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Sampling the Celebrity Life

Postcard from New York, New York

I read Page Six religiously. Every night, usually around 2 a.m.—or later if I’m out doing “research”—I unfailingly navigate my web browser to the New York Post and click, link-by-link, through one of the nation’s most-read gossip columns.

But unlike some gossipmongers, my perusal has a half-purpose. While I cannot deny that I have a fascination with the glitterati, my summer internship requires an immersion in celebrity culture. Instead of sitting behind a desk crunching numbers or participating in relief work efforts, my internship with VITALS Magazine has me reading US Weekly and scouting out celebrities at nightclubs Marquee and Bungalow 8.

This summer, in addition to the numerous heat waves that hit New York, a celebrity craze has ensued like none other: TomKat, Brangelina, and Judanny. To the uninitiated, TomKat refers to the creepy and bubbly relationship between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brangelina to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Judanny to Jude Law and his nanny. You get the picture.

The unions or affairs of these aforementioned celebrities are not only gossip rag fodder, but are also powerful forces in the most credible of national media outlets. The New York Times has reported on Tom Cruise’s disturbing antics and his cultish devotion to Scientology on more than one occasion.

“All Ears for Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt,” a recent column by Nicholas D. Kristof ’81, who is also a Crimson editor, illustrated the disturbing lack of coverage of the crisis in Darfur as the American public is fixated on paparazzi photos of an emaciated Lindsay Lohan emerging from the Hollywood hotspot Mood.

The entertainment industry is no longer feature films and popular music. Instead it’s an extension of a conglomerate of industries stretching from advertising to technology to fashion. Nowadays, even without the success of the box office, celebrities can command a decisive presence in all facets of consumer culture. Welcome to the Paris Hilton.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sipping a watermelon martini at Bungalow 8 when it donned on me that Jessica Simpson, who was standing only feet away from me, was much more than her seemingly petite 5’1’’ frame. As she gyrated to Beyoncé (faux pas?) closely guarded by her security detail, my mind wandered to her recent GQ cover, her TV show (is this chicken or fish?), her numerous front-row sightings, and of course, her rocky marriage with former boyband star, Nick Lachey.

Instead of being a person able to walk into Bungalow and perhaps make a casual acquaintance or recognize a familiar face, Jessica walks in, downs her cocktails, and remains in her bubble. She makes sure to show off her Cavalli dress and perhaps say hello to fellow superstars Jake Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst. When she leaves, she is hurried into a deep tinted “inconspicuous” large SUV and driven back to her hotel where she takes the back entrance to avoid paparazzi staking out the front entrance.

Now, more than ever before, we commercialize our celebrities. We take cues on the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the words they say, and even how they manage their sex lives.

One of my last nights in New York, I went to Marquee to hear DJ AM (Nicole Ritchie’s fiancé) spin with a couple of friends. When we arrived, I talked the talk, received a comp admission, and the velvet rope parted. Once inside, I, like the other anonymous twenty-somethings, drank a Vodka Redbull and danced on the plush red banquettes.

And then I saw Lindsay Lohan. Immediately my friends and I rushed to the lower level to do a sweep and check her out. She was sitting in a banquette in front of DJ AM, gulping nondescript cocktails and looking bored. Her posse consisted of two older men, an overweight 30-year-old woman, and her bodyguard. I almost pitied her.

Here I was dancing and partying with no inhibitions, and she looked stoic, scared she might have a wardrobe malfunction caught on the cell phone camera of a fellow clubber. When I finally decided to go home for the evening, I thanked the bouncer and stepped into a cab.

Lohan may have a multimillion-dollar career, but at least I can shake a little tail feather without it ending up on Page Six.

Adam P. Schneider ’07, a Crimson associate magazine editor, is a government concentrator in Quincy House. For the rest of the summer, you can catch him scouring the star maps in his native Santa Monica and getting arrested for continuing to stalk Jake Gyllenhaal.

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