The elevator was too small for the big personalities stuck inside of it. I had just left a fancy cocktail party at the home of a very famous wedding dress designer and at first I was delighted to find myself trapped in the elevator with two of my very favorite television stars.
That was until they turned on me. We were stuck and tensions ran high. It was one of those small elevators, cramped as hell and someone hadn’t put on enough deodorant that morning.
Looking back on this night ten years later, I tell myself they were just hungry. They probably hadn’t had bread or sugar in more than a decade.
“You’re that gossip columnist,” one carped when it became clear that we would be waiting in the small space together for some time and everyone should settle in and get comfortable.
[pullquote]I can tell you without a twinge of doubt, guilt or shame that most celebrities deserve the intense scrutiny that the celebrity press puts on their lives.[/pullquote]
I shrugged. “It’s not really my column, but I write for it,” I said about my job as an assistant at the New York Daily News’ Rush & Molloy gossip column.
“How do you live with yourself?” The other one spat at me, wrapping her cropped fur jacket more tightly around her tiny frame. “It’s a disgusting job!”
I shrugged again. I was a 24-year-old kid. What the hell was I going to say to these famous and angry women?
I wanted to cry.
Today, a decade later, I don’t have any regrets. After putting in the time in the trenches of celebrity journalism, I can tell you without a twinge of doubt, guilt or shame that most celebrities deserve the intense scrutiny that the celebrity press puts on their lives.
Of course, there are moments anyone would cringe at.
Does the media need to harass a famous human at a funeral or chase them when they are carrying small children?
But I can promise you from my experience in the so-called “gossip” industry that the majority of celebrities today are begging for the coverage they receive. My phone rang off the hook with celebrity publicists giving me exclusives about things as deeply personal as suicide attempts, miscarriages and eating disorders, particularly when one of these famous humans had something to promote — a movie, a book, a perfume line.
These calls didn’t just come from the caste of reality stars; they also came from the créme de la créme of the celebrity world, the A-listers and the Academy Award winners.
I had a drunken rock star screaming and crying into the phone once that someone had stolen all of her money. An Academy Award winning actor put his hand down the front of my pants. Two celebrities have offered me cocaine, marijuana. Others have said things to me about their so-called “friends” in the industry that would make your toes curl. I’ve seen two “straight” male celebs making out with dudes and too many reality television stars to count have flashed their boobs in my presence.
I know one supermodel who has a separate “burner” phone just to call in stories to the gossip “rags.”
All celebrities are well-schooled in how to capitalize on their personal lives to maintain an audience engagement with their brand. That capitalization includes manufacturing relationships with other celebrities, having perfectly-timed babies and sometimes even heading to rehab or coming out of the closet.
The majority of celebrity activity is a very carefully executed business plan managed by a team of marketing and branding experts. They determine who you date, who you marry, how you reproduce and when.
So where does gossip come in? Management teams use gossip magazines and columns to promote their stars. I’m not saying that’s wrong. It isn’t. In fact it is bloody brilliant. I am saying that it is a reason I’ve never felt guilty.
Some famous people are a delight. They’re hard working and smart and so talented that you want to hate them but you can’t because they are humble and wonderful people. And then some are just assholes.
I wish I could have said that to the women twice my age berating me in an elevator. Instead I prayed that the doors would open and eventually they did. The two stars zipped off in separate town cars down Central Park West and I wrapped my threadbare J. Crew pea coat around my frame to catch the subway.
This piece was originally published on January 27, 2015.