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Manufacturing Celebrity

by Sarah Trachtenberg

part 3 of 4

After a couple of emails and phone calls, I scored a coveted writing assignment at Esquire on whether women are born to be gold-diggers. Well, that was how the editor phrased it; I would have described it as humans having evolved so that women seek out men with greater resources to be the fathers of their children since human offspring take so long to raise and mature and ergo require a lot of resources. Clearly, that wasn’t as zippy.

I also earned a spot on another talk show on that same topic. As Tasha put it, I was “on the talk show circuit.” Oprah, of course, was the holy grail of this charmed circle and Tasha said she was ultimately aiming for it.

I was dressed in an Italian silk suit in a masculine shade of pearl gray, at least that was how Clark described it, when I arrived at the theater on Saturday, showing my tickets proving that yes, I was allowed to go on the red carpet in front of the paparazzi.

Since I had arrived in my own Prius, not a limo, I felt a little out of place; why had neither Tasha nor I thought of that problem before? At any rate, I had to hang around quite a bit before Cara made her entrance. I hadn’t realized when I met her the last weekend that she was so petite. I guessed she’d been wearing higher heels at the party.

She was right to tell me what she’d be wearing since I wouldn’t have recognized her under her make-up. I knew that for a lot of celebrities, it was the same thing, and I didn’t know how the paparazzi recognized them in any state of appearance. She had looked much younger when she was wearing less make-up when we met and I immediately thought back to my Glamour article on the power of cosmetics. I wasn’t just being contrary when I thought that I preferred her with less on her face. I recognized her by the blue tulle outfit she’d told me she’d be wearing, a 1950’s retro dress with cat’s-eye sunglasses. I found out later that the dress cost $3,200, as much as my first car.

When she saw me, she smiled, and I offered her my arm as we strode into the theater. After the film, which, I admit, was the first romantic comedy I’d seen in a while, I complimented her fine performance and congratulated her, as did everyone else and the shower of paparazzi. When the press asked her who I was, she told them.

“No point in being coy,” she’d told me. “We have nothing to hide.”

When she offered me a ride home in her limo, I pointed out that I didn’t want to leave my own car at the theater, but offered to take her out to dinner later in the week. I didn’t mention anything about whether to have a child or adopt one or what to name him or her. That could wait for our second date.

“Marty, your photo with Cara is in at least two magazines,” cooed Tasha. I asked if one was Soap Opera Digest. It was. Due to other media exposure, I was starting to get recognized, although thankfully not so much that I’d need an entourage to protect my perimeter.

“And the websites. You were great on Rita. You should see the audience response; it was the best topic in two weeks. I’m starting to get a lot of calls about you. I’m booking you on another talk show.”

I asked if I could get other articles like the one in Esquire. That was fun to write, the money was great, and it catapulted me into an appearance on Anna Marie, a talk show Tasha just told me about. It might be a plus for those magazines that I wasn’t just a psychologist, but a psychologist who had been seen with a pretty young movie star on his arm. Take that, Dr. Phil.

In the meantime, Tasha said, there were other parties to do (she said “do,” not “go to” or even “attend” — what did these people consider fun, anyway?) and other things to decide about my image.

“What are your feelings on religion, Marty?” She asked, sipping her pomegranate smoothie.

“Uh, it can be a helpful thing.”

“I mean do you have one?”

“Jewish.” I added, “Sort of.”

“Kabbalah?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Erm, no.”

She recommended that I try it, even giving me the website of a fairly exclusive Kabbalah study group. “Not the same one Madonna goes to, but still...” Tasha said. “It could be a great way to make contacts, too. But let’s consider other stuff. There’s Scientology, Eastern religions...” I told her I wasn’t interested, especially not in Scientology. She offered Wicca. I told her I barely even knew what Wicca was, other than being about witchcraft. Tasha admitted she didn’t really know what it was, either, it was getting big.

“What else is getting big?” I asked.

“A few celebs are buzzing about Modern Quakerism. I think it’s like regular Quakerism, the pacifist angle, but you’re allowed to be noisy.”

“What about simplicity?”

“No one here would do that,” she chortled.

I told her I would attend a Kabbalah class, but didn’t want to publicly declare myself as a Kabbalist just yet.

“Just something to consider,” she asked. “Now what about charities?”

I’d actually thought about this before. In my “real life,” I’ve donated money to the ACLU, to AIDS groups in Africa, and I’ve volunteered — although, I admit, not as much as I probably should — with my local soup kitchen. I ran these by Tasha.

She shook her head. “Bono has a monopoly on AIDS these days. Besides, people just don’t feel threatened by it anymore. And the homeless — that’s just a total snore.”

“But AIDS is still a big problem in sub-Saharan Africa,” I pointed out.

“Do you want to stand in Bono’s shadow?” She asked. “If you’re concerned about sub-Saharan Africa, helping kids there is always good. Skip the AIDS angle. We’re looking at sponsoring things like clean water, hospitals, farm equipment — if we could arrange for you to sponsor a village and then visit it, that would be a great PR op. I can get you a full page in StarBlitz.”

Huh. That was something to consider.

“I thought I was supposed to adopt a kid from sub-Saharan Africa,” I said, half-jokingly.

“That’s further down the line, I’m sure. We need to get you a wife, first. Or at least a steady girlfriend.”

I filled her in on my date with Cara. Tasha looked as pleased as punch.

“Tell me how it went when you see me next week. And don’t be afraid of going a little too fast,” she said. “People expect that here.”

I hadn’t dated a whole lot since my divorce and, having no kids, didn’t need much contact with my ex-wife at all, so this was the first time I had a block of time with a woman in a social context in a while. I picked up Cara in my Prius when she was finished at the gym.

That reminded me that Clark had suggested that a physical trainer couldn’t hurt so that I could get toned. “Not that you’re fat, Marty,” he was quick to add, “but it’s all about having every edge you can get, isn’t it?” I had reminded him that my job didn’t require removal of clothing, the way it did for Britney, but he’d said, with a sage nod, “People will know.”

Cara, freshly showered and wearing an emerald-green sun dress, gave me a quick kiss on the lips. I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was. Do I kiss back? Erring on conservatism, I did, just barely tasting her lemon-grass lip balm.

After making a little small talk, I asked where she’d like to go for dinner.

She chuckled. “Depends — do you want to see and be seen?” I knew that Tasha would want me to, so I agreed. Cara directed me to “a new little place” not far away that served new French cuisine.

“Like nouvelle cuisine?” I asked.

“Sort of, but more authentic. Do you eat carbohydrates? Because they’re off the menu.”

The maître d’, whose job it was to know celebrities, recognized Cara right away and seated us by the window at a cozy table for two. There was a pot of fresh cyclamen on the table and the wait staff was all in black, like the invisible puppeteers in Japanese theater. I asked Cara to order for both of us.

“Anyone you know here?” I asked, sipping my Perrier.

“No one I’ve actually met,” she said, her eyes surreptitiously glancing around the room. For a moment it felt as if she was a mere mortal trying to stargaze. “Oh, that’s Brad Pitt over there,” she said matter-of-factly.

I looked. It was him. Without make-up, I realized that yes, he was in fact much older than me. No Angelina, though — maybe she was in Africa adopting another kid.

I’d given thought to what Tasha had told me about sponsoring an African village and I thought of how adoptive parents like Madonna could easily afford to sponsor at least one village, maybe lots, if they so wanted, rather than just adopting one child and giving him an opulent lifestyle. Maybe I would be the next trendsetter.

Cara told me about her next movie, another “romcom,” and how her agent didn’t want her to get typecast, so she wanted her to do a science fiction project or something different after that.

“I just hope I get a part that isn’t too speech-heavy,” she plucked a slice of starfruit off her salad. “I like to emphasize body language, you know?”

“Excuse me, Dr. Friedman,” someone said, “I like your work.”

I turned around. “Oh, thanks.”

“I saw you on Rita the other day,” she stuck out her hand and I shook it. “I told my husband about it. It was really informative. Let me ask you, though: is it true that female bonobos often have sex with younger male bonobos, and if so, does that mean that we should all imitate Cher?”

At her request, I posed for a photo on her cell phone.

“She was a well-behaved one,” Cara nodded in the woman’s direction after she left to her own table. “When people recognize me, they shriek, and they call me by my first name, or worse yet, call me Iolanthe.”

Iolanthe was Cara’s character on her soap. Based on what I’d heard, Iolanthe almost became a nun when she found religion after a coma from her half-brother’s trying to kill her in a car accident, but decided to go to college instead and study philosophy. “That’s unique to acting — people can’t separate you from your character.”

A few paparazzi were roosting outside the restaurant and took some photos of me and Cara arm-in-arm, but it was clear that they were waiting for Brad or one of the other big prizes. When dropping off Cara at her condo, she invited me up for Aquafina. I accepted that, a bit of kissing, and left her apartment a complete gentleman.

* * *

To be continued...

Copyright © 2009 by Sarah Trachtenberg

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