Tales out of School: Gossip

Sometimes one gets sad and foolish, loses control, and gossips about oneself.

Julia and I walked on the beach last weekend (or she and Scooby went on without me, after the marsh came up to swallow my Birkenstocks and socks—she was wearing big green boots. She baked a raspberry crumble from berries we bought from a WASPy farmer on the side of the road, and we at it all (it was only berries and oats and a little brown sugar). We watched Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor”—Faye Dunaway without the bells and whistles. On the drive home, we ate both chips and Pirate Booty (that’s Julia). The bottle of salsa went flying through the air on one curve, and splashed my jeans and the driver’s side speaker, and we both found this very, very funny.

Tales out of School: The New York Times

I like being naughty here in this blog, I gotta say, insofar as I can be naughty, considering my mother, daughter, old editors, potential employers, and maybe even that shithead who fired me with only two weeks’ severance are reading this. I mean, I have to keep the sex, drugs, and rock and roll…not exactly to a minimum, but—hi, honey!* So.

I actually wrote a pretty scathing post about a couple of not-so-courageous editors at that yucky rag Cosmo, but I took it down because Maudie said I had to keep the gossip, the nasty nicknames, and the stuff that would keep me from being hired to a minimum. But I thought I’d share this one story, because it’s tame and it has a tiny bit of news, sadly, that you can use. It’s only a little bit naughty. I’ll do better later, after I make sure that a big paw doesn’t come out and knock me off my stool at Doma because of this damn blog.

So, anyway, one time the New York Times hired me to write about this playwright who had done super well in regional theatres over the course of his career, but had never had a play produced in New York. Or maybe he’d had just a couple produced, but nothing significant. Anyway, finally it was going to happen—Broadway. Or maybe it was off Broadway—doesn’t matter.

So this editor from the Times** said she wanted me to write the piece around this premise: that the playwright (who I think needs to remain nameless) was having his big break. The trouble was, that he didn’t see it that way; turns out, he didn’t care about New York. I went back and told the editor that the premise didn’t really hold up without the playwright’s support—in fact, the premise should be that he didn’t care—and she said that that couldn’t be right: of course that damned yokel cared, and of course this should still be the premise of the piece. She said to go back to him. So I did—I called him again. And he said again that he couldn’t care less about New York or the editor’s premise.

The long and short of it is that the editor called him herself, got basically the same answer, but took my piece and manipulated it so that it supported her original premise. Nice, huh? All the news that’s fit to print plus the fantasies we like to add in there!

Oh, I still read the Times every day—or the website, at least, for some semblance of the truth. But for the real skinny I read Rick and George and Amy, all of whom are very clear about journalistic integrity.

*That’s a joke, Loo-loo. I know you love that shit.
**I think I have her name here in my email somewhere—hang on (scroll, scroll, scroll, no, search inbox, shit, search sent): oh, yeah—here it is!

Tales out of School: Drew Barrymore

One time I went to interview Drew Barrymore at a restaurant in West Hollywood, and she seemed kind of down. I’d written about her a bunch of times before, starting from when she was nineteen, and so I had a pretty good idea of how she moved through the world on an average day, and this was not it. Even when Drew’s serious, she likes to play. But on this night she was distracted and quiet. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me: She’d just found out that her boyfriend (who has to remain nameless) had been cheating on her; she’d found letters that went way back.

She spent the whole night telling me the story, and crying, and all of it was off the record. Which is intense, because I was on assignment, and this was supposed to be the only time I was seeing her. I can’t remember the magazine I was writing for*, but it was a big one and I hadn’t done my job. What’s worse, I couldn’t tell my editor that this had happened—what if she/he told me I had to write about it?

Drew understood that we had a problem, so she invited me to the photo shoot the next day at her house. This was the house in the hills that later burned down.** It didn’t have any furniture in it, except for in this one room that was like a den, with couches and books. So we spent a lot of the day sitting on the floor with other ladies there for work (the stylist, the make-up lady, etc.), all of whom looked like Cameron Diaz.

The phone rang at one point and Drew went upstairs to answer it. After a few minutes, you could hear her running down the bare hallway. It sounded like a stampede of kids chasing each other around with dogs. She came bounding into the room after a minute yelling, “A boy called me! A boy called me!” I don’t feel comfortable telling you who it was, except that he’s a super famous funny person who makes movies—one of these: Steve Martin, Buster Keaton, Billy Crystal, Jim Carey, Woody Allen, Red Buttons, Adam Sandler, Max von Sydow, Jerry Seinfeld. He’d asked her out on a date.

She was psyched. They were going to go to the movies. (How does that work?) Much of the rest of the day was discussing whether she should wear jeans or trousers to the date, or a skirt. That evolved into the question, Should a boy wear a jacket on such an occasion or not. I guess this was a date with a capital D. The Date didn’t go anywhere, apparently, but at least the thought of it restored her to her old self.

*That’s a lie.
**Remind me to tell you about the time I burned the house down.

Tales out of School: I Didn't Sleep With Michael Douglas, Either

Oh, my God—blogging! I just realized I could tell tales out of school: Yay!

I did not sleep with Russell Crowe, Julia, when I went to Australia to interview him back whenever that was—in the late 90s. I didn’t. I slept in my hotel room every night, despite the fact that I was afraid, as usual, of being raped by strange Australian men and gouged by camelions. O.K., he wanted me to smoke a joint with him the first night, I imagine so that he could have something on me—to level the playing field (he was just experimenting with pot, of course). So I did. (Sorry, Maud!) First, though, I made him promise to drive me back to my car which was, like, a million miles away on some road somewhere in Australia, and follow me home. I also made him promise that if I got paranoid, he’d take care of me. He promised. He had a quick temper (he is exacting, which I sympathize with) but he was a gentleman, and very fun.

I wrote that story for GQ—a cover story—and it was pretty good, as GQ stories go, and they never gave me another one after that. I always wondered if it was because they thought I was sleeping with Russ, and therefore shouldn’t have expensed the $250 a night hotel room. That was the sort of thing that drove Art Cooper, the editor in chief, crazy. Oh, well. He’s gone, the world has changed, and assistants are doing all the writing. (Ethics lesson #1: Young ladies, don’t sleep with your subjects, unless you’re planning on disclosing it in the story.)