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 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.
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.
When I was writing Entertaining Welsey Shaw, one of the most pressing questions for me was why would Welsey, insanely famous actress, want to hang with an ordinary schmo. (And if you don’t understand the relevance of that question, click on the link above to read a synopsis of the plot of Entertaining Welsey Shaw.)
I finally settled on the reason that he was grounded, he was normal, a respite from her crazy world filled with phonies. But I wondered if it was believable. After all, most celebrities tend to hang with other celebrities. Then again, a lot of celebrities are more delusional and narcissistic than Welsey Shaw.
So it was refreshing to read that Jennifer Lawrence is very similar to my fictitious thespian. Like Welsey, the young star has experienced meteoric fame—and has had to adjust. She says “I have a very small circle,” she says. “The moment I feel like someone is using me or is in it for the wrong reasons, I have zero guilt about just cutting them the f— out of my life.”
(Like Welsey Shaw, J-Law has a salty vocabulary.)
Lawrence says, “My bullshit detector is phenomenal. None of my friends bullshits me. Everything in my life has to be real.”
Lawrence says it’s hard to let people to get close to you when you’re famous—something Welsey knows. “People start to feel a lot less guilty when you become bigger or have more money,” she says. “People feel less guilty taking from you because it’s like stealing a Snickers from Duane Reade [a drugstore]. People forget about the personal drain or attack that you feel.”
But with that wariness comes loneliness. As her fame has expanded, her circle of people she can trust has shrunk.
The same is true for Welsey Shaw. And that’s why she comes, every Wednesday, to just happen to “bump into” a very ordinary guy from small-town Callicoon, NY. Just because.
Because, as Clarie Danes has said in a somewhat similar context, “Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found.”
Welsey loves acting too. But it isn’t the answer that it is for Claire. And I suspect it isn’t quite a satisfying answer for Claire either.
For people like Welsey (and Claire, and Jennifer), its’ a strange paradox that life’s possibilities in some ways are very limited. And there’s nothing they can do about it.
It sounds like a scene from Entertaining Welsey Shaw. Many scenes, in fact. Jennifer Lawrence, one of the most sought-after actresses in the world, says she is in fact lonely most of the time.
Lawrence said in a magazine interview recently that she spends most weekends home and has a hard time meeting people. That is indeed tricky to do when you’re more famous and worth more than literally every other person you come into contact with.
This mirrors what other A-listers—Kristen Stewart, Sienna Miller, Keira Knightley, Claire Danes—have said about their lives in the past.
“I feel like I need to meet a guy, with all due respect, who has been living in Baghdad for five years who has no idea who I am,” Lawrence said in the interview, adding, ““I am lonely every Saturday night. Guys are so mean to me. I know where it’s coming from, I know they’re trying to establish dominance, but it hurts my feelings. I’m just a girl who wants you to be nice to me. I am straight as an arrow.”
It’s hard for most of us to believe that someone with everything—money, fame, looks, glamorous friends—could be unhappy. For that matter, it’s hard to believe they could be lacking anything in life.
This was the very premise that got me writing Entertaining Welsey Shaw, the thought that people who look like they have it all so often don’t. After all, why would someone like that feel insecure? Or unhappy. As Lawrence herself says:
“It’s strangely exhilarating, because you keep trying to fight for that validation. You want to have [validation] before you get married, so that you don’t seek it out once you are.”
This need to be validated sounds familiar. Claire Danes has famously said, “People confuse fame with validation or love. But fame is not the reward. The reward is getting fulfillment out of doing the thing you love.” And also, “Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found.”
The major theme of Entertaining Welsey Shaw is how, despite her incredible success, she is lonely and isolated. I find it odd that novels and other fiction featuring celebrities rarely deal with this side of their lives. They’re usually portrayed as imperious, egocentric, mercurial…everything but vulnerable. Of course this is the image they have to project, as it’s part of their brand. And the cynical contrarian in me says they may sometimes overplay their “ordinary guy/gal” as well, because that’s good for their brand too. After all, nobody likes a star who is constantly reminding us how much better than us she is, no matter how clean her bowels are.
Jennifer Lawrence may know this too. She’s hardly the first star to claim she spends date nights home alone, watching TV and maybe spooning some Haagen-Dazs. We like to believe this. It makes it seem like we could sit down on the couch next to them and maybe have a conversation. Now change that to sit across from them in a coffee shop and talk about everything and anything in your life and you have the very premise of Entertaining Welsey Shaw. It’s a premise I think a lot of celebrities would be able to relate to. —I wonder what Jennifer Lawrence would think of it?