It’s truly amazing. Jet setters Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are moving to a small town in Kentucky.
Similarly, Johnny Depp is coming to live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
And Justin Bieber is chucking his fabulous mansions for humble digs in Sandy, Oregon.
Of course they’re not, not really. But there are these persistent rumors going around the internet that these and many other celebrities are leaving Hollywood and putting down roots in small towns, to be with “ordinary” people.
Allegedly they’re bored with all the phonies in Hollywood, all the emptiness and glitz, and they want more meaning in their lives. They were driving through the town in question when they just fell in love with the wholesomeness of it all. Soon we can expect to see Tom Cruise washing his clothes at the coin-operated laundry, Taylor Swift grabbing an ice cream in the local soda shop, and Johnny Galecki shopping at the corner grocery store.
These stories are popping up because they play into a very common and recurring fantasy: that fabulously famous and successful people—people we’ve been persuaded since childhood to look up to and wish to emulate—would really be happier of they were more like us. I often why more movies and books—Entertaining Welsey Shaw aside, of course—aren’t based around this very basic fantasy.
In Hollywood, the most recent movie that comes to mind is Notting Hill, a Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant fantasy that I found fatally flawed simply because you don’t cast Hugh Grant as the “everyday guy.”
But the thought that perhaps we could encounter Anne Hathaway or Mila Kunis in Target, little red basket in hand, browsing at housewares, is just too delicious. I just finished revising a scene in Entertaining Welsey Shaw where Daniel Ferreira, our more humble version of Hugh Grant, thinks he spies Welsey in his small town, Callicoon, New York, during their big cultural event, the annual tractor parade. And he becomes embarrassed: Welsey is going to see his hick town with its “ordin’ry folk” and used furniture. He wants to stop her. He tries to hide. He knows the fantasy of these pretentious LA types being impressed with “the rest of us” is bunk, is naive, is pure fantasy, and Daniel is not one to live in a world of fantasy. He is relentlessly realistic, to the point that it sometimes hurts.
It turns out not to be Welsey, but someone else vaguely similar—Ever notice how when you’re thinking about someone everybody suddenly starts looking like them? He probably wouldn’t have even noticed the skinny blonde otherwise.
But we’ll continue to want to believe that Kate Hudson could be our new neighbor, that we may run into Matt Damon at the diner, that Gwyneth Paltrow may be in our drugstore buying bowel-cleansing remedies. It won’t happen—their worlds and our worlds, despite Mila Kunis’ going to a ball with a Marine, don’t collide. At least, not very often. (Turns out Mark Ruffalo does own a house in Callicoon. But I’m betting most people there don’t know where.) And there’s a reason for that. As Mr. Fitzgerald said, Let me tell you about the very rich. They are very different from you and me. The same can be said for celebrities, who of course are as rich as they come. As well as living under a microscope 24/7, literally afraid for their lives oftentimes. After being harassed by reporters, fans and paparazzi, the ending of Notting Hill shows Julia Roberts relaxing in a very public park with Grant. No one seems to be noticing her now. It gives the movie that satisfying ending we all needed to see—but it completely contradicts the previous two hours. That’s Hollywood.
I’m betting you didn’t know she had one, did you? Well, most celebrities do. Including Welsey Shaw.
They just really would rather not talk about it. Including Welsey Shaw.
In Gwyneth’s case, a man has been harassing her for seventeen years.
Yep, let me say that again—seventeen years.
And after numerous incidents, including encounters that sent him to a psychiatric facility back in 2000, he was just found not guilty of harassing her yet again.
The actress was clearly disappointed in the verdict. “I’ve been dealing for 17 years with the communications from this man … I felt very upset by it [the verdict] … this has been a very long and very traumatic experience already.”
The man’s attorney says he is harmless. Furthermore, she says, he is misunderstood. “He just needs the right medication,” she maintains.
I can’t imagine Ms. Paltrow is much comforted by those words.
The sad truth is the famous and easily-recognizable have to deal with this every day. We know who they are. They don’t know who we are. Which is why so many people who seek out the glow of fame later come to regret it.
Paltrow gave evidence in the case in which she claimed she was sent around 70 messages between 2009 and 2015.
She said the letters ranged from “religious to pornographic to threatening.” Some even talked about her death.
This struck me because there is a similar subplot in Entertaining Welsey Shaw. It could almost have been ripped from the Paltrow case, except that I started writing it first, or at least before anyone ever knew GP had a stalker. In the beginning, to a large degree, Welsey Shaw was modeled on Gwyneth Paltrow. (I’ve since moved away from that to modeling her after a large number of actresses to making her largely her own person, with a pinch of this celebrity and a dash of that.)
What’s truly frightening, and what I wanted to point out with Welsey’s stalker, is that there’s no real defense against people like this. You can get restraining orders, have them put away somewhere, but those orders always expire, those sentences are eventually up. You can’t keep the person away forever. And you never really know when they’re going to end up on your doorstep. After all, they don’t send you a note saying, “Hey, they let me out today!” —Or they do, which is perhaps even scarier.
Paltrow said her stalker “wanted to marry her.” Ironically, that’s exactly the plot line I’d devised for Welsey. Her stalker also wants to walk her down the aisle!
He too gets put away. He too is eventually let out, and attacks again. And there’s not much Welsey can do about it.
Sadly, this is a very bad case of life imitating art. There should be better ways to safeguard celebrities who are stalked, but I have no idea what they could be.
I know, I know, I’ve been writing about Jennifer Lawrence a lot lately. But she’s been in the news a lot lately.
JL seems on a mission to show us how, despite how ridiculously easy she has risen to fame (seriously, has any other recent star had more triumphs with fewer if any setbacks?), she is just as insecure, just as disappointed, just as unhappy as the rest of us. She’s an ordinary gal who just happens to make $25 million per picture, who just bought a $20 million dollar house. But other than that, well. she hates New Years too. And parties. And she’s lonely. Can’t get a date.
All highly possible. As I’ve written before, fame and money truly don’t buy happiness, and history is littered with rich people who never found contentment. Orson Welles even made a film about it, Citizen Kane. In the end Charles Foster was richer than God and probably more famous, yet all he longed for was that sled and the childhood it represented. It’s probably not as corny as it sounds.
Ms. Lawrence says she will not be having a good time tonight as the clock strikes twelve. She claims New Years is a downer for her, that she often drinks and is depressed, and never has any fun. She also seems to think that there’s too much pressure to make New Years Eve the perfect party.
She’s got a point there. I have a scene in Entertaining Welsey Shaw where we spend New Years not with movie star Welsey Shaw, but rather with the ordinary-guy protagonist, Daniel Ferreira, at a small, humble bar/restaurant in his small humble home town, with a few other would-be partiers who for whatever reason aren’t doing anything better either. It’s a pathetic scene, and we’re meant to be wondering all the time what Welsey is doing for New Years in her neck of the world. She is perhaps on some yacht, or partying with royalty.
The point of the scene was that New Years Eve creates this insecurity that other people are having—must be having—more fun than you. You start comparing New Years’ with idealized ones that you don’t even know exist. And of course they’re better. Everything you imagine is always better. That’s kind of what the whole novel Entertaining Welsey Shaw is about.
Jennifer Lawrence seems to understand this. She’s done trying to have the perfect New Years. “I really hate it. I’ve never had a good one. Everyone’s chasing a good time, and it’s always a disappointment. I plan on doing nothing and then if something lands in my lap … but I always end up drunk and disappointed.”
Lawrence also says she often gets nervous. And when she gets nervous, she tends to throw up. She says this is why she rarely goes to after-parties. “Drunk and Disappointed should be the title of my memoir.”
She claims to be more comfortable staying home, with close friends. There doesn’t seem to be much boyfriend talk. “I plan on doing nothing and then if something lands in my lap…” But she didn’t finish that sentence, in appropriate Welseyesque mystery.
I really give her a lot of credit for her mature outlook. She’s not like the many Hollywood celebrities who feel they must project a constant party atmosphere all the time, showing everyone how rich and happy they are and how much fun they are having. There’s nothing wrong with being happy and having fun, but some celebrities’ attempts at persuasion are so fake as to be bordering on pathos.
Welsey notices this, and this is why she despises so many other celebrities, and why she too has trouble making real friends. That’s what the novel is about too.
So maybe Welsey and J-Law would be good friends. They’re alike in more ways than one.
Read more about Jennifer Lawrence’s take on New Years here.
All week I’ve been reading about celebrities’ holidays. They generally don’t stay home by the warm fires baking cookies and drinks mugs of chocolate, the way you and I do.
They jet off to Cabo. Or St. Barts. Saint-Tropez, anybody? I’m betting George Clooney played Santa to his A-list guests at his gorgeous and gated Lake Como compound, which is really, truly impressive, the size of a city block, hidden in plain sight.
While we’ve been unwrapping presents and catching up on family news, they’ve been water-skiing, power-boating, sunning themselves on beaches, and buying fur coats, private planes and time-shares in the Swiss Alps.
All this has gotten me wondering how, honestly, celebrities—most celebrities, I’m sure there are exceptions—can enjoy Christmas. Every day is Christmas to them. They fly and sail to faraway places most of us can’t afford or aren’t even allowed access to. They buy cars and jewelry the way the rest of us buy magazines and milk. They have “staff” to do the Christmas cooking, sign and send out the Christmas cards, and do the decorating. For many of them, Christmas is just a matter of showing up, relaxing on a beach, and eating and drinking till New Years.
And for a lot of them, isn’t that pretty much what they do already?
So I’m desperately trying to imagine what makes this time of year different from any other day—and failing. Most of them don’t even stay in a climate with snow. (Mariah Carey went to Aspen. Woo-hoo.) Maybe their kids build snowmen out of sand on the beach. Or maybe they have their nannies do it while they watch.
But what kind of meaning can this time of year have to these people? Preachy meaning of Christmas meanderings aside, it’s hard to believe drinking is still special when you do it all the time, and if you can go anywhere you want just by picking up the phone and calling Flexjet, how is December 25th anything other than an ordinary day. Do children of these people get excited? “Oh, mommy, expensive presents—and they’re different from the expensive presents I got yesterday.”
While the paps seem to be invading celebrities’ lifestyles more and more (more on that in the next post), they haven’t, from what I’ve seen, been able to crash Christmas. We don’t really know what the rich and famous do.
The movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind posed the question, How do you even know what the good memories are if you erase all the bad ones? Similarly, how can the holiday be special for someone who lives Christmas every day?
So how do you think they celebrate? What do yo think makes it special to them—if indeed it is? Do their kids ever grow up with a fond remembrance of special days? Or is every day the monotonous same to them, no matter what anyone tries to do?
Some Hollywood celebrities want future generations to enjoy them—and not just through their art.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian are among those who, according to some sources, are looking into freezing themselves for the future.
It’s called cryogenics: A body, or just a head, is frozen after death in waits for a method to bring them back to live some more. (This gets me wondering: In the future there will still be diseases we can’t cure, just different ones. So will they want to be frozen once more to be thawed out at a later date every time they contract something fatal?)
Rumor has it that Walt Disney put himself in the deep freeze, though it’s officially denied by his estate.
And now rumor is saying that Gwynnie, Kimmie and Kanye-ie are looking at the big chill.
An unnamed person who knows Paltrow says, “It’s no secret Gwyneth is obsessive about maintaining her looks and living a long life. She’s become increasingly fascinated by cryogenics as an eternal option for when she passes on…It’s not as crazy as it sounds.”
You could either conclude she and her colleagues are ahead of the curve or that they have way too much money. (Or both.)
But even “common people” do this sort of thing. A St. Louis, a woman had her head cryogenically frozen so that she could be brought back when the cure for her aggressive form of brain cancer.
At least in that case, all sorts of moral and religious issues arose with her parents, who were against the idea. But I have a feeling this won’t be the case with our celebrity trio.
And future generations will be able to experience live performances of Kanye, or see as-yet-undreamed-of movies starring Gwyneth Paltrow, or…well, Kim doesn’t actually do anything, but at least luxury goods retailers will enjoy a pleasant little sales spike.
Because these people want to continue pleasuring the world with their presence.
For what it’s worth, Welsey Shaw wouldn’t do something like this—at least, I don’t think. (Sometimes your characters surprise you.) She knows the secret of greatness is knowing when to take your bows.