SCENE: The office of OLIVIA MORTON, editor-in-chief of the gossip weekly, Them Magazine.
TYLER, a young male staffer, enters.
OLIVIA: Well, hello, Tyler. Have you finished the headlines for this week’s cover?
TYLER: That’s why I’m here. With all due respect, Olivia, I can’t do this any longer.
OLIVIA: But you’re so good! I was just looking at our last issue. (She holds it up, points at a photo of a gorgeous woman in dark glasses and reads) “Madison: Out to destroy another marriage or just to get a latte?” I love love LOVE it!
TYLER: I can’t write any more blather about what Madison is up to.
OLIVIA: But there hasn’t been a celebrity as exciting, glamorous, and scandalous since Liz Taylor.
TYLER: Madison doesn’t even exist.
OLIVIA: Her greatest asset!
TYLER: Look, it was all great fun when you had the idea for the June 8th issue.
OLIVIA: To invent a celebrity — my finest moment as an editor.
TYLER: But you didn’t even give her a last name!
OLIVIA: Tyler, that makes readers think she’s someone they should be aware of.
TYLER: Well, I’m drawing a line. Inventing Madison was a cute inside joke. But then there was Matthew.
OLIVIA: She needed a hunky married co-star to run off with.
TYLER: And they became Madishew. But you weren’t satisfied.
OLIVIA: Matthew needed a humiliated former child star ex-wife, Kaitlyn, who needed a lesbian lover slash personal trainer, Desiree, to help her get into the kind of shape that would get the attention of billionaire hottie Brayden.
TYLER: And now half the people in this week’s issue are made up! Worse: you want me to give Madison a baby bump that’s growing in reverse. This can’t go any further.
OLIVIA: We’re selling more copies than ever! We’ve got Perez Hilton obsessed with Madishew. Paparazzi are convinced they’re getting priceless shots of them when they’re only snapping anonymous couples. Countless fansites are being created. My biggest triumph of all was when both People and Us put Madishew on their covers!
TYLER: Why, Olivia, why? We could be like The Enquirer and get nominated for a Pulitzer.
OLIVIA: Tyler, you’re too young to remember, but when I started out as a tabloid editor, fame really meant something. Celebrities were bigger and better than the rest of us. And then it changed. There were the people who were famous for their Warhol fifteen minutes. Then there were the people who were famous for being famous, followed by people who were famous for no reason at all. Now we have people who are famous just because they had a bunch of kids and fight all the time. They don’t even look like celebrities. They look like the next door neighbors you wish would move away. I didn’t devote my entire adult life to celebrities to see them descend to this level.
TYLER: What you’re doing will be the death of fame.
OLIVIA: No, Tyler, the rebirth of it. Madison is only the beginning. Soon, there won’t be any more reality tv stars on tabloid covers. Certainly no Food Network chefs. And definitely no dog trainers. Tabloid covers will be filled once more with true superstars!
TYLER: I’m going public with this. I believe in the importance of real celebrities.
OLIVIA: You won’t do that. Think for a moment. When did you first start working here?
TYLER: In May.
OLIVIA: Right before we started the June 8th issue.
OLIVIA: Tyler, what’s your last name?
TYLER (desperately searching): Uh…uh… Damn! — I must have one!
OLIVIA: No, Tyler, you don’t.
TYLER: That can’t be. You wouldn’t have!
OLIVIA: I did. I made you up. And I’ve become very attached to you. You’re the best headline writer I’ve ever had. Now back to work! We’ve got a magazine to put out.
Polly Frost is a playwright whose humor has appeared in The Atlantic and The New Yorker. She can be found on the web at http://pollyfrost.com.