When I die, my epitaph should read: 'She paid the bills.' That's the story of my private life.
- GLORIA SWANSON
SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA (ZP) -- "Liza" (not her real name) brushes aside her rather over-the-top, every - negative - stereotype - imaginable, flaming queen of a make-up artist/stylist with a shrug of her shoulders and a quick hand gesture.
The stylist doesn't even look up. He stops momentarily, rolls his eyes. He tells his canvas that, well, he just needs to finish her eyes and he'll leave us alone.
I offer a handshake; he declines.
"Oh my gosh! I'm being rude!" Liza says. " ______, this is Jason, the guy from Ohio with the web site I was telling you about. Jason, this is ______, the one man on this planet who can make me look gorgeous in ten minutes or less."
The stylist's been buzzing about her like a starving mosquito for a good thirty minutes, ever since the guy who met me at the front gate - a BIG guy - escorted me first to the set to watch the end of the shoot, then past the lights, the diffusers, cords, the crew, through the house, and into the impromptu dressing room.
Liza and I have, up until this point, been making small-talk, catching up. And suddenly, it hits me like a two-by-four to the testicles.
* * * *
Ya know, Queen Skeeter here's sure been taking his sweet-ass time with the skin toner, I say to myself. And look at those eyes! He's trying to look like he's NOT paying attention to every word...
Like the parasitic insect he reminds me of, he's waiting for his bloody treat, some juicy morsel of free-flowing information.
And he's not looking to feast upon stories of my drunken debauchery at my sister's wedding last weekend, either.
* * * *
Information gleaned from eavesdropped conversations, you see, happens to be an important commodity in certain entertainment industries, the gray market sustenance of the set jockey and the shoot servant and other hangers-on, a veritable free lunch full of "a source close to..." payoffs.
Don't believe me? Well, run down to the goddamn grocery store and pick up a copy of whatever gutter-born literary syphilis the print infotainment rags are pushing to the Desperate Fucking Housewives demographic these days. Where do you think they get those juicy stories, the train wreck tales of drug abuse and break-ups and baby-mama matras, anyway?
And what's a nosy stylist, to me? He won't be getting anything of importance from me or my conversation, not one tabloid meal ticket. What good are the details of some boring ol' librarian's love life in Oxford Fucking Ohio to him? Who gives a shit about funny college town quotations, or thinks the terms Chachball, Snake Brother, or Fruitcake Sex have a price tag on the infotainment market?
Not only is the Zenformation Professional a collection of tales full of vague true stories, anonymous protagonists and antagonists, but the site's author, in person, really lives up to his Man of Fucking Mystery reputation. It's part of the inside joke of it all, really - and a safety net of common courtesy for all parties involved.
And Liza knows this game better than I do, obviously - hell, it goes with the territory.
There's a time for discretion. And there's a time for open conversation.
* * * *
Queen Skeeter finally gets the idea and makes his way towards the door. He doesn't even acknowledge my existence as he leaves because he finally figured out that I'm not famous, I'm not part of the entourage of anybody famous, and, well, I'm too quiet and polite to be an agent or talent rep.
"I'm gonna get some Fiji and a bagel, girl. If you need anything, you just text me. I'll be RIGHT in the next room."
And with that, without so much as an acknowledgment that there was another honest-to-God human being in the tiny guest room, the Gayest Gnat sashayed his skinny-jeaned ass right out the door.
Who the fuck would ever want to waste time text-messaging somebody in the next room, a mere fifteen steps, crank of a door knob, and a holler away?
How can anyone enjoy what bit of success they have in an environment where the envious simply wait for a slip-up or faux-pas upon which to crucify that success for profit?
Jesus Fucking Christ.
* * * *
So here I am, a guest on a photo shoot, complete with closed-door, behind-the-scenes access to the photog's target, trapped between a very annoying stylist and a camera crew, with a very BIG dude right outside waiting to walk me back out to the Jeep.
And I'm just some guy, seriously, she knows only through a friend of a friend of an ex's former publicist (head hurt yet?), a few emails and online chats, a quick lunch in Pismo Beach last summer - and from a frigging blog.
She's the one who came up with the whole "Why don't you bring that Gonzo web self to the shoot and we'll grab lunch afterwards?" idea.
And I guess I should be filling this dispatch with all sorts of juicy details. Things like the magazine that was flipping the bill for the shoot, the rather brutal stylings of the rather brilliant photographer, even the uncensored name of Liza herself - after all, some of you on the other side of the Electronic Fourth Wall probably would recognize her instantly and the rest would simply use a search engine to fill in the void.
And I could tell you all about her break-ups and relationship mistakes, how she feels she has to force herself to eat in public, her newfound love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and loathing of the Boston Celtics. I could write all about those, too, in gory detail.
But do you know what was on my mind, the whole time, once the door was closed?
The same random-ass, unassuming things that go through my mind when I write about anybody else. You know, the sorts of batshit ideas that go through my mind when I'm helping aspiring schoolteachers write educational stories in the basement of an Ohio bar, or when I'm trying to sort out the remnants of a fling, or...
* * * *
"Chica, tell you what," I tell my somewhat well-known host once Queen Skeeter was gone, "Let's skip the fine dining shit, go grab some turkey sammiches at this market I know up in Templeton, drive down a dirt road and kill off a bottle of wine I got rolling around in the back of the Jeep."
Liza's eyes lit up. I remembered the important parts, you see - the paranoia at eating in public, the fact that last time we met for lunch she ended up being so afraid that she'd recognize somebody or get recognized. And she's, well, still a bit of a good ol' fashioned country tomboy at heart...
"Hmmm? As in yes?"
"I dunno. I read your blog, you know."
"Yeah, and so do people I know and work with in Oxford."
I wasn't thinking celebrity. I could give a shit, really - modeling's a job, just like any other job. I wasn't thinking about Queenie or about the BIG guy waiting to escort me back through the Gates of Tartarus for the Slovenly and Unfashionable.
And, no, I wasn't trying to get laid, either. Though, well, Christian Lazo's 2005 Petite Sirah is probably the closest thing to a goddamn aphrodisiac this side of a plate of raw oysters on the Central Coast.
I don't really plan ahead. I'm a live-in-the-moment kinda guy in my personal life, most of the time.
Wanna know what I really found to write about on a photo shoot, with no-holds-barred access to a, OMG, professional model?
You know, it must really suck to be stuck around gossipwhores and egomaniacs all fucking day. How can anybody grow in a world like this without some open sky, room to breathe...
...It's downright suffocating...
Wait! Heh, I've gots some good wine past the gates...
- EPILOGUE -
It's hard, you know, to type a draft of a blog post into a laptop - into somebody else's wireless-broadband enabled laptop, mind you - while lounging beneath a live oak, distracted by a stellar view of the Santa Lucia Range.
It's damned near impossible to write anything, too, with a third of a bottle of leftover wedding wine and a turkey pesto sandwich nuzzled in one's stomach, with a car radio whispering Tejano Top 40 music into a hot breeze...
Liza and another chick, this kid who she'd met at her hotel a few nights prior, were picking - poaching, actually - not-yet-ripe grapes from a vineyard nearby.
The world felt good. Fit like a warm glove on a snowy morning. And the soul, yep, was at peace but, alas, the brain was a goner.
I saved the draft, closed the laptop.
Dude, you're the only guy for miles. You've got two hot women - one, a professional model and the other, a clerk at some boutique - at play in fields of fruit and vine. You're buzzed, fed just right, and ya got a stressed-out chick to get out and be the Girl Next Door, not just play one at a casting call or in a head shot.
Enjoy it first. And then write about it. What'd that dude in Cincinnati call you last year? The "Chillebrity Librarian Blogger?"
Well then, chill, goddammit. Ya gotta be back at the folks' place for supper in a few hours.
Everybody needs a break from the everyday routine. And it usually helps to practice what one preaches, too.
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