always thought MJF was kind of cool.
Except for the very hairy back.

codeword - mymjo - Are you asking me to do a mime?

It won't work dear sweet RC. We're not in telly land now you know.

Kaycie said...

RC, did you watch when MJF was on "Inside the Actor's Studio"? I cried all the way through it.

I have been waiting hours to post this question. I thought about it while I was feeding my son's betta this afternoon (who knows why), and I've been busy ever since. My life is so full (of crap).

The Rotten Correspondent said...

gemini girl - I know exactly what you mean. There were some people that I liked so much I didn't ever want to have to deal with them, because I was sure they would turn out to be jerks. Or worse.

jo - don't all mimes have very hairy backs? Maybe I need to meet some new mimes.

kaycie - no, I didn't see it, although I would like to.What all did they do? I did see some stupid E documentary on him and cried all the way through it. He hits a real nerve with me somehow.

Akelamalu said...

I love inside stories! ;)

pursegirl said...

Unfair, I'm sucked in and I need more. MOre! MOre!!!