CHAPTER ONE: COMING
It was better than she imagined. There was applause, some whistling, even a couple of standing ovations. Lottie’s heart hammered at her ribs. She closed her eyes and inhaled, opened and exhaled. She pushed out an enormous fluorescent smile.
“Hello, my name is Lottie Love, and I’m…well, it’s so hard to say this.”
Lottie’s eyes flitted around the room, checking for familiar faces. She spotted a soap actor and quickly averted her gaze so he wouldn’t sense her recognition. She swilled some Red Bull. This wasn’t what she had in mind when she dreamed about the spotlight; but hell, at least she was on stage.
“I’m…I’m…I’m an alcoholic.”
The group cheered. “All right, Lottie.” “Way to go.”
When she had rehearsed in front of the mirror, Lottie hadn’t imagined the applause. She had planned to stop there. But now, she couldn’t help herself.
“When I was lit-rullybarely a teenager, I’d sneak into the liquor cabinet when my parents weren’t around. It was fun? All my friends did it. But the difference was, I couldn’t stop. I started drinking before school. Then I’d fill up my New Kids on the Block thermos with Absolut and orange juice. The teachers thought I couldn’t be more of a typical L.A. kid--loud and always performing. No one knew I was always drunk. It got to a point where I didn’t even know how to function sober?”
Words spilled out of her. She spoke about smashing her dad’s plumbing truck into the neighbor’s kitchen, passing out during the SATs, vomiting on the valedictorian’s mortarboard during high school graduation.
Afterwards, a throng crowded her.
“What you did was courageous. I hate to sound, well, cliché, but it’s the first step. And the first step is the hardest.”
“Let’s get a soy latte sometime.”
“Did you ever think about selling your life story?”
Catherine, her sponsor, wrapped her arms around her. “You did great, Lot. I’m so proud of you.”
“Thanks.” From the corner of her eye, Lottie watched them file out. Then Lottie saw him. He stared right at her and smiled. I understand what you’re going through. I’m there for you, the look said.
Lottie’s eyes stalked him. It was ironic. She’d seen his movies and now he was her captive audience. How to break free of Catherine? But thenhe was vacuumed up into the crowd. She couldn’t wait for the next meeting. Maybe there was one tomorrow. The Hollywood branch of Alcoholics Anonymous was the hottest ticket in town. Chris Mercer was the hottest celebrity.
And soon he would be Lottie’s latest conquest.
Lottie adored celebrities.
Charlotte Love was born and raised in Tarzana, just another strip-mall town buried in the hills off the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley. It was a peripheral place and Lottie and her family were peripheral people. They could nearly see the beacons of light swirling in the lavender sky when a movie debuted at Mann’s. They could almost hear the fans’ applause as celebrities strutted along the red carpet. But though Hollywood was only a few miles down the road, they were as removed from it as Aunt Bertha in Buffalo. Here, when searchlights scanned the heavens, they led to another going-out-of-business sale at Ali Baba’s Imported Rugs.
Charlotte, or Charlie, as her parents called her (as an only child, she’s convinced they wanted a boy), vowed that one day she’d be part of it. She wanted to be the one vogueing along the velvet rope. She took acting lessons. She auditioned for commercials and modeled for local stores. In high school she was voted most likely to win an Emmy. But her mother begged her to choose otherwise.
“Don’t be an actress, Charlie. Look what it did to your father. Hollywood will eat you alive. Get an education.”
Her mother recited this, over and over, year after year, fueling Lottie’s desire to act even more. “All acting ever did for us was leave us with a phony last name. Love. Love. God, I hate myself for allowing him to do that to us. What was wrong with Lutz?We have no identity, no past, no history whatsoever, because of Hollywood.”
Lottie screamed at her mother that it was that it was her life and she had more talent than her father ever dreamed of and that no one believed in her and they’d all be sorry when she became a big actress and emancipated herself.
They fought like this for years. One day, they stopped fighting. Her mother had a bad biopsy. So in between sobs, Lottie promised her that she’d go to college and put aside her silly dreams. Right after her mother’s funeral, Lottie enrolled at UCLA.
Charlie Love reinvented herself. No more tomboy name. Charlie was okay when she was a kid climbing trees. But from the moment she set foot on campus, she decided to go by Lottie. Lottie Love--she liked the sing songy sound of it. The name fit perfectly into her new plan—if she couldn’t be a star, she’d cover those who could. She majored in communications because it was the easiest way to coast while attending nightly fraternity parties and daily tanning sessions. She told herself that one day she’d be a young and hip Mary Hart.She would live in Bel Air or the Pacific Palisades or Beverly Hills. She would never spend her life looking in from the outside. Never.
During Lottie’s final semester one of her journalism professors was so hypnotized by the way her tiny tank tops barely contained her chest that he arranged a post-graduate internship for her at Personality magazine. The minute Lottie walked into the Wilshire office, she felt as though she belonged there. She had grown up reading about life just over the hill in the pages of Personality. It had been her conduit between the life in the valley and the only life that mattered.
Lottie was pleasantly surprised by Vince Reggio, the bureau chief. She had thought he’d be polyester garbed, fat and bald—a guy with ink stains on a wide paisley tie. Instead, Vince was handsome and well dressed in a taupe Armani suit and Gucci loafers. His face was bronzed and his dark black hair was peppered with gray and gelled in place, with a curlicue of hair casually yet purposefully fixed in the center of his forehead. He looked like a middle aged Gerber baby.
“All my life, all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. I couldn’t be a stronger asset to your magazine. I can write well and I’m a people person. For some reason, people like to tell me things? So I’ll be able to get lots of scoops.”
As she spoke, Lottie surveyed the walls of Vince’s office that chronicled his brushes with fame. There was Vince sipping cocktails with Al Pacino. Vince grinning ear to ear, standing next to Cindy Crawford. Vince gazing at Gwyneth Paltrow. Lottie was so impressed that she interrupted herself in the middle of her own sales pitch. “Oh my God, that’s you and Tom Cruise.”
“Yep. And he’s laughing at a joke I told him.” Vince leaned forward in his chair and lightly rested his chin in a fist. He cleared his throat. “Lottie, meeting celebrities is one of the perks you get working here. Don’t drop the ball and you’ll be hanging out with the best of them.”
That didn’t happen. Lottie spent the first months answering phones and updating agent and publicist contact lists for the magazine. Her co-workers threw menial work at her as if she was some housekeeper. They’d go to lunch without asking her. Because she had a mane of auburn hair with a great body and big boobs everyone assumed she was stupid, probably hired because she slept with Vince Reggio. Which was just ridiculous. Lottie wasn’t one of those desperate actresses who’d screw just anyone to get ahead. Besides, she was a serious journalist. She’d teach them not to underestimate Lottie Love.
And she did. While those dour-faced reporters left the office and went home to the kids and the latest episode of The West Wing, Survivor and The Bachelor, Lottie hung out anywhere a celebrity would: Dolce, Luna Park, Avalon, Belly, Velvet Margarita Cantina, Jones, Vermont, Lotus, Sky Bar, Fred Segal on Melrose, all the trendy bars at all the boutique hotels, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset, Booksoup, The Colony, Malibu Kitchen, Starbucks at Cross Creek.
As a teenager she had turned her bedroom into a shrine of famous faces. She augmented centerfolds ripped from Tiger Beat and Personality with posters bought with her weekly allowance. By the time she went to college, every inch of the floral wallpaper her mother had painstakingly hung was covered by a celebrity. There was Brad, Tom, Christian, Johnny, Denzel, Luke, Jason, George, Noah, Matthew, Matt, Keanu, James, Freddy, Steven, Tobey, Leo, Ricky, Joaquin, Hugh, Marky. She wrote letters to Joaquin Phoenix asking him to her Prom. She was crushed when she didn’t get a reply.
But now she saw him up close. She kept a list of her sightings: Brad and Jen; Ben and Matt; Paris and Nicky; Reese and Ryan; Justin, Tobey; Vin; Leo; Kate; Katie; Gwyn and Chris; Gwen and Gavin; Britney; Julia and Danny; Ashton; Beyonce; J.Lo. At work, she’d brag about her encounters and recount anecdotes, such as when that hot boy band singer left Barfly without paying the tab. Or when an actor with a nice guy image beat up the bouncer at the Viper. Or when a famous actor/recovered drug addict bumped into her looking dazed and disheveled. Or when a devoted family man superstar hit on her. Before she knew it, Vince let her write about most of it for Personality. And then they started paying her for going out at night. Getting paid to rub shoulders with the stars, at parties she once only imagined. They created a title just for her: Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent. After just six months she had rocketed from anonymous intern to a name on the Personality masthead.
It was a dream come true. Lottie had wriggled her way inside. She was reporting for the magazine she had read and devoured and recited as gospel. She vowed to remember the little girl from Tarzana, to write for her. No more watching a searchlight from across the freeway. Lottie was in the light.
Hank Love, her father, had spent years and years vying to be in that light until he finally retreated to Tarzana and opened up his own plumbing company. Hank Love Plumbing. He ran the business while occasionally auditioning for toothpaste commercials and bit parts on cop shows. He had great teeth. Lottie’s mother had been attracted to his 1,000-watt smile back in Duluth, where she first saw him play the Messiah in Jesus Christ Superstar.
When Lottie’s mother became pregnant with Lottie, Mrs. Love made it quite clear that it was time to call it quits. Time to have a bankable profession. For Hank, that meant one thing--toilets. Lottie knew that replacing his dreams of fame and fortune for a lifetime of shit and piss was beyond depressing. And she felt he always resented her for it, but he went into the plumbing business with a vengeance. He took the inheritance his father had left him and bought a big white van, shiny new tools and a couple of bleached and starched white jumpsuits with his italicized name embroidered inside a star on the chest pocket. Hank hired some artist friend to draw his likeness on both sides of the van. If he couldn’t have billboards and marquees, he’d have the sides of a truck. Hank Love Plumbing Inc., We’ll Make Your Pipes Sing. Next to his motto was the artist’s rendering of Hank, jet-black hair slicked back and a mouthful of sparkling white teeth occupying more than half of his chiseled face. Instead of his long, crooked nose--the nose that ruined his career, Lottie’s mom confided to her when she brought Lottie to the plastic surgeon --the van nose was straight and curled up slightly at the end. Lottie thought it looked a lot like the nose Lottie’s mother eventually ordered for her.
Hank Love’s empire grew. Soon there was a fleet of vans with his mug on either side rumbling along the freeway. LUVPLMG, his license plate read. With each addition to the fleet, a U was deleted from the plate and a numeral added. At last count there was a LVPLMG-5. All the plumbers were struggling actors who’d arrive at appointments as if ready for auditions--their mouths curled in bleached grins, their jumpsuits stretched against muscular arms and legs, their taut stomachs squeezed in, their bulging chests heaved out. Still hoping for the big break, they’d leave a headshot at the home of some high-powered executive or casting director or producer who had clogged up a toilet.
Lottie had spent her life embarrassed by her father. “My dad says your dad’s a big rip-off.” “Your dad smells like shit.” She turned purple when one of his vans chugged up a street near school. At least once a month, vandals would spray paint messages next to his enormous mouth with its twinkling teeth. “I eat shit.” They’d color his teeth brown.
“All those friends of yours with attitude, well, your father will be the first one to tell them that their doo doo does stink,” her mother lectured. “It’s an honest profession and it’s a lucrative one. You should be very proud of your father. Look at all he’s done for you. He could have been a star.”
Lottie tried to imagine what her life would have been like if her dad had become a star. At her elementary school there were a handful of kids with famous parents. They were treated better than the rest. A hush seemed to follow them wherever they went. Teachers smiled at them more. If they disrupted class it was only because they were performers—just like their parents. If they failed math or science, it was only because they were so artistic.
When their famous parent showed up at school, it was like Christmas.
She remembered when an action hero actor picked up his son from theater practice. Lottie was in the auditorium rehearsing for her role as an orphan in Annie. She watched as the usually sour-faced principal giggled and flirted with him. Her voice trilled as she said, “would you honor us with some advice for our young thespians?”
“You have to love what you do. Once you don’t love it, you should stop. Because it’s a lot of hard work.” The principal nodded and applauded wildly as if this were the most brilliant thing she’d ever heard.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lottie saw the bleached white jumpsuit enter the auditorium. Please, please let it be one of his employees, she begged. No, it was the original. Hank Love.
The principal cleared her throat. Her voice was sharp. “Service entrance is in the back.”
At night, her father flipped through channels commenting on each actor’s colonic condition. “Oh yeah, she looks glamorous, but you should have seen the beast I yanked out of her dumper.”
Lottie was not going to become her father. She wasn’t going to live her life with regrets while making pipes sing and taking the service entrance.
Although Lottie had spent months silently studying celebrities at bars and clubs and parties, she was surprised how nervous the prospect of actually speaking with them made her. Before driving to her first assignment she spent an entire hour vomiting. To settle her nerves, shedowned a few Screwdrivers before leaving her Santa Monica apartment for some producer’s home in Bel Air.
Lottie pretended that tossing her Cabrio keys to a valet was an everyday thing, then strutted to the Doric columned entranceway in a low-cut black lace Bebe dress. Might as well flaunt her figure. She gave her name to a tuxedoed man at the door. Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent for Personality Magazine. He smiled at her and said, “go right in, Miss Love.”
Personality expected a lot from her. When Vince assigned her to cover the fundraising party for an animal rescue shelter, he said, “get the color of the party as well as quotes from as many high-profile guests as possible. Find out who designed their outfits. Describe what they’re wearing, thinking, doing. Who are they hanging out with? Who do they leave with? What are the latest style trends? If you see three celebs holding faux crocodile clutches or wearing short waist-tied pleated skirts or sporting updated versions of the perm or painting their lips with gold lip gloss,your trend alarm should go off. Remember: one means nothing—unless Gwyn, Nicole or Julia’s wearing it; two is a coincidence—again, unless it’s an a-lister; and three is a trend. Personality readers want the scoop. They want the dirt. They want to dress like celebrities. It’s up to Lottie Love to step up to the plate and go to bat for them. Don’t strike out.”
As Vince’s words echoed in her head, Lottie’s stomach somersaulted. She found a bathroom--all black and white marble with a three-foot gold statue of some Greek or Norse God in the corner--and puked in the toilet. She couldn’t help but laugh, wondering if her father had had his hands inside its marble tank at one time.
She wet a white linen napkin and washed her face. She opened a medicine cabinet, found some toothpaste, smeared it on her teeth, and rinsed. As she was reapplying her Cherries in the Snow lipstick, someone banged on the door. “What are you doing? Having a fucking baby in there? Hurry up.”
What-evvverr, jackass. Lottie was ready to argue, but when the door opened, she gasped. Cory Jones. Although he hadn’t been in anything of note, Lottie was certain he was The Next Big Thing. Her heart fluttered, her mouth went dry. “Hi,” she said. “Sorry.”
He brushed past her and slammed the door.
Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent, stood outside the bathroom trembling. Getting a quote from Cory Jones, the Next Big Thing, would be a major coup. He was a bad boy who never spoke to the press, flashing the finger instead. If she could just nail a phrase from him, Personality would be ecstatic. Who knows?Vince may even promote her to an associate bureau chief.
She stood in front of the door with her brand new digital recorder in hand, waiting and waiting. She phrased the questions in her head. “What do you think of the party? I love your work. What movies are you going to be in? Why the goatee?” She shuffled her weight from one wobbly leg to the other, her Payless stilettos scraping along the hardwood floor. Finally, the door opened and Cory emerged.
She breathed heavily and shut her eyes. “I’m Charlie. I mean, I’m Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent with Personality Magazine? I know you probably don’t want to talk to me and you don’t have to. You can so just completely walk away right now and get back to the party, but it would be really the greatest, most fantastic thing in the world if I could get a quote from you. A sentence would be so perfect. Even half a sentence. How about a word or something?”
“Jeez, you talk too fast,” Cory laughed. “I’ve never met someone who talks that fast in my life.” He shook his head and started to walk away, but halted in midstep. “My grandmother reads that shit wipe. It’d probably make her fucking day if she saw a quote from me in there.” He ran his fingers through his greasy blonde highlighted hair. “What do you want to know? I think I must have missed a question or something.”
Lottie cocked her head, smiled and twirled a piece of hair between her fingers. “Umm,” she said, scrunching her face as if in deep thought, but her mind was blank. Her heart caught in her throat. “Umm. I guess, like, how’s the party? Are you having fun?”
Cory laughed. “Are you for real? That’s the lamest question a reporter’s ever asked me. Usually they want to know who I’m fucking. But believe it or not, I’m not with anyone tonight. I’m single and loving it.” He smiled at Lottie, grabbed her hand that held the recorder and pushed it in front of his face. He spoke into it. “That’s why this party’s so great. There’s so many beautiful women here. The possibilities are endless.”
His touch electrified her. She was beginning to think her trembling legs wouldn’t hold up anymore. But then Cory kept answering answered questions she hadn’t even asked, acting as if she was an old friend. She had been too afraid to venture into his love life. Afraid he’d walk away and say nothing to her. Afraid he’d remind her that she didn’t really belong at this party.
As she stood there, Terri Max sidled up to Cory. Her new movie, Detours and Dead Ends, had just opened. Terri was a 28-year-old action star with a killer body who had already been divorced three times. With her last husband she had adopted an Uzbekistani baby girl, who dangled from her arms at Disney premieres and then vanished into the ether until the next big photo op. She and Cory had been photographed together constantly several months ago, but Lottie hadn’t seen shots of the couple in weeks.
“Got a match,” she said, ignoring Lottie while sticking out a Marlboro Light.
Cory grabbed Lottie’s recorder. “I’ll give you a light, but first tell this reporter girl, ummm…” he looked at Lottie.
“Lottie. Lottie Love.”
“Yeah, tell Lori why this party is great and it’ll be in the next edition of Personality.”
Terri swatted at the air. “That rag? Then her eyes grazed Lottie’s breasts. “Amazing titties. Who’s the architect? I bet it’s Doctor Gene.”
Cory stifled a laugh as Lottie’s face reddened. “It’s all me, thank you very much.”
“Bullshit,” Terri said. “Anyway, your rag did a story on me once and called it Talent to the Max. They misquoted me about a dozen times. I used the word “fucking” and they changed it to “darn.” I said “pissed” and they made it “bothered.” Is that completely lame? Puh-lease. Jesus, Cory, give me a light or I’ll have a complete and utter nicotine fit right here. I’ll tell Lori some really ugly things about you.”
Cory pulled out a Zippo from a pocket of his ripped jeans. He dangled it in front of Terri. “Come on. Tell Lori how much you’re in love with me.”
Terri narrowed her eyes at Cory and clenched her jaw. “Okay. Okay. I wouldn’t go anywhere near Cory because he has the smallest cock in the whole world! Now, light my fucking, I mean, darn, cigarette, Goddamnit.”
As Terri leaned over with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, Lottie peered at the back of her faded blue jeans, trying to read the label.
Terri swiveled toward Lottie and barked, “You’re totally checking out my ass.” She shook it at Lottie. “J-fuckin’ Lo eat your heart out.”
“I couldn’t be checking it out less. I was just trying to figure out the brand—for my story.”
“James. That’s all I own. I have a closet full of them.”
Cory handed the recorder back to Lottie. “Here you go, Lois Lane. You know Terri was just joking before, right?”
“Was not.” Terri yelled.
“Terri, tell her it’s not true.”
“It’s totally true. I call it the gnat. That’s why I dumped him.”
“Pull down your pants and prove it. Gnat-boy!” Terri yelled, stomping upstairs.
Cory started to follow Terri and then stopped and turned toward Lottie.
“I so completely believe you.”
“No you don’t. And you’re gonna tell all your friends that I have a small dick. It’ll probably be one of those items in your magazine where you don’t name names but everyone knows who you’re talking about.”
“I promise I so won’t.”
Cory wasn’t listening. He unzipped his pants.
“Please I so completely don’t need you to show me your thing.”
“Terri is a complete headcase.” He pulled down his pants.
“Oh my God, it’s so not gnat-like.”
“Print that, Lois Lane.”
Lottie Love spent the entire evening in front of the bathroom. Everyone had to pee now and then. By the end of the night, Lottie had quotes from almost everyone who mattered.It was after 2 a.m. when she headed back to the office to write down her observations and quotes from the party. She replayed her interviews, embarrassed whenever she heard her helium-saturatedvoice. Did she always have to sound like a California airhead?
“Ohmygod, I love your body of work.” Where did that phrase come from? “You are like the best actor in the entire universe, without a doubt.” “Ohmygod, it’s you. I love you!” “You were so completely amazing in ‘Dead Dogs’ that I feel like you’re still in character and going to poke my eyes out right now.” Lottie covered her ears and fast-forwarded the recorder whenever her effusive vocals rang out.
She wrote a novella, omitting that she never ventured five feet from the bathroom. Her fingers, still buzzing from celebrity, whirred against the keyboard in a dizzying frenzy.
It was literally a star-studded event in Bel Air when all the beautiful people turned out for a party celebrating the opening of the Hollywood chapter of Pet Rescue, a shelter for abandoned and abused animals!Celebrities in literally everything from tuxes and gowns to even ripped jeans and T-shirts were there to show their support.
Sexy heartthrob Cory Jones, wearing vintage Levis, a Von Dutch hat and a Jesus is My Homeboy T-shirt that hugged his oh-so-buffed body said he was solo. “I’m not dating anyone right now. I’m single and loving it!!! That’s why this party’s so great. There’s so many beautiful women here-- the possibilities are endless.”
The possibilities seemed to end with couldn’t- be-cuter Terri Max, starring in Detours and Dead Ends. She was wearing a black tank top and faded James Jeans. “That’s all I own. I have a closet full of them,” the toned Max confided to me. Max and Jones seemed to be literally thisclose with one another. Perhaps a reunion is in the stars? “I’m so horny,” she confessed...
Lottie wrote and wrote until her fingers felt leaden and arthritic. From her windowless cubicle she didn’t see the sun’s forehead peek out from the Pacific. She didn’t hear her colleagues lethargically trickle in to the office. It was after 9 a.m. when Lottie, clutching twenty pages, suddenly understood what it must be like to be Judith Krantz. Jackie Collins. Ernest Hemingway! She had never been so inspired in her life.
Lottie could tell that Vince was pleased, even though her work was quickly whittled away to a few words underneath glossy photos by Matt Selig, one of the manyPersonality photographers on contract. “Decent reporting, Lottie. You got behind Cory Jones’ pretty boy facade. Good work.”
“I’d love to be on the Chris Mercer team,” she blurted out.
Vince smiled at the floor. “Thanks Lottie, but you stick with the parties for now. In a few years you’ll be ready to go to bat with the A-listers. In the meantime, read all the staff files, especially Mike Posner’s. That’s the best way to learn.”
“Sure.” Lottie forced a smile and turned quickly before Vince could see her rage. Why couldn’t this clueless a-hole see that she was ready now? Clearly celebrities liked talking to her. Besides, she had read all the staff files.
Every piece a correspondent wrote – a file --was available on the computer system for everyone to read. If Personality was doing a cover story on Brad Pitt, about ten correspondents would be assigned to report on every aspect of his life—Jennifer, movies, friends, beauty regimen, exercise, nightlife. Each reporter would send his file to New York, where a ‘trained’ writer or team of writers would disassemble the files and somehow assemble a story. A reporter would spend days or sometimes weeks gathering quotes from people who worked on movies with Brad, or saw Brad eating lunch at The Ivy or buying a T-shirt at Fred Segal. Then they’d spend hours crafting a well-written file. In the end, they were lucky if a quote or two turned up in the finished product. The reporters who’d been in the L.A. bureau for more than five years had already given up—their files consisted of pages of quotes with no attempt at a narrative. Either way, Lottie wasn’t impressed.
She went into her office and sought solace in her acid pink Rolodex. Even though most of the world had Blackberries, Personality reporters liked to display bulging Rolodexes atop their desks. It was the journalistic version of ‘whose is bigger?’ -- a game Lottie would win. She flipped the cards, admiring it. She knew it was just a matter of time before she amassed more contacts than anyone on staff—more than Vince, more then Mike Posner. She’d be the one to get Chris Mercer.
Chris Mercer. He was the now big thing—as big as Leo after Titanic. But no one knew anything about him. There was a fan frenzy at the premiere of Ark, the movie in which he played a modern day Noah, but Chris didn’t show up. He just vanished. Paparazzi were staked out at all the hotspots, but they always wound up with picture of Britney or Ashton or Paris instead. Personality hired an investigator who couldn’t evenfind a home address.
There were theories. He’s a recluse. He’s got acute agoraphobia. He’s single-handedly trying to reinvent the perception of actors—from stars to craftsmen. He’s covered in acne that is camouflaged by makeup on screen. He was molested as a child. All this was pure speculation, most of it from oblivious outsiders like Vince and Bernie, the executive editor.
Lottie would get the scoop.
Chris Mercer Reveals All by Lottie Love.
If you asked her, Lottie probably wouldn’t be able to say when she started to feel comfortable around celebrities. It was gradual. For months she stood by the bathroom, then near the bathroom, then in the foyer, then close to the door of the main room, then peering in the main room, then in the main room. Her hands still shook and her wobbly legs still threatened to collapse, but her stomach didn’t somersault and spew its contents anymore. Like a child taking her first steps, Lottie finally pried her knuckles off the rim of the toilet and entered the kingdom.
Initially, she envied the other journalists who seemed to effortlessly mingle with celebs. They were brash. “Are you gay? Who are you sleeping with? How do you feel about your movie tanking?” She thought that with enough practice, she’d develop the Teflon coating necessary to be an ace reporter. But then she realized something: they weren’t getting any of the answers. Their questions were greeted with icy stares, chilly rejoinders, silence, the finger. Meanwhile, Lottie, in her awkwardness, was harvesting pearls.
“I mean, I know you probably think I’m totally some psychotic fan, but I’m literally the Chief Party Correspondent for Personality Magazine. Can you tell me what you’re doing here? Are you having fun? By the way, I’m like such your biggest fan. Seriously, you couldn’t have a bigger fan than me.”
Becoming Chief Party Correspondent was the first big change in Lottie’s life; meeting Marlon Lang was the second.
Lottie was covering the premiere party at the El Rey for Marlon’s debut movie, Blind Love and Other Handicaps. Vince wanted a few quotes for the magazine’s party page. So Lottie squeezed herself into a tiny suede skirt and beige cardigan and expertly maneuvered through the party, talking to anyone whose face looked vaguely familiar.
“Hey, reporter girl,” Cory Jones said. “Grandma thinks I’m a real actor now that I’ve been quoted in Personality.”
“I couldn’t be happier that she liked it,” Lottie said brightly, adjusting the buttons on her cardigan to keep them from popping open.
Cory grabbed the guy next to him. “Hey, Marlon, have you met Reporter Girl?” He whispered something in Marlon’s ear.
Marlon Lang turned and his eyes landed right on her breasts. They nearly popped out. He giggled. “Hey.”
Marlon was gorgeouswith huge blue eyes, fat red lips and perfectly mussed brown hair. And he was sensitive--or at least his character in Blind Love was. Lottie was sure the two were pretty similar. Marlon’s celluloid equivalent relinquished his pro baseball career to travel around the world with the woman he loved, who had lost her eyesight when a baseball whacked her in the head.
“Hello,” Lottie puffed out, breathlessly. “Oh my God, you were so brilliant in Blind Love and Other Handicaps.”
Marlon ran his fingers through his gelled hair. “Thanks.”
Lottie clicked on her recorder with a sweaty thumb. “Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?”
Marlon sucked in his lips and smiled. “My mom says I was performing from conception. I was named Marlon because one night my mom was watching On The Waterfront and I kicked during the scene when Marlon Brando says, “I cudda been a contenda.” Marlon jutted out his lips and spoke the line in a raspy voice. “I hope to one day be considered the Marlon Brando of my generation.”
Lottie laughed, but realized from Marlon Lang’s pinched expression that he wasn’t kidding. Why would anyone want to be Superman’s big fat dead father?
After a few more minutes, Marlon excused himself. “I’ve really got to go mingle or I’ll never hear the end of it from my publicist. But if you stick around, we can wrap up the questions in about an hour or so.”
“Sure,” Lottie said.
Lottie mingled, chatting with frantic publicists who tried to pitch their B- and C-list clients to her. She let the flacks gab away even though their clients had no chance of getting in the magazine—unless they killed, were murdered, were dying of a horrible disease, or got arrested for shoplifting. It was difficult to concentrate on the conversation. There were too many actors milling about, distracting her. She couldn’t help but turn her head or shift her eyes. The publicists kept droning on, though, probably accustomed to limited attention spans.
“So this Lem Brac calls me every day,” said a publicist in a chocolate brown suit. He desperately wants to write a story on Chris Mercer. But Chris isn’t doing any publicity right now. He’s focusing on his work. I keep telling him over and over, but still, every day, around 2, he calls. It’s completely annoying. He sounds like he’s toasted, if you want to know the truth. I’m just telling you this because someone like that completely destroys the magazine’s credibility.”
“Oh, he’s like the most pathetic man on earth,” Lottie gushed. “He literally does nothing there but go on long lunches.”
Lottie remembered that when she first started, Lem, a fossilized British reporter who’d been at the magazine since it began, took her to lunch. He gave her this whole they’re-not-your-friends spiel. He laid it on extra thick with a sappy story about some has-been actress from some dumb TV show who he fell in love with.
“Do your job, Miss Love. But remember they’re not your friends. Never will be.”
‘Well, I wish he would stop calling. It’s like get a hint. Chris Mercer is becoming the biggest star out there,” she smiled and handed Lottie a business card. “I’m Cyndi Bowman, CEO of Bowman Publicity.”
Lottie pulled out a Lottie Love, Chief Party Correspondent card from her Hello! Kitty wallet. “I would absolutely love to do a story on Chris. If there’s any way, it would be so great.”
The publicist, a woman about Lottie’s age, scooped the card out of her hand. “I’m afraid he doesn’t feel Personality’s the right venue for him. He says it’s too mainstream and too intrusive. Your magazine loves to take pictures of celebrities playing with their dog in their living room, but my clients want their privacy. They don’t want their home splashed across a magazine for all the crazies in the world to see. You have no idea how insane the world is. Personality just doesn’t appreciate a celebrity’s right to privacy. But I have some other really, really great clients, real up and comers, who would love to be in Personality. I represent Scott Riatta who plays bad boy Duke Dodge on the G.H. He’s very involved in charities and is a real charmer.”
As the publicist babbled on about her the dregs of her clientele, Marlon reappeared.
“It was nice to meet you, Lottie,” the publicist said, planting a kiss in the air by Lottie’s cheek. “Please, say hi to Vince Reggio for me. Is he still married?”
Lottie followed Marlon into an empty room with a sofa and two chairs. Lottie sat at the sofa, and Marlon pulled up a chair and sat across from her, his lanky body spilling off the seat. Without even a question to prompt him, Marlon began speaking.
“My motivation for Blind Love and Other Handicaps was that I was just coming back from a relationship gone bad. I thought this was my great love, but I guess she didn’t feel the same way. Anyway, it helped put me in the place where I wanted to be for the role of Jake Blaze, a guy who won’t commit to anyone because of some secret from his past. It was easy for me to find my comfort zone, per se, because I was in pain at the time. I honed my craft in Blind Love. Of course, it helps when you have a fantastic director and a great cast. And Gregory Perry is an incredible writer.”
Lottie rested her elbow on her lapand nestled her chin in her palm as she stared into Marlon’s deep blue eyes. Were those flecks of gold and orange?
“Are you dating anyone right now?”
“Nope. I’m completely single.”
The next day, Lottie rewound the recorder to see where the interview ended and the seduction began. She realized it never had. Marlon had mesmerized both of them through talk of himself. In the middle of a monologue on preparing for his role as the misunderstood Jake Blaze, he invited Lottie to the Hotel Bel Air, where he was staying to promote his movie. He said he would love to have a drink or two and continue the interview in a more private place.
And Lottie agreed. Without even a thought, she said, “okay. That sounds great.” She convinced herself that there was no innuendo in either of their voices. She went with Marlon for the sake of the story. For the sake of Personality magazine.
Lottie’s red convertible Cabrio (license plate: LOTALUV) trailed Marlon’s black Cadillac Escalade. Her heart pounded; her head swirled as she thought about the craziness of it all. Marlon Lang! He was almost as cool as Joaquin Phoenix.
Just in case, she checked her black silk Kate Spade purse (she had found it tossed in a Personality closet after a photo shoot)for her diaphragm. Armed with her recorder and birth control, Lottie breathlessly exited her car and headed for Marlon. When she entered the lobby he was signing autographs for a few tourists.
Inside the suite, which was decorated with posters of Marlon from Blind Love (for the press interviews, Marlon said, dismissively rolling his eyes), Marlon uncorked a bottle of Cristal and poured two glasses that fizzed and overflowed onto the floor. Lottie tried to capture as much of the carbonation with her tongue as it slid down the long stemmed glass. She licked the glass while watching Marlon watch her.
“Cheers. To blind love--and lust with perfect vision,” Marlon toasted as he lifted the glass high, weaving it through the air until it landed at his mouth.
“Cheers,” Lottie said.
While Marlon checked messages off the phone, Lottie took out her recorder and held it awkwardly in her hand. Then, after a few exaggerated sighs, Marlon plopped down next to her on the sofa, their shoulders touching lightly.
“It’s insane--all the offers that are coming in.”
As he spoke, Marlon rested his hand on Lottie’s knee. “There just isn’t any good writing in Hollywood and I only work with substance. If the writing doesn’t speak to me, then don’t waste my time.”
“I couldn’t understand more.”
Marlon’s hand abandoned Lottie’s knee and climbed up her leg slowly but confidently. Lottie felt the weight of his hot palm as it rubbed the top of her leg and traveled to her inner thigh. Her heart palpitated. The recorder fell out of her sticky hands and landed between her legs.
Listening to the replay, Lottie suddenly realized that she never uttered a word, even when Marlon’s hand moved from her thigh further up her short lace dress. “It’s so great to be with someone I can talk to, who understands me in a way most don’t,” Marlon whispered. “I feel like you want to know the real me, not the famous me. That hasn’t happened in a long, long time.”
Marlon kissed her on the lips, hard and without hesitation, while one hand quickly--and dexterously--unbuttoned her tight beige cashmere sweater as if there was no possibility that she would reject his advances. Later, when Lottie became more experienced with celebrity, she realized that this was what turned her on the most--they didn’t fumble with buttons or clasps. They never wavered.
As Marlon moved and pushed and thrust, Lottie closed her eyes tight and imagined Marlon larger than life on screen. I am with Marlon Lang. Marlon Lang! Over and over the words whirled in her head. Marlon Lang is huffing and puffing over me! The celluloid God. The teen heart throb. Tiger Beat Cover Boy. The misunderstood Jake Blaze! Lottie opened her eyes and stared into the poster above her. His perfectly chiseled face, his full pouty red lips, his ripped torso. Then she looked into his intense blue eyes--and she knew that most of the world--male or female--would kill to be in her place right now. That thought alone induced hot spasms and she shuddered and sighed.
“Tell me I’m the best. Tell me I’m the best. Say it. Say it,” Marlon moaned out. She realized his eyes were fixed above her head, to the publicity poster of himself, shirtless and buffed and pouting.
“You’re number one. Number one! Oh God, you’re number one.”
Marlon Lang is Jake Blaze. Coming to a Theater Near You.
As she listened to the interview, she was surprised at how quickly it ended. In her mind, they had screwed for hours and hours, but the tape denied her this illusion. It was over in seconds.
“My God, he’s like a high school virgin,” her eavesdropping roommate had exclaimed.
But those seconds inexorably changed Lottie Love’s life.
The electrifying feeling was incredible. Addicting. Lottie couldn’t imagine herself being with anyone but a celebrity. Call her a starfucker. She didn’t care. In a few months, she had walked from the bathroom to the ballroom to the bedroom.
She would never take the service entrance.