a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Posts tagged “Cameron Diaz

Replay: Fame can make you rude —Jennifer Lawrence

Mean girl?

JLaw: Mean girl?

Yep, it’s true. America’s latest sweetheart has said in a recent Marie Claire issue that she’s become “closed off” and “rude” since fame has enveloped her.

Lawrence says sudden fame will do that. A couple years ago she was enjoying her newly-minted celebrity. Now…

I’m a lot more closed off and frankly probably rude. I mean, I’m from Kentucky. I used to be very personable and make eye contact and smile at people, and now all I do is look down. When I’m at dinner and one person after another keeps interrupting to take pictures, it’s like, “I can’t live like this.”

The online comments in response to this confession were predictably mean, but perhaps even more so than you’d expect. They ranged along the lines of The poor baby, making millions and having to put up with someone wanting to take her picture! to I’ll bet there aren’t that many people who want to take her picture.

And it is hard to sympathize with a 23-year-old who’s modeling, among other things, a $4200 Dior coat in the same spread.

But it’s hard to appreciate what it’s like when your own time is not your own, when you have no control over your own environment. A star as affable as the late, great Cliff Robertson once reported that it makes you paranoid. Everyone knows what you look like. You don’t know them. You get defensive, frightened of the people who pay your salary.

And because you’re wearing that $4200 coat, they think they own you.

Or at least that you shouldn’t have any complaints in life.

It’s hard to understand sometimes that fear, loneliness, anxiety, insecurity—these feel the same even when you’re worth so many millions. That down-to-earth quality they project (well, many of them, at least) in their interviews? They’re coached in that (well, many of them, at least—some don’t care).

Celebrities are stuck in the bizarre paradox of having to seem like ordinary people when in fact they are also, as the phrase goes, Hollywood royalty. That’s because their success is due largely to the fact that we project our ordinary lives on top of their spectacular ones up on the screen, hoping for a little piece of their radiance. And most people don’t really stop to see the inherent impossibility, the contradiction here. We expect glamour on the red carpet, only to see them go home and cook dinner in a microwave and do laundry like the rest of us. We don’t have this requirement of other rich people, oddly.

And while it’s true that not every celebrity lives shut up behind tall fences, alienating ordinary people with their sense of entitlement, it’s also true that they can never walk down the street or enjoy a meal like you or I can. Which is why they do have to close up restaurants or get private tours of museums and amusements parks. This clashes with the popular press presentation of them as “just like us,” and they’re painfully aware of that. But it’s reality.

Yes, Cameron Diaz gets her own gas (sometimes). But she’s fueling a Masarati. And she probably doesn’t go inside to chat with the attendant.

Read the rest of JLaw’s Marie Claire interview here.

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Guarding Emma Watson’s body

Emma Watson

Even Harry Potter can’t protect her.

Superstar Emma Watson never goes anywhere these days without a bodyguard nearby, even out for a jog or to eat with a friend.

The person tasked with guarding Emma, a retired NYPD cop named Denise Morrone, is paid $150,00 a year. This started after someone snuck onto a movie set where Watson was working in 2012. The person was caught but the incident shook Emma badly. Friends say she’s now constantly nervous in public. So she’s hired round-the-clock protection.

You do that when you’re worth nearly $40 million dollars and you’re 23 years old.

It’s the part of fame you can be sure stars will never talk about. What I can’t imagine is how one lives their life day-to-day with hardly any privacy. No one, no matter who they are, is the same with someone watching as they are alone. It’s just psychological. And now Emma Watson will have this imposing figure (to say the least…google pictures of the woman) near her at almost all times.

Recently Lindsay Lohan, in her Oprah-produced sideshow, said she feels like she’s a prisoner of her own life.

I find it hard to believe Watson can feel much different.

I don’t even like it when guests stay over my house too long. I find I want to inch them to the door after a few hours. But the deal she has made—that many have made these days—with the devil is that they will have lots of money and fame in exchange for a piece of their life, the private piece. You can live with amazing comfort and security, but you can’t live like you want. Not entirely. Don’t tell me they get used to it. They may not even realize how much they don’t.

Recently I wrote about the death of Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, L’Wren Scott, a woman who reinvented herself, starting with her name, moving to Paris right after high school and modeling, rubbing elbows with the jet set until she was one of them. Her sister reports that at their mother’s funeral Scott was surrounded by bodyguards. No one could get near her. At their mother’s funeral. The sister also claims Scott eventually did get enough private time with her to say she envied her sibling for her simpler life. vs. one she felt was no longer her own How much of this is true and how much is embellished I don’t know, but I’ll note one thing: Ms. Scott recently hung herself in her Manhattan luxury apartment.

I’m not saying that Emma Watson is that unhappy, or that L’Wren Scott killed herself because she could no longer go out for a latte without a beefy linebacker four steps behind. But how can having to live the way Ms. Scott and now Ms. Watson have to make your life any happier? It’s a side of fame we never think about, because all the awards shows and movie previews and celebrity interviews aren’t supposed to let us think about them. We never see them, even though they are just inches out of frame.

I remember seeing a behind-the-scenes video of Cameron Diaz on The Tonight Show and during the commercial break the camera pulled away to reveal bodyguards standing at the front of every aisle and around the edges of the stage. I read once that when Claire Danes was doing Pygmalion on Broadway, she was not left unaccompanied even when she went to the bathroom. (I met her after one performance and she was being watched by at least one bodyguard.) Have a friend trail you around everywhere, even in your house, for a week and see how it feels. Now hire a stranger and make it for the rest of your life. Used to it yet?

 

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Replay: What’s in a name?

This post is getting rerun today because I’ve decided to make a major name change in my story. From now on my narrator, for reasons that matter only to me, will be Joe, not Daniel, Ferreira. Other, lesser, names have changed too.

“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”  — Bill Shakespeare

roseBelieve it or not, it’s one of the hardest parts of fiction writing, at least for me: coming up with names.

If the name isn’t convincing, the character won’t be. That’s my take, anyway, which is odd because when you think about it names are actually pretty random in real life. Oh, we think there are “typical” names for people. But in reality there aren’t, unless you subscribe to the thought that our names determine what we do. Yet we’re set up to think there are “right” and “wrong” names for people: consider Yul Brynner (yes, that was his real name), or Omar Sharif (no, that wasn’t). And doesn’t Burl Ives just look like a Burl Ives? You somehow just wouldn’t buy a car or a resort timeshare from someone named Lennie Slickman, would you? But how about investing with someone named Vincent Johnson? A little easier?

I agonize over names. Really agonize. I think they’re as important to the inevitability of your characters as the sound of their dialogue or their depth, or back-story. And I keep making alterations. There are often wholesale changes as drafts go on. This applies to fictional places too–restaurants, and so forth.

For the present story I made up the name Welsey Shaw because I wanted something unique (I can’t find any evidence of any real woman currently with the name Welsey) as well as something that had a trace of “blue-blood” in it. Something that would represent a pale, blonde thespian perfectly. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect—that’s blood bluer than a Smurf’s. But she’s already using it.

For my male protagonist, I wanted a more “meat and potatoes” name. Daniel Ferreira was originally Michael Ferreira, but I liked Daniel more. It was easy enough to change from draft one to draft two with a word processor. I think of how an editor at Macmillan decided that Margaret Mitchell’s heroine should be named Scarlet and not Pansy O’Hara, and told some lowly copy editor to change it every time it appeared in the manuscript. That must have been fun.

Back in the classic Hollywood days they were always changing actors’ names. Think of Cary Grant. Joan Crawford. John Wayne. Cary Grant sounds gracious, and there’s just no way Marion Mitchell Morrison could get all those settlers over the rugged mountains and onward to safety the way John Wayne could. How sexy is Norma Jeane Mortenson? (Not very.)

Somehow, you know Woody Allen is a comedian; Allan Stewart Konigsberg is an historian, or should be. Luke Skywalker and not Deke Starkiller is your clean-cut sci-fi hero and Scarlett and not Pansy OHara is your romantic lead. Seriously, can you picture Clark Gable (now there’s a name, and it was his) saying, “Frankly, Pansy, I don’t give a damn”?

Today it seems name-changing isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, except for rappers. (Let’s face it, Robert Matthew Van Winkle carries little street cred.) Movie and TV stars tend to keep their real names far more often, even if they’re highly unusual (Kaley Cuoco). Partly it’s because we’ve grown more comfortable with ethnically-diverse names. Once Cameron Diaz might have been unthinkable, especially for a blue-eyed “all American” blonde. Keep in mind that 1950s network executives thought it was ridiculous that Lucille Ball (another real name) would be married to Desi Arnaz in a TV show, even though they were in real life.

But the right name is still important. After all, there’s a reason Thomas Mapother IV changed his.

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Should celebrities take a stand? Part II

This week I’m going to turn the blog over to someone else.  After last week’s article questioning some of the aspects of stars who use their profiles to advance their causes, here’s an example of some of the positive outcomes of celebrity activism.  Cameron Diaz puts her money and her time where her mouth and her celebrity are.  She appears to be a genuinely good person, and probably doesn’t get the credit she should.  In this interview from Marie Claire (heaven help me, I’m reading Marie Claire now!) we learn what it’s like to spend some time with someone using her stardom to make things better, even if they do pimp themselves a little along the way.  My only real complaint here: when was it decided that the earth is a “she”?

Cameron Diaz’s Excellent Adventure

Cameron Diaz and MC executive editor Lucy Kaylin lit out for America to learn what worries us most about the environment.

By Lucy Kaylin

At a little before 9 a.m., the buzzer rings.

“Hi, it’s Cameron,” goes the chirpy, disembodied voice. Downstairs she’s casually texting on my front step, 10 feet from the hybrid SUV waiting to whisk us to the airport. Easy, surfer-girl smile and we’re off to the local Starbucks for fuel, where she’ll bound into the place like a local.

There is something terribly wrong with Cameron Diaz. It’s as though she missed the memo about being a global star—the highest-earning actress in Hollywood, thanks largely to some nimble voice work as the ogress Fiona in the Shrek franchise. At her level of influence and wealth, Diaz, the star of this month’s My Sister’s Keeper, really ought to be criminally precious, aloof, and entitled—not humping her own luggage (a buttery Prada satchel atop a rolly bag) through LaGuardia Airport, entourage-free, smiling and waving at the passengers crumpling slack-jawed at the sight of her. “I’m very good on my own,” she’ll tell me later. “I’m very adaptable and self-sufficient. I can pretty much take care of any situation.”

“Hi, ladies!” Diaz sings out at some gobsmacked security women. She beams, cheekbones high and wide, blue-gray eyes filling with light. It’s like watching the morning sun stroll past.

Photo: Mark Abrahams

I can’t get my head around it. Immediately recognizable, with a number of headline-worthy relationships behind her, she has done hard time as tabloid catnip. How can she be so Zen about the constant, panicky crush of attention?

“I just have a lot of friends,” Diaz says with a pretty shrug. “That’s how I think of it. It’s nice to see people smile.” Although she will tell me later, while sitting on the floor in a crowded waiting area, that losing your anonymity is a bit like a death—it’s a loss that you mourn. “Every once in a while, you’ll have those moments when people give you the stink eye,” Diaz says. “And you’re like, ‘What the fuck is your problem? What, am I horrific-looking?’ But really what they’re thinking is, Am I seeing who I think I’m seeing? It’s just a shock.” She absentmindedly pulls and twists a long, golden lock of hair—a frequent tic. “I don’t have any problem with being famous,” Diaz says. “I’ve completely made peace with being recognizable and people wanting to peek into my life in some way.”

PHOTO GALLERY: See Pics from Cameron’s Road Trip

The focus of our trip: Diaz’s rather pressing concern about the failing health of our planet—the dying oceans, the nefarious processed-food industry, the toxins tickling our nostrils with every breath we take. (“I wish I could be blissfully ignorant,” Diaz sighs. “I wish I didn’t know anything.”) Eschewing hollow celebrity do-goodism—while refusing to attach her name or likeness to things like fragrances—she has taken it upon herself to make a low-budget, seat-of-the-pants documentary about our relationship to the planet, schlepping to some not-so-hot spots across the country to talk with local people about their environmental woes. Airport Marriott, here we come!

Inspired by the annual TED conference that she’s attended—a kind of smarty-pants consortium dedicated to the spread of innovative ideas put forth by speakers like Bono, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, and Samantha Power—Diaz felt the urge to start a far-reaching conversation about the environment. “I was like, I’m going to get a camera, and I’m going to mobile-home it across the country, and I’m just going to find out what people are thinking. What would it take for the common person to become engaged?”—in the catastrophe that is the state of our natural resources. Most of all, she wants to help raise consciousness. “There’s a lot of great minds out there who are thinking about this,” she says, “who are coming up with solutions. Not to crash anybody’s party, but to actually make the party better.” She laughs. “Really, that’s what it’s about—that’s my participation in it.”

Once in Houston, we hook up with the 11-person film crew that’s been assembled, which includes the genial, quirky director Jesse Dylan, son of Bob, who shot will.I.am’s “Yes We Can” video during election season. After enthusiastic greetings, we freshen up for no more than 30 minutes at the Marriott before descending, commando-style, on some environmentally stressed nook of the city so that a miked, un-beautified, unscripted Diaz and the boom-and-camera-wielding crew can find some strangers to grill about the environment.

Our first location: a poison-belching oil refinery. Hard by the smokestacks, Diaz gamely pops out of a cobalt-blue Kia to commune with some rawboned workers, at the end of their shifts, buying booze at a neighboring liquor store and puffing on cigarettes; she’s barely finished asking a woman about the local water supply when a security truck rolls past, then stops and idles. It’s a sinister, Silkwood-type scene. The jig is up—the equipment plus Diaz are quickly pulled into vehicles, and we speed off. “We’re being tailed,” someone says—the security truck bearing down, then turning back once we are beyond the refinery’s reach.

Our next stop is a parched playing field near a school that sits in the shadow of the refinery, where the climbing equipment includes old truck tires protruding from the ground. And it is here that I get deeper insight into what’s driving Diaz to pursue this cause.

“This smell wafting over?” she says, taking leggy denim strides across the field while picking up the acrid stink. “This is my childhood.”

Diaz grew up in Long Beach, CA, in a neighborhood similarly dominated by a behemoth polluter. “I could see the flame from the refinery burning from my bedroom window,” she says. “I remember my dad dusting all the time from all the dirt that came in.”

The freeway ran past their house. “The 18-wheelers would drive by, and we loved it because we’d . . .”—she makes a playful tugging motion with her arm—”and the truck drivers would blow their horns.” What Diaz didn’t realize until later was that the trucks were carrying toxic waste from the refinery and dumping it in pools at the end of her block. As a kid, she suffered from asthma, as well as that ongoing burning, itchy sensation in the eyes and throat that she’s starting to feel now.

Once she has eased people past the shock of encountering her (“Hi, I’m Cameron!”), she drops into a low, wide-leg stance so she’s eye-to-eye with her less willowy interviewees—high-school girls, the Latino father of a young boy, a science teacher—then launches into a series of questions while the cameras roll:Do you know where your food, your water come from? Do you worry about the environment? What would it take for you to become more involved? And while people do seem to care, they also indicate a feeling of powerlessness. What, after all, can one person do? Then there is the problem of illegal immigrants—and there are many in this area—being decidedly disinclined to draw attention to themselves by registering complaints about things like air quality.

But the showstopper is a woman we meet a bit later who lives in a little house in full view of the refinery, who tells Diaz about the morning a sulfur-holding tank at the plant exploded, the still-mysterious condition that led to her young son’s open-heart surgery, the spike in depression and suicides in the neighborhood, the six-figure payoff one family received when their son was diagnosed with leukemia . . . And yet, with unmistakable pride, the woman turns around and lifts her shirt to show us the name of the neighborhood tattooed in large black Gothic letters across the small of her back. Because this, despite everything, is home.

“I want to leave you with this thought,” Diaz says to the woman. “After all you’ve told me . . . what would it take for you to do something to change your environment?” The woman, speechless, looks like she’s going to cry.

“I’m sad,” Diaz says later, in the car on the way to a Mexican joint for dinner. “It’s just sad.” She drains a plastic water bottle and tosses it on the floor of the car. “And I’m unhappy about the waste I just produced.” Diaz and Dylan, sitting next to her in the backseat, conclude that we as a people are summarily, environmentally “fucked.” In fact, that quickly becomes the leitmotif of the trip, and it cracks them up every time. Diaz, out of the blue: “You know what we are?” Dylan: “Let me guess—fucked?”

Check out this list of Cameron’s Favorite Sustainable Websites

But nothing keeps Diaz down for long; at 36, she has a goosey energy that seems almost teenagerish—hormonal. One morning when we’d set out at a cruel 7:30, I was fighting off drowsiness in the front seat while a slap-happy Diaz twisted and bounced in the back, loudly singing Madonna’s “Into the Groove”—without benefit of iPod or earbuds. She then claimed to need coffee, holding up an empty 20-ounce thermos. “I found this in Japan,” she said. “When I did, I was like . . .” And here Diaz started cuddling and stroking and kissing the thermos effusively.

Sipping a virgin margarita at the Mexican restaurant now, Diaz announces, “Shit just finds my face—it’s crazy.” She’s referring to the fact that she finally had her nose fixed, after breaking it four times—most recently with a surfboard, and before that with her own knee. More radical forms of surgery are likely out of the question for her; Diaz is philosophical about what God gave her. “I’d love a bigger butt, more meat on my bones,” she says. “I’d love to be more voluptuous. It’s just not my body type.”

Defiantly down-to-earth, Diaz holds on hard to the homegrown qualities that have made her such an accessible presence on-screen. She’s the kind of girl who whips out a Sephora makeup bag and touches up her face mid-conversation; the type to chat loudly in the next bathroom stall and emerge with her pants undone, zippering them up in front of the mirror while she gabs. (And yet, she argues for a degree of cinematic mystique. Of the wild children currently dominating the tabloids, she says in the manner of a wise elder, “I like sexy girls; I like slutty girls. But sometimes I go”—she mimes a yawn—”if that’s all there is.”)

“I went to school with 3500 kids from all walks of life,” Diaz tells me. “We had kids who were Samoan, with sarongs and tattoos and gray hair at 13. We had guys with turbans on their heads. Being Hispanic”—her father was Cuban-American—”I was part of the ethnic population, but I also had blonde hair and blue eyes. I was friends with everybody. That gave me the skills I needed to travel and be in the world.”

Unlike the Mileys and the Britneys who had handlers before they’d even had their first kiss, Diaz endured some lean, obscure years, mostly modeling, which she values. “I had the good fortune of becoming famous once I had already lived a life, traveled a lot, stood in line, had to ask people to help me, had to find a way to make something work, pay the rent, scrape by,” she says. “I used to do $4 a day with a girlfriend. We would get two tacos and split a Coke.”

Indeed, the only thing to really break her stride has been the unexpected death of her father at 58, from pneumonia, a year ago last April. By all accounts, it put Diaz to her knees. “It’s the most profound thing—singularly the most profound thing that has ever happened in my life,” she says. “It’s like you’re standing there with somebody next to you, and all of a sudden there’s this huge hole where they were. It’s just a massive hole—you can’t even see the bottom.” But, devastating as the loss was for her, Diaz emphatically refutes the reports that claimed she’d had a breakdown at the time and was hospitalized. A shrug. “People want you to be weak.”

If anything, Diaz says, the tragedy focused her. “When you lose a parent, it either derails you or it sobers you up. It either blows you off course or sets you on course. For me, I became very introspective. You go inside and you look at things very intensely.” Hence, this passion for hunkering down to what’s important, and tackling something much bigger than she is.

Before flying to Cleveland, we go to a park and meet a vibrant cross section of humanity: the businessman in upscale running gear who tells us that his contribution to the environment includes putting “environmentally friendly lightbulbs in my house” (environmentally friendly in finger quotes); the tie-dye-wearing Texas hipster-savant who says with a mordant laugh, “My father and I were never really close—but the one thing we had was, he taught me a love of nature.” Then Diaz approaches a gentle soul in a windbreaker and black pants, who spells out his great love for this park. “Sometimes if it rains, it’s hard to sleep; sometimes I go a little hungry. But I look forward to every day.” Cameron’s half-mast courtesan eyes fill with tears. At last—someone more in tune with the environment than we ever could have imagined—someone who basically lives in the park. None of us had realized the man was homeless. “He shifted something in me,” Diaz says afterward.

This is not an easy gig for a glittering star who will never want for much of anything. People instantly ascribe cynical motives. What’s an overprivileged limelight fixture like Cameron Diaz doing, telling us what’s important?

She gets that. Luckily, Diaz is clever enough to know the precise extent to which she is one of us, where her surreal otherness takes over, and the good that it can do.

“The planet needs a publicist,” she told me on the first day of our trip. “I had this cartoon in my head a couple of years ago when Paris Hilton was going to jail and Britney Spears was falling apart. There’s a woman at a desk talking to planet Earth, and she’s like, ‘I’m going to make you a star!’ And it says, ‘But I’m a planet.’ And she’s like, ‘No, I can tell, you’re going to be bigger than Paris and Britney. When I’m done with you, everyone’s going to know who you are!'” She laughs.

“It’s the planet, you know what I mean? She should be the one—she should be a star. How do we make this little planet of ours a big star?”