[Paleopsych] NY MetRo: Celebrity Psychos: The Summer They All Went Mad
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Tue Jul 26 00:32:54 UTC 2005
Celebrity Psychos: The Summer They All Went Mad
[Click on the URL to get lots of photos of these celebrities]
Celebrity and Its Discontents: A Diagnosis
By Vanessa Grigoriadis
Our celebrities are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it
anymore. They're on a dangerous rampage, and no one is safe. Christian
Slater grabbed a woman's bottom outside an Upper East Side deli, and
Russell Crowe had a tantrum lengthy enough for him to rip a phone out
of the wall, take it down the elevator, and throw it into the face of
a clerk at the city's most exclusive hotel. Dave Chappelle beat a
quick path from his final Comedy Central tapings to South Africa,
explaining he needed to go visit a friend, and Brad Pitt dyed his hair
platinum (he got it done by Jen's hairdresser!), played public footsie
with Angelina Jolie, and paid the price with viral meningitis.
Courtney Love, the patron saint of celebrity craziness, has been quiet
lately, but getting larger. Who knows when she may erupt again. This
summer, all outbreaks are only sideshows to the concurrent breakdown
of Michael Jackson during his trial and the more recent mania of Tom
Cruise, two of the biggest and most mysterious stars in the world
unmasked as stark-raving lunatics. (The reeducation of Katie Holmes,
the Manchurian Fiancée, continues apace.) Attack or be attacked: The
other week, Leonardo DiCaprio was hanging out at a house party in the
Hollywood Hills when one of the female guests hit him in the face with
This is a country of big, of mega, and these are megastars having
megabreakdowns, and we are megainterested. Something is wrong with
Chris Tucker too--caught speeding at 109 miles per hour, he recently
led cops on a ten-mile chase, later explaining he was late for church.
It seems that celebrity egos have gotten out of control. It seems that
the celebrity system has gotten out of control. The $20 million
against 20 percent of the gross, the sponsorship money, the lava of
free stuff. The freedom, the immortality, the fact that you will never
be found guilty in a jury trial. Mariah Carey becomes a star at 18,
and she never has to think about the weather for her entire adult
It seems there are so many more images of celebrities these days that
there cannot help but be more out-of-control images, the curtain
blasted to bits by the surveillance hive-mind that extends from
paparazzi to stylist's assistant tipped out by Us Weekly to
neighboring Delano cabana guests. Then it seems the craziness might be
happening because the increase in watching is the very thing creating
the craziness. Then it seems that the beginning, middle, and end of
the celebrity life story is finding a way to get people to keep
watching and loving the star forever, so at a time when they are more
watched and more loved than at any other point in history, they should
not be going so crazy.
But they are.
The celebrity houses stretch along the Malibu shore, one after
another, like a string of diamonds. From these three- (Courteney Cox
Arquette) or four- (Julia Roberts) or five- (Ray Romano) bedroom
modernist boxes by Richard Meier's contemporaries, you can see the
world clearly. From these soaring windows, the water is fine. They are
built close to each other as in a city on their moss-covered stilts.
Ten million dollars does not even secure a backyard, but the Pacific
induces a state of Zen, and you even get a frisson of excitement that
only the barest sliver of land separates you, George Clooney, from
Halle Berry, or Mel Gibson from Britney and Kevin. Inside the glass
bubble, you feel all alone. The only comfort is the wide-open ocean.
But here, in the middle of the Pacific, is Frank Griffin, 55, British
co-owner of an L.A.-based photo agency, separated father of an
8-year-old son, and not one of the worst kinds of stalkerazzi but not
one of the best either. He stands on the bow of the Full Moon, the new
41-foot Cranchi boat he purchased with his spoils from the first Tom
and Katie shot in Rome, the first Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony
shot, one of the first Britney Spears bumps that later turned out to
be not a bump, or, in a gruesome side effect of newfangled tabloid
reportage, the first photo of a bump that might have been a bump that
didn't last. Britney hates the paparazzi, especially now that she's
huge, like huge huge: "On a Britney car chase," says a shooter for
another agency, Splash, "you're thirteenth in a line of cars following
this racing madwoman: There's nothing to do but close your eyes and
hang on. It's so dangerous! It's my favorite part of the job."
Today, Griffin is chill; he's mostly out here showing off his new boat
to two of his young charges, Danny Young and Mustafa Khalili,
28-year-old Brits whose nationality is clear despite their American
uniform of khaki shorts, baseball caps, and slim Pumas in primary
colors. Khalili returned from the beaches of Waikiki yesterday on the
trail of Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, two big stars who may
hate the paparazzi even more than Britney, but he came back
empty-handed, no cove giving up secrets, no hotel valet with a price
on information, and later Griffin is going to give him hell. First,
though, they're going to check out Brad Pitt's house.
The sea gets rougher as the boat turns upwind, houses streaming by
faster now, the one with the dark wood (Stephen Dorff's) and the
apricot one with green trimming (Leo's mom's) and finally the one
Jennifer Aniston leases for upwards of $25,000 a month, which has all
the blinds closed--no photo today of the bikini-clad America's
Sweetheart reading a script on a chaise longue, that ubiquitous
tabloid shot that tends to be followed by a caption about how she's
recovering from a Shiatsu massage (Aniston, all tabloid readers know,
gets massages daily). Griffin knows Aniston--his man in Chicago got
her walking on Lake Michigan yesterday with her hairstylist, Chris
McMillan. "He's trying to get Brad and Jen back together, but it's not
going to work," declares Griffin, who has a lot of strong opinions on
such topics. "When it came to Angelina, Jen couldn't forgive that;
perhaps if they'd had children, he would've been more discreet. It was
Angelina's choice to out the relationship, though, with the
photographs from Kenya." He bangs his hand on the thin tan wheel.
"Brad flew to Mombasa on a private plane! The information came from
A few whitecaps swirl around a buoy commandeered by happy seals. "That
looks fun," says Young. "Until a shark comes along, and then--" He
brings his hands together in a loud clap.
The boat pulls near Brad's. Built into a cliff, the house has a long
series of windows shaped like an eye, staring right at us. Griffin
stares back and raises his binoculars. "Come on, Brad," he implores.
"Give it up."
At the most basic level, it's people like Griffin, with an army of
furtive men with digital cameras, who are driving celebrities crazy.
They are the snakes in the celebrity garden, lurking and leering,
spoiling paradise. Or maybe they're more like Jagerettes, handing out
shots and getting everyone drunk on the celebrity-industrial complex,
a shape-shifting behemoth that compensates for fewer ticket sales by
producing more personality-driven lip glosses. The tabloid business is
growing as the entertainment business is shrinking; perhaps eventually
the former will overtake the latter, and stars will still be playing
The relationship between stars and paparazzi has certainly turned into
bounty hunting, but it's not entirely clear that physical safety is
the only reason stars have lobbied for the LAPD to begin an
investigation into the paparazzi, given symbolic heft by the recent
car accident between Lindsay Lohan and a "pap" on a trendy
Nolita-esque corner of West Hollywood. Celebrities don't want to
ignore the paparazzi anymore--the stories they fuel have gotten so big
they're ending up on the CNN ticker. So life takes place behind
half-drawn blinds. They should have known better when they moved in,
or perhaps they've only just started to mind that Malibu, with a Nobu
in the quaint mini-mall, has in the past few years become Star
Country, and thus a leading spot for paparazzi, stalkers, starfuckers,
fans, and all manner of untoward elements who seek to suck the energy
right out of the star and leave no excess warmth of heart for him to
bestow on the charity of his choosing.
And Griffin is taking more than their pictures. Gossip, particularly
of the unsourced British variety, is the leader in celebrity
irritants, as discerned in a study of celebrity stressors by Charles
Figley, a professor at Florida State University. The gossip keeps
pouring in as we simultaneously honor and revile our celebrities in a
more intimate manner than ever before; today is only another day in
the inexorable progress of a full Britification of our celebrity
press. What's important now is less the dissonance between actor and
onscreen roles and more the difference between the image the celebrity
is selling and the way he "really" is. Most of the paparazzi you come
across in L.A. are Brits, relentless greyhounds of war with an
attitude. "Americans can't do this job--they don't want to make $2,000
a day legally," sneers Griffin.
The camera doesn't lie, you were in this place at that time, Jennifer
Garner is clearly many months pregnant and having a shotgun wedding to
Ben Affleck at Parrot Cay, but then there's the backstory too. (Are
you really happy? Do you hate that Ben smokes? Are you secretly
terrified of J.Lo?) Paparazzi, more than ever, are the sources on text
accompanying photographs. Exaggeration is what tabloids traffic in,
and photographers can be happy to oblige--they often submit text to
editors along with their photos, text that can be phoned in from a
place called Imagination.
If not paparazzi, there's always someone else to sell you out. Even
your own publicist. "Some publicists are part of the problem," says
Ken Sunshine of Sunshine Consultants. "To get attention for their
unknowns, people sell out their A-list clients, who are too dumb and
too naïve to realize this is being done to them. The income stream is
a volume business."
Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have both claimed to have
excommunicated friends whom they set up with false information that
later appeared in print. (No word if each was the other's friend.)
Finally, as any reader of the supermarket tabloids can tell you, truth
and falsehood are beside the point. There's a phantom being, a
doppelgänger, out there with your name on it, and you can't control
the way it's behaving. Once you have been cast in a story line, there
is no way out. It's been a year since the tabs first wondered if Nick
Lachey and Jessica Simpson were going to break up, and the cover of
last week's Star magazine still asks, nick & jessica: over by xmas? It
is now necessary for Jennifer Aniston to bounce back from her divorce
and engage in a deep friendship with Vince Vaughn, her co-star in a
new movie called, of course, The Breakup. Inevitably, in the next news
cycle, Jen collapses on the way to dinner with friends because the
divorce process is "taking an unmistakable toll."
In the final indignity, the same photo of Aniston walking her dog may
be used one week to show her independence--she's enjoying things for
herself!--and the next week to demonstrate her unhappiness ("She tried
to relax by taking her dog, Norman, on a long walk").
Of course, this is only the stuff that gets printed. Any bit of
information posted on a blog flies across the Internet and sticks. The
gaze is intense and permanent. "My clients are concerned about speed,"
says Leslee Dart of the Dart Group. "You print a false rumor, and
within an hour, it's disseminated worldwide. The ability to set the
record straight has become impossible." The expanding world market
needs to be fed: When I was with Griffin, he got a call from his
distributor about a new account in Croatia. "There you go," he crowed.
"A few years ago, they're slaughtering each other, and now they're
buying pictures of Britney Spears's crotch."
These days, we talk about celebrities like they're our friends--or
former friends. On a recent night at Koi, the trendiest sushi
restaurant in all L.A., Kato Kaelin, older, ruddy-cheeked, in a
fringed leather jacket, is the only celebrity inside.
A middle-aged woman in a yellow pantsuit comes out of the restaurant
and takes a picture of the paparazzi with her cameraphone. A tall
couple in slightly too dressy evening attire slither toward the valet.
"Who did we miss in there?" they ask each other.
"Angelina and Brad," jokes the woman. "He's got her on the table. He's
like, `I love sushi!' "
"Sa-shimi!" says the man.
It's so hard to be a star--and no one cares. Stars are not just like
us. According to researchers, celebrities are four times as likely to
commit suicide as noncelebrities and live, on average, thirteen years
less than Joe and Jane Sixpack. Celebrities may receive substandard
treatment at hospitals, victims of deferred medical tests or
competition between surgeons for the honor of operating on a
celebrity. Celebrities may experience more insomnia, migraines, and
irritable-bowel syndrome. Celebrities are twice as likely to develop a
serious alcohol problem.
And who's to blame for this tale of famous woe? Well, Mommie Dearest,
of course. "In every autobiography of a famous person, you find that a
parent has either died, been punishing, or been terribly neglecting,"
says Sue Erikson Bloland, a psychoanalyst in private practice and
daughter of ego psychologist Erik Erikson, whose childhood followed a
similar pattern. This void is then filled by a mentoring figure, a
grandparent or teacher or even the other parent, who makes a
narcissistic investment in the star. The child grabs the chance at
love, but it's a trap. Jessica Simpson's lifetime of encouragement
from her father, the one who pushed her to sing and also made her
promise to remain a virgin (his virgin) until she married, is all
about reducing her to his puppet (a pretty puppet).
Not content to leave the study of celebrities to tabloid body-language
experts, the psychological community is coming to terms with celebrity
psychopathology. The modern medical term--the famous term, the
celebrity term, the superstar of psychological monikers--is acquired
situational narcissism (coined by a doctor who may know whereof he
speaks, since he refused an interview because he didn't appear in the
"Best Doctors" issue of this magazine).
Are the crazy drawn to Fame, or does Fame make them crazy? ASN claims
the latter. To a celebrity, narcissism is a rational response to a
world that functions as a mirror, amplifying one's positive
self-image, the sense that one is in the absolute center. It arrives
later than classical narcissism--which sets in between the ages of 3
and 5, once a realistic view of the world begins to develop--but the
disorders are indistinguishable, with patients exhibiting the same
grandiose fantasies, excessive need for approval, lack of empathy,
anger, and depression (how fabulous). Fearful of exposing the real
them, narcissists project a glorified self that becomes so ingrained
it becomes impossible to tell what's real and what's made up. This is
the self they start talking about in the third person. Everyone must
love this self or it risks dissolution. There must be Omnipresent
Love. Speech becomes impressionistic and lacking in detail--a symptom
celebrity profilers well recognize.
Celebrity, as John Updike wrote, is the mask that eats into the face.
A study has shown that pop stars use personal pronouns in their
songwriting three times more once they become famous; another study
claims that the more famous one gets, the more one checks oneself in
the mirror, and the more one's self-concept becomes self-conscious.
It's a problem, to be both self-involved and self-conscious.
A Tinseltown version of post-traumatic stress disorder develops.
Danger is around every corner. "The same thing happens to celebrities
that happens because of war, because you're in the middle of disaster,
terrorism," says psychologist Robert Butterworth. Last month,
Catherine Zeta-Jones's stalker was sent to prison after claiming she
was going to blow Zeta-Jones's brains out like JFK or slice her up
like Manson did to Sharon Tate unless she stopped having an affair
with George Clooney, which she wasn't.
Trapped in their bubble, celebrities experience arrested development.
The celebrity becomes an adolescent, a developmental stage that is
non-age-specific. The time is the time before the blows to self-esteem
that lead to a mature, realistic view of one's weaknesses and
strengths and a capacity for love that transcends self-love (Paris
But once again, the world impedes. Someone, a fired masseuse or
peevish younger sister, tells the celebrity that he is full of it, or
he loses out on the new Steven Soderbergh movie. Impostor syndrome
sets in, with its attendant sense of fraudulence. The star begins to
notice he has a limited skill set based upon a fortunate genetic hand
dealt him. Emotionally intuitive creatures, they realize they're
surrounded by people smarter than they are--even their agents!--and
that makes them insecure.
Wary of the gap between the false and true self, the star
overcompensates by developing a God complex. Important people request
the star's largesse, as the many supplicating letters in Marlon
Brando's recent estate auction demonstrate, even one from Martin
Luther King Jr. ("I have been subject to great personal strife and am
obliged to go to Court Thursday," Brando telegrams back. "I feel
honored that you asked for what assistance I could give. I cannot at
this time be of assistance.") The star may be told, like Madonna has
been by the rabbis of Kabbalah, that she is the reincarnation of Queen
Esther. The star may be the tool by which the message of a body like
Scientology is meant to be disseminated across all lands.
The overall multiaxial assessment: Completely Out of Their Mind
Personality Disorder With Multiple Insane Features, or, more
succinctly, Beyond Diagnosis.
So who would want to be a star under these conditions? Listen to a
star in the making: Ariel Gade, 8, at the premiere of mainstream
horror flick Dark Water, when asked if she likes fame. "I love it,"
she says, her voice quavering with excitement. "I'm just having such a
good time tonight!" Does she want to be famous? "I'd like to be a
director. I think directors are the coolest people around." When I ask
her if things were still the same with her friends, first she says
yes, but then reconsiders: "Well," she says, scrunching up her
exquisite face, "actually, I'm home-schooled, so I don't have any
friends. But I do have cousins." She starts to walk away but stops
short. "Oh, and by the way, this is a Bill Blass design," she says,
holding out her pink tulle dress. "Bill Blass brought it over a few
days ago, I don't remember exactly when. Bill Blass gave it to me as a
little gift." (Which would have been nice, except Bill Blass is dead.)
Paradise is hanging out at the most private--but not too
private--places around, like the exquisite Château Marmont garden,
which mortals are discouraged from entering after nightfall, or
Bungalow 8, the subway-car-size Chelsea bar with no VIP room that
makes stars feel "normal" because each banquette features stars like a
Mary-Kate Olsen or a Jay-Z, so that everywhere you look there is a
reminder that you are in the right place, you have not made a mistake,
you are as special as they say. Homage will be paid from celebrity to
celebrity: "I went up to Angelina Jolie at an awards thing, and I
just, I couldn't help it, I started bawling," says Anne Hathaway, star
of The Princess Diaries, at lunch at the Central Park Boathouse on a
recent Wednesday. "She's been my favorite actress since I was 16. We
watched each other in the eyes, and I could tell she had a beautiful
soul. I guess she thought the same thing about me, because she asked
me to go to Cambodia in association with her project. She said the
sweetest thing: `Whenever I'm in a hotel room, I love watching your
films, because even if it's three in the morning, it makes me so
No one has ever been safe in the House of Fame, though. Leo Braudy's
definitive study of fame, The Frenzy of Renown, traces the earliest
mention of this house to Ovid's Metamorphoses, where it rests on a
mountaintop at the meeting point of land, sky, and sea. In Chaucer's
fourteenth-century poem "The House of Fame," the house has become a
castle with as many windows as snowflakes, packed with sorceresses and
jugglers, magicians and wizards, celebrated singers like Orpheus and
humble minstrels with bagpipes. A half-foot of solid gold covers the
ceiling, walls, and floor of the great hall, where Fame herself
presides from a throne made of ruby, her head extending to heaven and
her body covered with as many "tongues as on bestes heres." Her
herald, Eolus, the god of wind, holds a trumpet of Praise and a
trumpet of Slander, blowing from them as Fame pleases.
Tom Cruise, in all his lunatic effusiveness and paranoid
defensiveness, is the definitive celebrity of this age. He's the boy
in the bubble. He's said not to read his press, and has requested
photo approval on shoots since his Risky Business days. One could not
act as Cruise has if one understood how one's actions were being
interpreted. One could not pop the question to Katie Holmes at a
candlelit dinner at the Eiffel Tower and announce the news at a press
conference less than eight hours later, nor claim that methadone was
originally called adolophine because "it was named after Adolf
Hitler," nor tell Matt Lauer, "There is no such thing as a chemical
imbalance . . . Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt--you're glib." (A talk-show
host, glib?) One could not be so forceful about such things unless one
was Tom Cruise. "The exterior is only one covering," he has said,
equally forcefully. "I do not have a fear of life or death."
In the bubble, the Cruise makes his own rules, as was evident at the
New York War of the Worlds premiere last month. Even though Hollywood
protocol dictates Major Star arrival only once all other beings have
been stuffed in the theater, Cruise arrived two hours early. He wanted
to press flesh, fans, reporters, curious bystanders, but particularly
his new fiancée, whom he devoured with kisses. CAN I STEAL A KISS FROM
TOM? read a placard held up by a fan.
Katie shook her head. Katie does not speak.
The hundred or so fans who got there early wore War of the Worlds
T-shirts, and Cruise ran over to them, grabbing cell phones to say
hello to mothers before he headed to the press line, where frantic
arms stretched tape recorders over barricades. "We're from British
TV," said one reporter. "I love Brits!" shrieked Cruise.
"We're from Australian TV," said the next reporter.
"I love the Aussies!" he yelled.
The reporter from People magazine was shaking: "I have no idea what's
on this tape," she whispered. "It was like we went into a trance and
got all giggly and girly. Tom touched my arm--he gripped it."
Other guests started to arrive, like Hulk Hogan: "I think AFTRA should
elect me as the commissioner of Demolition Paparazzi with a kind of
above-the-law license, and let me handle each of them on an individual
basis," he said, twitching.
Steven Spielberg strode in--this is his movie, Tom is his guy, and no
one's messing with either of them. "The media has to make a lot of
money the way that movies have to make a lot of money," he said. "I'm
very grown-up about this. They need to get out of a media slump the
same way everyone's like, `What's going to get Hollywood out of their
movie slump in '04 and '05?' So when I see the media exploiting a
couple, I know that's another industry trying to make a lot of money
off of the celebrity of these people. Then they get weeks of a good
episodic series called the Tom and Katie series, the Ben and Jennifer
series, the Brad and Angelina series." He glowered. "The media and the
movie industry don't always agree with each other, but they're both
out to entertain," he said. "People should not be fooled."
Howard Stern and girlfriend Beth Ostrovsky greeted Tom and Katie, then
sashayed down the red carpet. "I can't believe the girl is 26 years
old and still a virgin, but I do believe her," said Stern. "On my
show, I'd ask, `What does that mean, "to hold out"? Everything but?
What exactly?' "
"Honey!" said Ostrovsky. "She was very nice to you about two minutes
"Am I being mean?" asked Stern. "I'm just curious. What if they get in
bed and--who knows?--he doesn't like her backside. There could be all
kinds of problems. Then there's the whole religion thing. Oh, I don't
know where to end. There's all kinds of weird stuff going on there,
jumping up and down on the couch on Oprah. I'm excited when I'm with a
woman, but I don't jump up and down on a couch--"
The Cruise did not hear any of this. He glided right past it. He was
involved, steady, focused, making his way toward the theater as he
took on questions about when he will get married, or if he feels
competitive with Holmes--"I don't have rivalries," he said,
"especially not with my love"--and how it feels to have Katie near him
("It's very exciting"). Will he do Broadway? "If I can find the right
thing," he said. "I don't know of any piece of theater I'd like to be
doing, but I like dancing. I like dancing."
Now Cruise was at the door. He turned around one more time, looking
back over all he saw, all these hundreds of people swarming toward him
in midtown Manhattan, the whole world watching, everyone interested
expressly in the Cruise. From inside the bubble, he waved, like the
good witch in The Wizard of Oz.
Of course, there's another Tom Cruise--a couple of them, actually. The
good Tom Cruise has some questionable twins. There's the one who goes
home and does God knows what with God knows whom--the real Tom Cruise.
Then there's the one who haunts certain blogs and numerous
conversations. Who among us would believe any of this preposterous
stuff, but there it is, wherever you look on the Internet. Did Tom
Cruise ask Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, and Kate Bosworth to be
his girlfriend before picking Holmes, who was in fact his fifth-choice
girlfriend? Ridiculous. Did he promise Holmes a five-year contract,
worth $10 million with no conjugal duties, to play his wife? Who makes
this stuff up? Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 has even gone on record
denying that Cruise was caught in Thomas's bed by Thomas's wife. ("If
I was gay, Tom Cruise wouldn't be on the top of my list," he said. "It
would be Brad Pitt.") Word-of-mouth stories are even less believable,
more like Eyes Wide Shut than anything that would happen to a megastar
in the prime of his career. I bumped into a friend in the West Village
last week who told me the most outlandish story of all: One time on
Universal president Ron Meyer's boat, Cruise put a mask on, the same
mask from Mission: Impossible, and wouldn't take it off. They docked
and went to a nightclub. Cruise went to the bathroom. He met a guy.
The guy wasn't interested. He ripped off the mask and declared, "But
I'm Tom Cruise!" The only response to this kind of lunacy is "And I'm
Marie Antoinette!" Cruise is a figure of fantasy, stalking our dream
lives, as surely as the paparazzi stalk him.
Except that many of us don't believe it's our dream life. Everybody
thinks that they know what celebrities really do. They do it with
gerbils, and with women not their wives, and under the influence of
cocaine, and in bathrooms with people of the same sex. (Part of what's
so satisfying about Paris Hilton is that, before she turned into Ivana
Trump, every single atom of her being told you her real life was every
bit as lurid as any figment of the gossip imagination.) People tell
you things, and they have such a ring of truth to them: "I worked with
a male movie star who, when he became a male movie star of stature,
would actively work the casting couch--not only proclaim the size of
his penis, which was gargantuan, but willingly say servicing it was
part of the program," says a former agent. "Some women would run
screaming from the room. Some would stay and become part of the movie.
And I was his agent. I was his agent."
When one makes about $80 million a picture, like Cruise does, one can
pay for whatever handlers one wishes, and these handlers will become
your friends, family, and confidants. (Just make sure they don't have
cousins at In Touch!) L.A.'s population is exploding, and I'm not sure
that it's not because people today are compelled to relocate to places
where they could possibly work for, with, or near a celebrity. These
days, a life as Julia Roberts's assistant is not a lost life, but a
life blessed, transmogrified, made shiny by her presence. To be in the
entourage of such a star, either as landscaper, organic-food preparer,
or second assistant, is to be made whole.
The people who help make stars beautiful are the ones they're closest
to--they see the Real You before the fake one. Jennifer Aniston moved
in with her hairdresser when she and Brad split up. Therapists are
great, but they're hard to own--"You don't have time to treat more
than one celebrity at once, unless it's Woody Allen," says
psychologist Stuart Fischoff. "They say, `I want to make sure, Doc,
that I can call you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.' Well, no, you
can't. `No one sets limits on me!' "
The aura of a celebrity extends over everyone he or she works with.
"I've gotten thank-yous on albums, and that's really great," says
Stuart Kaplan, star cosmetic dermatologist, multiple triple-platinum
albums with plaques inscribed TO OUR DERMATOLOGIST hung throughout his
Beverly Hills office. There he is, still at the office at 9:30 P.M., a
lovable guy in blue Dickies, a Horace Mann graduate who misses New
York but can't give up the swell life. "I treated a kid whose father
was a director, and he said, `Somehow, somewhere, you'll have a
character named after you in a movie,' " he says. Then he catches
himself. "I am not a better doctor because I treat celebrities," he
says. "I am a better doctor because of my charitable work."
Spoken like a celebrity.
Nowadays in the celebrity nuthouse, the inmates are running the
asylum, only pretending that they're the ones under observation. Brad
Pitt owns the international rights to the lusty 60-page W magazine
spread that cast Angelina Jolie as his wife. Michael Douglas and
Catherine Zeta-Jones sold their wedding pictures for £1 million to
OK!, the smarmy British tabloid that will open a U.S. office this fall
and very likely broker more of such deals to the detriment of
shallower-pocketed American tabloids. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin
staged a paparazzi shot leaving her gynecologist after getting the
news that she was pregnant, her brother's girlfriend behind the
Of course, for a narcissist, privacy is a relative concept. Often,
it's just part of the performance. Private, when a celebrity uses the
word, means many things, perhaps "I'm classy" or "I don't go to
nightclubs" or "I'm shy," but what it rarely means is "I'm private"
and certainly not when a semi-naked photo shoot is involved. A few
months ago, good-girl actress Hilary Duff, 17, explained to me in an
interview that she couldn't possibly divulge that she was dating rock
singer Joel Madden--she was a private person, she said, and she had to
save something for herself, otherwise what does one have? This made
sense. Except a couple months later at the premiere of The Perfect
Man, Duff's new movie, there was Madden, covered in tattoos, his hair
arrayed in a black-dyed faux-hawk--Hilary's "Perfect Man," as the
entertainment-news programs put it. He mumbled something about Hilary
being a great girl.
Public image, after all, is the business stars are engaged in.
Nowadays, reality seems to be following fantasy, as stars become their
tabloid selves. Angelina Jolie, best known for Tomb Raider, is now an
A-list star. The affair with Brad Pitt has been a small price to pay.
Manipulations of the machine can have real-life consequence. The
May-December between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, which began when
both had projects to promote, has now produced a "bump."
No one is being fooled, and no one is in control. The circus has no
ringmaster. Yet everyone is getting some of what he wants. And isn't
that what psychiatrists say a relationship is all about?
Celebrities with an exhibitionism disorder tend to favor halter tops,
tattoos, even bare feet. Often (e.g., Paris Hilton, Rob Lowe) seen
more memorably in amateur films than in professional ones.
Example: Britney Spears
Celebrities with dissociative-behavior disorder tend to behave in
outlandish ways with no knowledge that others perceive their acts as
out of the ordinary. Most often seen in megastars with extensive
Example: Tom Cruise
Inappropriate Romantic Partners
Celebrities who take inappropriate romantic partners only occasionally
develop a sense of guilt and remorse, except (e.g., Hugh Grant) when a
mug shot is involved.
Examples: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,
Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn
Body dysmorphism often develops in celebrities due to excessive media
attention to secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, buttocks). The
subsequent weight loss can be accompanied by guilt when the media
focus on the celebrity's extreme thinness, and on the bad example
being set for the nation's children.
Examples: Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen
* Diagnostic Celebrity Manual
In recent years, as fees for photographs have escalated, paparazzi
have become more aggressive and predatory. Stars are beginning to
Example: Cameron Diaz
Limited Social Circles
Celebrities most often associate with other celebrities (indeed, this
is one of the classic indications of narcissism), which exerts a
distorting influence on their worldview and creates enormous
Examples: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon
The absence of adult responsibilities or any normative pressures often
leads to dissociative behavior (e.g., couch-jumping), outlandish
costumes (e.g., pajamas), and plain freakishness.
Example: Michael Jackson
The tabloids present a view of the celebrity world that is
authoritative, though often not factually accurate or even internally
Examples: Us Weekly, People
Gwyneth and Baby
As the celebrity system has evolved, celebrities more and more are
learning to control it. This mock paparazzi shot, of Gwyneth Paltrow
and Chris Martin happily leaving her gynecologist's office, was
actually taken by her brother's girlfriend and sold to the tabs.
Additional reporting by Jada Yuan.
More information about the paleopsych