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So Five Minutes Ago

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Alex Davidson is a thirtysomething celebrity publicist for a down-at-heels Los Angeles PR firm known for taking on clients whose careers have crashed and burned. A professional hand-holder and spinmeister, she’s one notch above a nanny on the Hollywood food chain. L.A. is already losing its luster in Alex’s eyes when her firm is bought out by the hottest agency in town. Will it mean massive layoffs or a chance at a big promotion? In between signing a new client (a once-hot-now-not actor just out of rehab) and ...
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Overview

Alex Davidson is a thirtysomething celebrity publicist for a down-at-heels Los Angeles PR firm known for taking on clients whose careers have crashed and burned. A professional hand-holder and spinmeister, she’s one notch above a nanny on the Hollywood food chain. L.A. is already losing its luster in Alex’s eyes when her firm is bought out by the hottest agency in town. Will it mean massive layoffs or a chance at a big promotion? In between signing a new client (a once-hot-now-not actor just out of rehab) and wondering if one of the partners is putting the moves on her, Alex grows wary of her new boss, a sharklike exec who’s forcing out Alex’s old boss under suspicious circumstances. Is there anything she can do to save her and her boss’s jobs, and maybe right some wrongs against women in Hollywood along the way? Packed with razor-sharp humor and featuring a winning protagonist, So 5 Minutes Ago will satisfy even the most hard-to-pleaser celebriholics who long to find out what goes on after a star steps off the red carpet.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Containing all the guilty pleasure of a fluffy beach read, this lighthearted debut novel from veteran Hollywood journalist de Vries offers celebrity-fixated fans a humorous, insider's look at the less than glamorous underbelly of Hollywood. Alex Davidson, a New York transplant and 30-something divorcee, hates her job as a publicist, even though she's "frighteningly good" at it. With one-third of her clients "gay, in rehab, or seriously twisted," Alex fears her job is on the line after the agency she works for is bought out by a firm, aptly named BIG. While poking fun at both real and fictionalized celebrities and Hollywood bigwigs may not be a stretch for de Vries, reader Hamilton perfectly captures the author's sarcastic tone and takes her (sometimes painfully) hip dialogue to another level with her vast cache of accents and attitude. Hamilton also lets somewhat cliched characters like Alex's attractive, gossipy, gay assistant and her has-been client, Troy Madden, shine through more clearly. Simultaneous release with the Villard hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 9). (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Alex Davidson is more of a babysitter to the stars than their publicist. Activities like catering to divas, acting as a press minion at photo shoots, and publicly handholding stars just out of rehab make her too busy for a love life. But when she meets Charles, a partner in her agency, she suddenly craves to socialize. The problem is that Charles lives all the way across the country. And to make matters worse, her agency has been taken over by a larger one, aptly named BIG. Award-winning writer de Vries uses her insider's knowledge (she has covered Hollywood for the last decade in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, and W.) to drop names unabashedly, fictionalizing some characters but certainly not all (e.g., Charlize Theron, John Travolta, and Jennifer Aniston). Those who like humorous fiction and follow who's who and what's what in the glitzy world of Hollywood will love this behind-the-scenes expos , full of intrigue, catchy one-liners, and sophisticated dialog. A witty and wickedly delicious read; highly recommended.-Shelley Mosley, Glendale P.L., AZ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gossip! Scandal! Hollywood! A story about all these-yet none of them made exclamation-mark worthy. De Vries is a veteran career scribbler who, for ten years, has covered the ups and downs of Hollywood for the glossies. She's a new hand at fiction, however, and her first outing shows it. Her heroine, Alex Davidson, is a senior publicist at DWP, a Hollywood agency that specializes in handling former A-list celebrities fallen on hard times and trying to claw their way back into the spotlight. Alex's newest acquisition is Troy Madden, a young actor with killer looks, a disarming Midwest attitude, and an insane drug habit (Brad Pitt by way of Robert Downey Jr.) that pretty much wrecked his career. Fresh out of rehab (but not so clean), he's now Alex's responsibility. Which is the last thing she needs, as DWP is about to be acquired by a bigger, meaner agency, and she's not even sure she wants to be in publicity anymore-and that's a pretty hard pill to get readers to swallow, since for every time Alex yearns to be a member of the East Coast intelligentsia or slams the brutal vacuousness of those in her chosen profession, she makes the very sort of sweepingly shallow generalization readers would expect from a Hollywood stereotype. Buoying Alex in her oh-so-horrid job (which seems to involve making phone calls, drinking lattes, and being nice to selfish movie stars) is the usual wisecracking gay assistant, a stock character swiftly becoming about as welcome as the token black friend in teen film or fiction. There's the occasional biting observation to show that de Vries has put in real time in the Tinseltown trenches-"Peg is one of the female leviathans Hollywood secretly breeds. . . Tough asnails, most of them could run a small country and none of them are above fucking with you because they can"-but the credit she's earned gets put to little good use. Time-passing fluff of the most anemic kind. Agent: Brian DeFiore/DeFiore and Company
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593160227
  • Publisher: Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Series: What's New Series
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

HILARY DE VRIES is an award-winning journalist who has covered Hollywood for more than a decade. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times and has written for Vogue, Rolling Stone, W, Vanity Fair, and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in L.A. This is her first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

1  
Down the Rabbit Hole


Before dawn and already I’m off to a bad start. But then I could have guessed as much when I forgot to close the window last night and got jolted awake at 5 a.m. by the sprinkler system rattling to life. Sometimes, depending on my mood, if I can be said even to have a mood at 5 a.m., the sound of running water can be reassuring. Like a stream or a bath being drawn. But this morning it sounds like nothing so much as a bursting pipe. A taunt to my inability to bring anything to heel.

Not my job as a senior publicist to some of Hollywood’s lesser celebrities at DWP, a legendary if fading publicity agency. And certainly not Los Angeles, where I—raised in Philadelphia’s custardy Main Line—inexplicably found myself three years ago. My house with its dyspeptic sprinkler system is the least of my worries.

For one thing, it’s Thursday, which means the dual reveille of sprinkler and garbage truck. Just when I’m drifting off again, the city’s sanitation department begins its weekly assault, grinding along the street running below my modest but nonetheless desirable rental in the hills, followed by a second, noisier pass by my front gate.

“Thursday,” I groan, rolling over to peer crankily at the bedroom wall, which looks, in the dim, coffee-colored light, like it could stand a paint job. Thursday. Another weekend fast approaching with no plans unless you count a screening Friday night and a meeting with a stylist on Saturday. Maybe I can fill the hours looking at paint chips or something.

Thursday, I realize with a thud, the kick of adrenalin as my heartlurches back to its usual wracking pace. This isn’t just any Thursday with its annoying staff meeting, everyone sitting around waiting to carve one another up over nonfat vanilla lattes, but the Thursday of my big client meeting.

With Troy Madden.

Troy Madden. I haven’t even signed him yet and already he’s a problem. Actually, Troy is the problem, which is why he’s in the market for a new publicist. Someone to solve the problem of his just-back-from-court-ordered-rehab career reentry. Someone lower down the food chain. Someone like me. Which is why I’m taking a meeting with him in about—I roll over and attempt to focus on the silver-plated clock on my bedside table—six hours. With a sigh, I kick off the duvet and slide my feet to the sisal carpeting, which I notice, irritably, could stand replacing.

Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I mentally clock the distance I have to travel to go from how I look now—an overworked, underachieving single woman in her early thirties who could use a haircut and a boyfriend—to the kind of polished, savvy professional I’m supposed to be a few hours from now. Nobody looks their best at 7 a.m., no matter how many models were photographed in tangled bedsheets and dirty hair during the Slept-in Chic phase, which, if I have the chronology right, followed the Heroin Chic phase. I have Italian sheets, but they do little to erase the fact that 1.) I hate my job even though I’m frighteningly good at it, 2.) I hate my life because everyone thinks I have the most FABULOUS job and no one wants to hear anyone complaining about mopping up after stars, and 3.) I went to bed too late—which meant I had my requisite two glasses of white wine too late—after a screening, another relentlessly unfunny De Niro comedy that just makes you want to kill yourself.

Now, bleary eyed and grouchy, I have to come up with a game plan before my meeting with Troy this afternoon. Actually I should come up with a plan for the rest of my life. Like, what happened to my goal of becoming a top magazine editor by age thirty-five? Or my marriage? Like, where did that go?

I snap on the shower and pray the steam helps clear my head, if only about Troy. We at DWP specialize in resuscitating down-and-outers. Or at least we do now. At one time, DWP was the Tiffany’s of PR firms. But that was before my time. Now, we’re like Jesus working the crowds at the pool of Bethesda. Careers on the slow fade? A little trouble with the law? Can’t quite claw your way onto the B-list? The aging pretty boys. The actresses who spend more time at the dermatologist than at auditions. You’ve come to the right place. My bosses like them as clients. Their names still sound classy—like Sally Field and Cybill Shepherd, who everybody joked was the Old Maid, the card nobody wanted to hold—their fees are lower, and because they seldom have anything to promote, the workload is nothing. Just some handholding, the publicist’s equivalent of phone sex. Even the company’s acronym, after the partners—Davis, Woolfe, and the long-departed Peterman—is identical to that of the city’s utility company, the Department of Water and Power.

Troy is perfect DWP material. After his little stay in rehab— actually it was three stays, including swanky Promises out in Malibu, but nobody besides the judge was really counting—he needs to get back in the game. Recapture his heat, his wattage. He had plenty at one time, like three years ago, which makes him positively Paleolithic here. In L.A., you age faster than anywhere on the planet. In fact, Hollywood years are almost exactly the length of dog years. With an average life span about that of a dachshund or a Great Dane, you can expect to be professionally dead in fifteen years. Give or take.

Take Troy. At twenty-nine, or so he says, he still has a few miles left on him, even if he has tumbled from his Vanity Fair cover heights of a couple years back, when his dark eyes and cocksure grin had caught the eye of every gay director in town. Before he’d made a single studio picture, Troy had been crowned the new Steve McQueen. But that was before his last movie tanked—“Blow Your Mind” Games, a low-budget, pseudodocumentary horror flick about a reality show, a kind of Blair Witch-meets-Survivor—and before his run-in with the Portland cops when he was caught with a bong in a suite at the Heathman Hotel. Later there was some DUI incident in the Palisades, actually two of them, which meant Troy spent the better part of a month in the Beverly Hills courthouse. Then came the trio of rehab stays.

Now, nine months later, Troy is back, itching to get back in the game. And I—as the youngest and newest member of the DWP team—am the designated hitter. “You’re the girl to land Troy,” Suzanne Davis, my fifty-something boss (the D of DWP and one of the firms two remaining founding partners), had said, pausing for her usual nanosecond in my office before disappearing down the hall, a blur of one of the white Armani suits she always wore. “You’re the one who knows how to recycle the Gen Y crowd.” Recycle? Like I’m doing something good for the planet.

I step from the shower, grab a towel, and head into the kitchen. Troy might need a comeback campaign, but I’m in serious need of coffee. He’s already heard Hollywood’s death rattle. A TV producer with a network deal called his agent sniffing around about Troy’s post-rehab availability to shoot a pilot about a divorced dad who becomes a foster parent to a pair of Hispanic twins. “Cute kids, like Elian Gonzales,” the producer said. His agent naturally passed, but when Troy heard about the offer he panicked and fired everyone except his lawyer, an old friend from Iowa State, where the two of them played baseball until Troy started shooting too many beer commercials in Chicago to make it to class, let alone practice. Now, a few months after the sitcom scare, Troy has new representation, a slate of meetings around town. And me.


From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright © 2004 by Hilary de Vries
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First Chapter

1
Down the Rabbit Hole


Before dawn and already I'm off to a bad start. But then I could have guessed as much when I forgot to close the window last night and got jolted awake at 5 a.m. by the sprinkler system rattling to life. Sometimes, depending on my mood, if I can be said even to have a mood at 5 a.m., the sound of running water can be reassuring. Like a stream or a bath being drawn. But this morning it sounds like nothing so much as a bursting pipe. A taunt to my inability to bring anything to heel.

Not my job as a senior publicist to some of Hollywood's lesser celebrities at DWP, a legendary if fading publicity agency. And certainly not Los Angeles, where I—raised in Philadelphia's custardy Main Line—inexplicably found myself three years ago. My house with its dyspeptic sprinkler system is the least of my worries.

For one thing, it's Thursday, which means the dual reveille of sprinkler and garbage truck. Just when I'm drifting off again, the city's sanitation department begins its weekly assault, grinding along the street running below my modest but nonetheless desirable rental in the hills, followed by a second, noisier pass by my front gate.

"Thursday," I groan, rolling over to peer crankily at the bedroom wall, which looks, in the dim, coffee-colored light, like it could stand a paint job. Thursday. Another weekend fast approaching with no plans unless you count a screening Friday night and a meeting with a stylist on Saturday. Maybe I can fill the hours looking at paint chips or something.

Thursday, I realize with a thud, the kick of adrenalin as my heart lurches back to its usual wracking pace. This isn't just anyThursday with its annoying staff meeting, everyone sitting around waiting to carve one another up over nonfat vanilla lattes, but the Thursday of my big client meeting.

With Troy Madden.

Troy Madden. I haven't even signed him yet and already he's a problem. Actually, Troy is the problem, which is why he's in the market for a new publicist. Someone to solve the problem of his just-back-from-court-ordered-rehab career reentry. Someone lower down the food chain. Someone like me. Which is why I'm taking a meeting with him in about—I roll over and attempt to focus on the silver-plated clock on my bedside table—six hours. With a sigh, I kick off the duvet and slide my feet to the sisal carpeting, which I notice, irritably, could stand replacing.

Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I mentally clock the distance I have to travel to go from how I look now—an overworked, underachieving single woman in her early thirties who could use a haircut and a boyfriend—to the kind of polished, savvy professional I'm supposed to be a few hours from now. Nobody looks their best at 7 a.m., no matter how many models were photographed in tangled bedsheets and dirty hair during the Slept-in Chic phase, which, if I have the chronology right, followed the Heroin Chic phase. I have Italian sheets, but they do little to erase the fact that 1.) I hate my job even though I'm frighteningly good at it, 2.) I hate my life because everyone thinks I have the most FABULOUS job and no one wants to hear anyone complaining about mopping up after stars, and 3.) I went to bed too late—which meant I had my requisite two glasses of white wine too late—after a screening, another relentlessly unfunny De Niro comedy that just makes you want to kill yourself.

Now, bleary eyed and grouchy, I have to come up with a game plan before my meeting with Troy this afternoon. Actually I should come up with a plan for the rest of my life. Like, what happened to my goal of becoming a top magazine editor by age thirty-five? Or my marriage? Like, where did that go?

I snap on the shower and pray the steam helps clear my head, if only about Troy. We at DWP specialize in resuscitating down-and-outers. Or at least we do now. At one time, DWP was the Tiffany's of PR firms. But that was before my time. Now, we're like Jesus working the crowds at the pool of Bethesda. Careers on the slow fade? A little trouble with the law? Can't quite claw your way onto the B-list? The aging pretty boys. The actresses who spend more time at the dermatologist than at auditions. You've come to the right place. My bosses like them as clients. Their names still sound classy—like Sally Field and Cybill Shepherd, who everybody joked was the Old Maid, the card nobody wanted to hold—their fees are lower, and because they seldom have anything to promote, the workload is nothing. Just some handholding, the publicist's equivalent of phone sex. Even the company's acronym, after the partners—Davis, Woolfe, and the long-departed Peterman—is identical to that of the city's utility company, the Department of Water and Power.

Troy is perfect DWP material. After his little stay in rehab— actually it was three stays, including swanky Promises out in Malibu, but nobody besides the judge was really counting—he needs to get back in the game. Recapture his heat, his wattage. He had plenty at one time, like three years ago, which makes him positively Paleolithic here. In L.A., you age faster than anywhere on the planet. In fact, Hollywood years are almost exactly the length of dog years. With an average life span about that of a dachshund or a Great Dane, you can expect to be professionally dead in fifteen years. Give or take.

Take Troy. At twenty-nine, or so he says, he still has a few miles left on him, even if he has tumbled from his Vanity Fair cover heights of a couple years back, when his dark eyes and cocksure grin had caught the eye of every gay director in town. Before he'd made a single studio picture, Troy had been crowned the new Steve McQueen. But that was before his last movie tanked—"Blow Your Mind" Games, a low-budget, pseudodocumentary horror flick about a reality show, a kind of Blair Witch-meets-Survivor—and before his run-in with the Portland cops when he was caught with a bong in a suite at the Heathman Hotel. Later there was some DUI incident in the Palisades, actually two of them, which meant Troy spent the better part of a month in the Beverly Hills courthouse. Then came the trio of rehab stays.

Now, nine months later, Troy is back, itching to get back in the game. And I—as the youngest and newest member of the DWP team—am the designated hitter. "You're the girl to land Troy," Suzanne Davis, my fifty-something boss (the D of DWP and one of the firms two remaining founding partners), had said, pausing for her usual nanosecond in my office before disappearing down the hall, a blur of one of the white Armani suits she always wore. "You're the one who knows how to recycle the Gen Y crowd." Recycle? Like I'm doing something good for the planet.

I step from the shower, grab a towel, and head into the kitchen. Troy might need a comeback campaign, but I'm in serious need of coffee. He's already heard Hollywood's death rattle. A TV producer with a network deal called his agent sniffing around about Troy's post-rehab availability to shoot a pilot about a divorced dad who becomes a foster parent to a pair of Hispanic twins. "Cute kids, like Elian Gonzales," the producer said. His agent naturally passed, but when Troy heard about the offer he panicked and fired everyone except his lawyer, an old friend from Iowa State, where the two of them played baseball until Troy started shooting too many beer commercials in Chicago to make it to class, let alone practice. Now, a few months after the sitcom scare, Troy has new representation, a slate of meetings around town. And me.
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