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.
How would you like to have Snoop Dogg say hello for you on your answering machine?
Or send your friends a celebrity greeting from Kendall Jenner? Birthday or anniversary wishes from James Stewart? (The motorcross racer, not the movie star.)
I wouldn’t either, but it’s a new and perhaps not-surprising trend being marketed by several companies, such as this one. In this day of digital files it’s a pretty simple idea, and I’m surprised it isn’t more wide-spread: getting celebrities to customize greetings or messages from you, mentioning your name, acting as though they’re hanging with you. I’d expect to hear the voices of Morgan Freeman (“You’ve reached Kevin’s answering machine. But Kevin is out somewhere, we don’t know where or when he’ll return. Some bids are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright…”) or Gwyneth Paltrow (“Hi, you’ve reached Gwynnie, but I’m busy cooking with celebrity chef Mario Batali right now, so leave a macrobiotic message and I’ll call you when I’m finished redecorating the spare room in my fabulous New York apartment.”)
However, neither of those celebrities is part of the website. In fact, I think it’s a stretch to call a lot of these people (University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, rapper Ice-T, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks, television “personality” Coco) honest celebrities at all. And there are a lot of stale or fallen celebs, such as Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazard and disgraced baseball star Pete Rose, whom I’ve blogged about before, incredibly. And of course, there are a couple of Jenners/Kardashians, because, well, there always seem to be Jenners/Kardashians.
But you can get messages from the likes of Justin Bieber, who was a genuine celebrity even before he started making orange the new black. I imagine a greeting from him might go like, “Yo, this is the Beebs, answering Jim’s machine because they paid me lots of money to. Jim’s not here, but give me your number and I’ll call back and spit on you.” Actually, though, you can just click on the sound samples to hear some possible messages.
I wonder what the turn-around is for these things (they are supposedly customized). I also wonder how many people on the receiving end will just assume it’s a celebrity impersonator and not be all that impressed. Many years ago, back in the early 90s, I misdialed a number and got someone doing a perfect Jack Nicholson on their machine. It was so impressive I remembered the number and would call back once in a while just for a laugh. (The guy never seemed to be home.)
It’s amazing the hold celebrities have on people that they would want one to talk on their voicemail, especially since most of them don’t leave particularly amusing or funny messages, judging by the samples. I also wonder why anyone would be impressed at this point by Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber to pay money for their voice, even if it’s only four bucks per recording. As for some of the others…well, Dr. Phil? I think anyone who wants some of these people on their answering machine needs someone like Dr. Phil. But a real doctor. Not a celebrity. Just my opinion, and what do I know? I don’t even have my own voice greeting on my phone. I just kept the generic one that came with the machine, which has all the personality of, well, a machine: Hel-lo. Leave a mes-sage at the tone—BEEEEEP.