Friday, July 4, 2008

Gossip, girl.

Like most people, I have a complicated relationship with gossip. I kind of love hearing juicy gossip, kind of hate being the subject of juicy gossip, and occasionally I’ll hear something so salacious and privacy-rending that it will actually make me feel like a bad person for hearing it. But I’ll turn right around and pry again.

Listen, I think it’s coded in our DNA. I’m working on this theory, see, that the current culture of celeb obsession is a trickle-down result from when the majority of the world’s religions went from pantheistic to monotheistic. I like to imagine that, back in the day, the ancient Greeks were kicking it at the Acropolis, swapping stories about the latest misadventures of the gods. “Hey, Akakios! Whatup, dawg? You’re not gonna believe what animal Zeus transformed himself into to rape a maiden this time!” When cultures started going monotheistic, attention shifted from the gods to the gods on earth: royalty. What was Henry VIII if not the Brad Pitt of his day? (Uh oh – watch your neck, Angelina.) And so it went for a long time. But 232 years ago today, we Americans said eff you to Britain, sparing us a lifetime of ginger-prince stalking. Which leaves us with what? Our own brand of royalty, of course – celebrities.

Which is fun, in its own way. I mean, it gives a lot of people a common point of reference in discussions. If I tell you that my friend Louella, who went through a lot of trouble ten years ago to get rid of Lou’s pesky penis and grow herself a nice set of tatas, has decided to go back to being Lou but is saddened to learn it’s easier to dig a ditch than build a mountain, well, your interest will probably be limited because you don’t actually know Lou/ella. (Sadly for you, this disinterest will not necessarily stop me from regaling you with stories about people you don’t know. It’s a miracle I have so many friends, really.) But for better or worse, almost all of us know what Brad and Angelina are up to, and we know (or think we know) enough about their lives to conjecture what they’re like enough to join in a conversation. Even if most of the “fun Brangelina facts” we all know are about as realistic as Zeus transforming himself into a golden shower of rapetastic rain.

But, being America, we sometimes take it too far. Having learned nothing from the tragedy of Princess Di, the paps, no longer happy to simply document a star’s own spiral of self-destruction, now seem determined to orchestrate a grisly death for Britney Spears. TMZ and Perez Hilton will get into a bidding war for the footage, naturally. And you know what? That doesn’t even skeeze me out as much as blind items. Sure, they have a tradition in celeb media. Ted Casablanca has been spewing lots of odd, thinly-veiled bon mots for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Even now, he’s still coming out with some weirdo stuff. But blind items, recently, have gotten broad and gotten weird. Gawker’s been running a lot by Crazy Days and Nights, which seems to have as much industry cred as, well, I do. “This recent-movie-starring A-list actor with C-list name recognition was recently discovered in the bathroom of The Ivy with a blowstache and a mongoose down his pants. No, that’s not a euphemism. The restaurant employee who discovered him helped the star sneak out the back door in exchange for said star helping the employee dispose of a dead hooker left behind by another celeb that I’ll halfheartedly out in a blind item tomorrow.” There. Blind item. Disseminate!

And it’s not just that vague blind items are potentially damaging to celeb reputation, although at a recent job interview, a tabloid mag forever won my respect when my interviewer told me they double-source all of their stories, and you know what, it shows – the magazine is one of the few respected tabs and it doesn’t post the same kind of wackadoodle obv-faux shit a lot of its competitors do. But at heart, blind items are nothing more than the lame, quasi-grownup version of “I know something you don’t know!”

When it comes to gossip, best to go all-in or go home. Recently, I was at a bar with two friends. This was one of those rare instances where we all had a lot of mutual friends in common, so I said, “Okay, I know one of you must know something interesting about someone we know.” To my surprise, the straight guy piped up before the girl. He says something analogous to, “Oh, well, someone we all know recently had a really bad infection that caused one of her kidneys to be removed. But, um, I can’t tell you who it was.” I think the look that crossed my face must have given the impression that my brain was close to exploding—or maybe he realized not telling me would lead to me a) badgering him at every available opportunity, b) trying to find ways to “accidentally” lift up all our female acquaintances’ shirt hems, looking for surgical scarring, which would inevitably lead to me being the center of some really juicy and baffling gossip. At any rate, he did finally acquiesce and pony up a name. But man, it’s simply uncool to play coy with stories involving loss of body parts.


jak said...

bwahaha i think i know what you're referring to in that last paragraph.

the outcome of his story, however, was that we couldn't share any mean (ie enjoyable) gossip about this person, because said person was now tragically kidney-less, and that gossiping about her would just make us bad people. (but, you argue, we ARE bad people...)

s. said...

That raises an interesting question, though. When she still had both of her kidneys and we shared some mean (enjoyable) gossip about, say, an embarrassing prank played upon her by a vindictive ex-boyfriend, were we okay because we were gossiping about someone not in any way disabled and thus fair game? And then it changed when she lost her kidney? Like, does it cross a line to gossip about someone with a debilitating injury, or are we pretty much horrible people regardless the physical/mental state of the gossip focus? (This is all hypothetical, of course. In reality, I know damned well we're pretty bad.)